Bodmin-based pasty company Proper Cornish has joined a new recruitment scheme, exclusive to Cornwall, which helps graduates get jobs in local businesses. The scheme, known as Unlocking Cornish Potential (UCP), is a Combined Universities in Cornwall partnership project, managed by Cornwall College and part-funded by EU social and economic programme Objective One, under its European Social Fund (ESF). The project aims to assist businesses like Proper Cornish to improve efficiency, competitiveness and growth. The scheme enables companies to recruit graduates for particular areas of their business that need development. Proper Cornish has already used the scheme to recruit three new members of staff – Lucy Atherton, Jo Balchin and Alison Green. Ms Balchin is carrying out market research that, without extra funding and support from UCP, could not take place. Ms Atherton is developing sales relationships and Ms Green is assisting the technical team with a salt- and fat-lowering programme, which endeavours to reduce the salt and fat levels across the company’s range of pasties, without affecting quality. The intention of the scheme is to improve small local companies like Proper Cornish and, in turn, have a positive knock-on effect on the local economy and community. Managing director of Proper Cornish Phil Ugalde says: “The UCP scheme is a great way to invest in the local area and helps businesses like ours to undertake crucial development. A business like this is part of a huge network of other businesses, so by enabling us to grow and prosper, we will also be able to help the companies we work with.” Ms Atherton, marketing and sales manager, comments: “I assumed the opportunities in the south west would be relatively limited, so when I heard about UCP and discovered the quality of projects on offer to me, I jumped at the chance to get involved.” Ms Balchin says: “My role at Proper Cornish is extremely challenging and, in particular, the research area I am focusing on has huge business benefits.”Proper Cornish is a handmade Cornish pasty manufacturer which has been making pasties for 18 years.
Bakery retailers have reported a “good” to “satisfactory” Christmas despite a “terminal decline” in sales of traditional Christmas lines such as Christmas puddings.The decline was widespread, from supermarkets to craft bakers, a British Baker straw poll of leading craft bakery and supermarket figures on the topic of Christmas trading indicates. Alan Stuart, MD of the 17-store Scottish retail bakery chain Stuarts of Buckhaven, summed up the trend. “Traditional lines, such as shortbread and black buns (heavy fruited pastry slabs), are in decline, as young people are not picking up the habit,” he said. “They favour savouries. Christmas puddings and those sorts of lines are in terminal decline.”And Nantwich–based craft bakery Arthur Chatwin with 19 shops, also felt the impact of changing consumer demands. Joint MD Trevor Mooney said: “Sales of Christmas cakes and puddings were down on previous years, by around 10-15%. I don’t know if traditional Christmas lines are becoming less popular, but they are generally down by about 2% every year. Supermar-kets also have a bearing on it.”But the trend was also apparent at the supermarkets. Waitrose’s central buyer, bakery, Teresa Lindley commented: “We did very well on Christmas puddings and reasonably well on Christmas cakes, but there is a move to offering a non-traditional option and I think there is a lot more mileage in that.”Tesco also noticed the shift. Senior bakery buyer Andrew Brocklehurst told British Baker Tesco had a very good Christmas, with sales up year-on-year and ahead of plans, both on seasonal and day-to-day items. Bread sales, cakes and mince pies were strong. But “Christmas puddings were more of a struggle,” he said. “We came out of Christmas relatively clean, but we had good availability up to Christmas,” he added. Mike Holling, retail operations manager, Birds of Derby, with 50 shops said Christmas products did well, but sales were driven by novelty impulse lines. “Christmas lines generated in excess of £62,000 over the seven-week Christmas period, with little leftover stock,” he noted. “Sales of traditional Christmas products increased; we had a nice range of cakes, slabs and Santas, and the impulse part of the market did exceptionally well. Our 80p Santa lollies also sold well, with a 19.6% increase in sales to 10,200.”Asda also enjoyed good sales of Christmas lines, boosted by favourable reviews. Overall trading was “not spectacular, but reasonable”, said bakery director Huw Edwards. Lines produced in-store did best, he said, adding: “We have broken very clean over Christmas with markdowns below expectations. One line that was a surprise was Yule logs, which sold out early due to some very good press coverage over the Christmas period. In the end we were embarrassed by not having enough on the shelves. Our mince pies also got some positive reviews in the press in the festive season, so demand was high for them.” Robert Ditty, MD of two-shop Ditty’s Home Bakery in Northern Ireland, was the most enthusiastic of those polled by British Baker, reporting “an excellent Christmas”. Although lines such as mince pies and Christmas puddings “always sell well”, he noted a drift away from heavy fruit cakes. “People want things a little lighter,” he said. “Sales of cream products were very high on Christmas Eve. We do a lighter Christmas pudding which sells well. We had a superb two weeks leading up to Christmas and, on Christmas Eve, we had to put customers outside and lock the door.”Sales were up by 25-30%, he said – a figure that so surprised him, he had to check it “several times”. Meanwhile, one craft baker who reported he bucked the decline in traditional products was John Weinholt, of two-shop Weinholts of Cheshire. He commented: “We are always particularly strong over Christmas due to our focus on the craft side. Our strong sellers were savouries – sales were very good. We were also strong on traditional Christmas lines. Our cakes went very well and so did our puddings.”However, bakery retailers who major on takeaway products were hit due to their office-based customers being on holiday. “From talking to friends in the British Confectioners’ Association and the Scottish Association of Master Bakers, the more we rely on takeaway, the more we get hit over Christmas as customers have time off work and the lunchtime trade is down,” said Alan Stuart. “Takeaway can be 50% of their business.”In general, bakers surveyed appeared glad to have the festive season out of the way. Mr Stuart said: “Christmas is difficult, as you make high-cost products and the mark-up is not as good as on standard lines. Everything is done at the last minute, so ordering is a problem, and Christmas is moveable, so sales are difficult to compare year-on-year. You lose four days’ turnover over the period and pay a lot of overtime. My favourite day of the year is the Monday after New Year’s Day when everything gets back to normal.” Trevor Mooney joint MD, Arthur Chatwin: “The Friday and Christmas Eve were busy, as we predicted. We found people started buying later as there was a full week running up to Christmas on the Sunday. All Chatwins stores had Christmas window displays. The Chatwins trophy for the best display went to our shop in Lawton Road, Alsager, this year.” lan Stuart, MD, Stuarts of Buckhaven: “It is difficult to compare sales due to the way Christmas fell this year – on a Sunday. In Scotland we have an extra holiday so that meant our 17 shops were closed, from Saturday to Wednesday. Overall sales were steady, but it was not our best year. I would say we were up by 3%, which, taking into account price rises, means we broke even. We were reasonably happy; production was right and there were not many returned products.”Teresa Lindley, central buyer, bakery, Waitrose:“Christmas is a key area for Waitrose. Trading on mince pies was phenomenal, with a 30% increase in sales value. We did well on puddings and cakes but noticed a shift in decorated cakes to more contemporary designs and sponges. The challenge for Christmas 2006 will be to supplement our traditional assortment with an increased non-traditional offer, to meet changing needs.” Mike Holling, retail operations manager, Birds of Derby: “Trading was out of sync as there were 53 weeks in the year last year, but we were not down. Our best seller over Christmas was pork pies – we sold 35,000. Birds’ outlet in Albert Street, Derby, took a record £10,000 in one day. People like to buy their food as fresh as possible, so it is worth spending time choosing seasonal ranges and pricing them correctly.”
Latest pricing data shows how own-label and budget breads have seen minimal price increases over 2007, with the big brands also slow to increase prices, despite steep rises in the cost of ingredients.Budget lines have been affected most. For example, comparing prices from January 2007 with those gathered last week suggests that lines such as a six-pack of own-label budget pitta breads have remained static at 26p all year.Meanwhile, in-store bakery lines have seen comparatively modest increases; for example, a 400g wholemeal loaf has gone up in price by 8p over the year, from 52p to 60p, according to price comparison data on the Tesco.com website.However, in that time, flour prices have risen by around £154 a tonne, adding an estimated 15p in cost price of an 800g loaf, before other overhead price increases are taken into account, according to expert sources. The data shows that big brands Warburtons and Hovis increased retail prices by 20p and 18p respectively over the year. However, Kingsmill has only seen an 8p a loaf rise, the data suggests, putting the price of an 800g Kingsmill wholemeal medium sliced loaf up to 96p. That compares to £1.12 for a square-cut Hovis loaf and £1.16 for an 800g loaf of Warburtons.Regional bakery Braces has also implemented retail price increa-ses, with a medium 800g white loaf up 17p over the year.Analyst Martin Deboo noted that Premier Foods had been alone among the plant bakers in reac-ting quickly and putting through prices increases on its Hovis brand to a level sufficient to recover flour price increases. It did this in February, September and October, before its rivals moved.The other big plant bakers were slower to respond, with Warburtons only just putting through a wholesale price increase. But that delay had hit Hovis’ market share, with sales volumes down as much as 12% year-on-year, said Deboo.Federation of Bakers director Gordon Polson said: “Bakers will be hoping for a period of stability and a normalised market i
They don’t make rock stars like they used to. “I’m addicted to madeleines,” is the best tale of excess that the Daily Star could get out of Alex Turner, lead singer of rock band du jour, Arctic Monkeys. He is said to be hooked on the French cakes.Songwriting partner, Miles Kane, added in the same article, of a recent sujourn across the Channel: “Two weeks in the French countryside – we’d never drunk so much red wine or devoured as many madeleine cakes. They’re the new hallucinogenic of choice.”Also bringing cakes to the forefront of the popular agenda was Duffy, the Welsh songstress who scored a recent number one hit with Mercy, who offered an impressive insight into the baked goods of her homeland. Grasping the basic premise behind Welsh cakes, she said: “It’s not a big country, you know, we have a language and a community and Welsh cakes – how cool is that we have cakes that are Welsh!”Welsh cakes – or Welsh skillet cakes, as they were called – were also at the centre of controversy across the Atlantic in the presidential race. Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, was caught up in sleazy allegations of – gasp! – pilfering a Welsh cake recipe from US TV station Food Network and passing it off as her own.Senator McCain’s campaign website had featured “McCain Family Recipes”, with a ripped-off Welsh cake recipe among them. A McCain spokesman blamed the folly on an over-eager intern.
Milanese boutique bakery chain Princi has opened its first shop in the UK and plans to launch a further 10 outlets in the capital over the next five years.The stylish new shop (pronounced ’Princhy’), on Wardour Street in London’s Soho, is a collaboration between the com- pany’s founder, Rocco Princi, and London-based restaurateur Alan Yau, who set up the Wagamama chain.Split 40/60 between retail and bakery, the 10,000sq ft site sells products including pizza, lasagne and a wide range of bread and patisserie. Visitors purchase food to take away or eat in at Italian-style standing counters and shared tables. A French artisan handmade, wood-fired oven is featured in the central window of the bakery’s main Wardour Street façade.”It showcases the skill of the master baker at work in producing the bakery’s main offering of the highest-quality breads, made from organic flours and beech woods, both specially imported from France,” according to the company, which has four bakery stores in Milan.Alan Yau told British Baker that the Soho site would act as a production hub for further stores of around 2,000sq ft in size, as well as concessions.
New requirements for the content of products labelled as ’gluten-free’ could mean extra work for bakeries, following the announcement of new EU regulations. The new rules, which will apply to foodstuffs specifically produced for people intolerant to gluten, will have to contain less than 20 parts of gluten per million (ppm), in order to be labelled as ’gluten-free’ – 10 times less than the previous limit of 200ppm.The legislation also states businesses will be allowed to label products as ’very low gluten’ if they contain less than 100ppm. The new regulations will not come into effect until 1 January 2012, but bakeries can implement them immediately.Barbara Hirst, technical manager of consultancy Reading Scientific Services’ DNA and Protein laboratories, said it was too early to tell what the full impact of this change in legislation would be. She said the change from one limit of 200ppm to two different limits could potentially cause extra work for bakeries in terms of testing the amount of gluten in its products. “Potentially you’ll have products labelled gluten-free, but they will also have to display the statement, ’contains wheat’,” she noted.In terms of extra costs involved for packaging, smaller bakeries will be largely unaffected, as most of their products are sold unpackaged. Anthony Kindred, owner of Kindred Bakery in Herne Hill, London, said it was most likely to affect businesses that claim to make products containing low levels of gluten, rather than those totally gluten-free.
Northern Foods announced a “strong performance” in its Bakery division in its full year results to 28 March 2009.Revenue increased in its bakery division by 5.4% to £216.m (2007/08: £205.m). Investment in its Vinnie campaign for Fox’s biscuits helped improve awareness and distribution of the brand, but the firm said “competitive pressure in the puddings market will bring challenges”.Revenue in its Chilled division rose 1.1% to £486.8m, however there was slightly lower volume growth in sandwiches and salads due to the poor summer weather last year.The firm said growth in its frozen division had been impacted by the strength of the euro as its manufacturing operations are based in Ireland. This, in addition to increased promotional activity in the division, saw total revenue rise 11% to £272.4m, compared to £245.4m for the comparable period last year.Total group revenue was up 4.6% to £975.2m but profit before tax fell to £47.5m from £50.1m for the same 2007/08 period.In a statement released by the company, it said business with discount retailers, or based around value products, now makes up around a fifth of the group’s sales.Chief executive, Stefan Barden said the firm had delivered a resilient performance this year, in challenging economic conditions. Northern Foods has seen material costs rise around 12% on last year and energy costs increase approximately 64%.“We anticipate that next year will be equally challenging, with the continuation of food inflation and competitive pressures. Our operational and financial strengths position us well to benefit when markets recover,” said Barden.
Home-based cake decoration business Cake Toppers Ireland has announced plans to expand internationally.Jill FitzGerald, who runs the business from a studio beside her home in Co Kerry, south-west Ireland, said she plans to expand with the production of christening and birthday toppers this year. She also hopes to start supplying the UK and US markets.The cake-topping figures are made from non-toxic polymer clay and are currently ordered by customers for use on wedding and celebration cakes. The clay figures, for example a bride and groom, are personalised for each customer.FitzGerald, who has a background in food and catering, started Cake Toppers in 2008. She previously ran a part-time business producing wedding cakes.Her business was boosted following an appearance on TV last autumn, and FitzGerald said her only problem has been keeping up with orders. “I need to employ someone soon, to help meet demand,” she added.
United Biscuits (UB) reduced factory carbon emissions by 5% in 2009 by improving staff awareness, introducing energy-saving initiatives, such as closely monitoring when ovens were used, and switching to renewable energy.The company said it has now cut factory carbon emissions by 28% since 1995 and is on course to meet its target of a 35% reduction by 2020. It has also reduced transport carbon emissions by 29% since 2005, and has set itself a tougher 40% target for 2012. To help cut factory emissions, the company launched a sustainability roadshow at all of its sites, giving employees information on how they can save emissions. In logistics, the company now converts its waste vegetable oil to be used as biodiesel, which has lowered transport emissions by 1,400 tonnes, and has improved load efficiency for deliveries. Last year, all UB lorry drivers passed the NVQ II Driving Commercial Vehicles qualification, which included training on how to drive more economically. In 2008, the company set itself a series of environmental targets, many of which have now been revised in light of the recent progress. Jeff van der Eems, UB’s chief operating officer, said: “After just two years working towards our environmental targets, we are already finding it necessary to raise the bar as we have achieved targets early. “Our water target has been accomplished with 10 years to spare, our transport carbon emissions target has been comfortably exceeded with three years left, and we have merged our UK and Northern Europe carbon emissions target after the Northern Europe element was achieved at the beginning of 2009.”UB owns and operates 15 manufacturing facilities, of which 11 are in the UK.
It is with regret that British Baker announces the death of Ronnie Mackay, aged 92, on 25 April.Mackay joined John F Renshaw and Company soon after the Second World War, rising to the position of deputy chairman. A key part of his work was with the Bakery Allied Traders Association – now the Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers – and he held the office of president, not only of BATA, but also of FEDIMA, the European umbrella organisation. Mackay made many friends in the baking industry, and was very highly respected for his work in the European arena.