Country Choice (Orpington, Kent) has two varieties of fun size, thaw-and-serve muffins in its Bake & Bite range. These products, available in double chocolate or blueberry flavours, do not require any baking. The company provides retailers with film-coated Bake & Bite bags, which come with a two-part label. One part contains the product details and date, the other a price promotion of five for 99p. Retailers wanting to sell at a different price can detach the price section. Any customer ordering three cases or more also gets a free Bake & Bite-branded dump bin that can be strategically placed at the front of the store.
Delice de France (Southall, Middlesex) has launched several new festive products.Iced Fruit Cake Slice is topped with white icing. Individually wrapped, this Christmas cake is aimed at hotels, coffee shops, sandwich bars and buffets.Also new this season is Mini Butter Shortbread Stars with Chocolate Chips – a rich all-butter shortbread, studded with milk chocolate chips. Meanwhile, new Fruited Flapjacks contain raisins, sultanas, cherries and spices.Two new breads have also been added to the Delice de France Christmas range. The Cranberry and Rosemary Loaf is a rustic gourmet loaf. Intended as a ‘tear-and-share’ bread for restaurants, hotels and gastro pubs, it is also an option for sandwich bars as a seasonal variety of sandwich bread, says Delice.The company has also unveiled Mini Mixed Pain Bagnet – a range of continental fully baked rolls made with sourdough and olive oil. This selection is particularly suited to Christmas functions.
Allied Bakeries has started a major operational review of its business, and is to relaunch its three major brands over the next year. Speaking exclusively to British Baker, new baking and milling group CEO Brian Robinson said Allied Bakeries was “a business that needs a lot of attention” and that he was working on “getting the fundamentals right”.He said he has appointed Mark Fairweather, formerly MD of Allied Mills, as new MD for Allied Bakeries Great Britain. Fairweather now has a “huge job” reviewing Allied Bakeries’ manufacturing operations, said Robinson. This will cover all 10 bakeries on the mainland, their equipment, product range and efficiency, as well as logistics, supply chain and customer service. He said: “It is about getting a much more efficient service. It’s a financial offset between supply chain cost and efficiency versus cost and efficiency of manufacture and getting that equation right. Is there a better way of doing things?”Robinson said he plans to give individual sites in the UK greater autonomy and produce a greater range at each one to reduce trunking costs and improve service. Allied Bakeries is also planing a “radical” relaunch of its three major brands, Kingsmill, Allinson and Burgen, in the next year. Robinson said: “There is a need for a radical change; there is no point tweaking the edges. We need to drive the ‘wow factor’. We have three strong brands which need to do the job; we need to have them refocused. “We need to find meaning and purpose for the Kingsmill brand – the reason why you would want to purchase it. Allinson is tradition with heritage and Burgen has a strong health position.”Robinson said Allied is also focusing on category management, particularly on own-label, which accounts for 30% of the bakery’s £450m annual turnover. He said: “Own label will be very important to our future. We are just stepping ourselves up to the mark on that.” Allied is also ramping up research and development activity, and plans to launch a number of innovative products, including loaves with health benefits. The first new product is a Crustless Kingsmill loaf “the only real crustless”, which went on trial in Iceland stores last month priced £1.10. It is to be rolled out to supermarkets around the UK by July, in white, and wholegrain and white variants.The loaf is baked in an oversized tin, at two of Allied’s bakeries, before its crusts are mechanically sliced off. This compares to Hovis’ Invisible Crust loaves, which are baked using microwave technology.Robinson said: “This has taken a huge amount of work; it’s true crustless. It initially will have an appeal to school kids who won’t eat their crusts.”Robinson was previously chief executive of Associated British Foods’ George Weston bakery division, Allied’s sister company in Australia.
I have just returned from the Délifrance Sandwich World Cup Final (pg 4 and future issue) in France. It was sheer delight to hear French craft baker and chairman of judges Jean-Luc Pouvaran speak in passionate terms about mother doughs, the art of kneading and slow fermentation to produce great flavour – resulting in less need for salt.Then there are little extras such as the care he says is important when selecting ingredients. He chooses flours from one region, butter from another, olive oil another. Meanwhile, hazelnuts are sourced from Piedmont and water is filtered for the doughs.I asked him for one tip. “Before adding walnuts,” he says, “it is best to lightly grill them.”Sometimes we forget that craft bakers over here can be just as discerning, though fewer in number and receiving far less support from local communities.In the UK, businesses such as Greggs face totally different challenges (pg 4). The company’s dynamic record of success has to be maintained, but in light of recent results it is set to trial a number of changes from shop formats to longer opening hours. Sir Michael Darrington is very positive and sensible to opt for trials first. But with Food to Go a way of life, the longer hours could prove a success.I am delighted to learn that Glenn Bancroft of Bakesense has bought Oakdale Bakeries’ sites in Doncaster and Wigan – and saved 247 jobs (pg 5). I remember Glenn from his days at Asda when he was always excellent at new ideas, helping to drive the business forward. Now he is taking on the biggest challenge of his career and we wish him well.Talking of new challenges, have you ever thought of taking on sandwich chains such as Quiznos at their own game and franchising out your bakery? William Stephens of Dunfermline has done just that. Find out more on pg 18.And as we follow our two students on their trip to the Richemont School we share their joy in learning about the use of egg whites, gelatines, creams and alcohol (14).Speaking of alcohol, Grand Marnier is one product that suits ’indulgence’ products and treats to a T (pg 25) or should that be a tot?
Retailer Morrisons is launching a range of ethnic breads made from scratch in-store, including Jewish and Greek loaves and a Polish bloomer.”Polish bakers working in our stores provided inspiration for the bloomer,” said Martin Clayton, bakery specialist at Morrisons. “Our in-store bakers are always keen to try their hand at producing new and exciting breads.”The bloomer, which costs 75p, will be made from ingredients sourced from Poland, including a light rye flour.Morrisons currently stocks 55 Polish products, including pre-packed breads.According to the retailer, there is huge market potential for these types of products, as the number of Polish people living in the UK currently stands at over 600,000.Also available in selected stores where there are large Jewish and Greek communities, Morrisons is stocking a Jewish bread – cholla – and a Greek daktyla.It said speciality breads, such as baguettes, focaccia, ciabatta, naan, pitta, rye breads, cornbreads, organic breads and flavoured breads, is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the bakery sector.Ethnic products, such as pitta and naan, account for 40% of bread sales and are continuing to grow.Morrisons has 2,000 in-store bakers, who prepare 127 different varieties of bread.
Finsbury Foods’ sales for the 20 weeks to mid-November were up 11% on the same 2007/08 period, but sales in its Cake division slowed to 3% year-on-year.“Cake growth has slowed both within the whole market and within Finsbury,” said a company spokesperson. “There has been a reduction in demand for high value celebration cakes, and a general market decline in own-label healthier cakes; however the WeightWatchers brand hasn’t seen any decline.” Year-on-year sales in its Free From and Bread divisions have risen 26% and 18% respectively.Chief executive, Martin Lightbody, said Finsbury would rely on its “core competencies” in order to deliver innovative, high quality products in the current trading environment.He has said it would look to grow its market share through continued development of its key retailer own-brand relationships and an increased focus on its major brands – Thorntons, WeightWatchers, Disney and Nestlé.“There is no doubt that this has been a demanding trading period for the Group, with recovery of input price inflation proving more difficult than we anticipated,” said Lightbody. “Trading between now and the financial year end remains difficult to predict given uncertain customer and consumer behaviour. However, I am confident that, as commodity prices ease and our internal efficiency programmes are delivered, the Group will be better placed to meet the challenges which lie ahead.”
The boss of Firkins Foods has vowed to have 50 bakeries operating within the next two years – just months after saving 30 former Firkins Bakery shops from the administrator. The West Midlands bakery group – formerly Firkins Bakery – had to lay off 140 staff and shut 20 of its 53 stores when banks reduced credit last November.MD Ian Bolderston managed to buy back 30 stores from the administrator, saving 200 jobs, two years after he had rescued the West Bromwich-based chain from administration in 2006.Firkins has now opened a new shop in Walsall and plans another two openings in the area later this year. It has also refitted 15 of its shops in the last 18 months and plans to refurbish another six or eight in the next year. “We want to keep expanding,” said Bolderston. “Getting credit is not a problem now – 99% of my suppliers are still dealing with me.”He admitted that Firkins had had too many shops that were under-performing and which were in the wrong retail location.
High street bakery chains have welcomed the decision to reduce a planned 5% rise in business rates, but say the government should have scrapped the increase altogether.Chancellor Alistair Darling made an 11th-hour climb-down on 1 April over plans to introduce an inflation-busting 5% increase in business rates, following pressure from business groups. He opted instead to introduce a 2% increase this year, with the remaining 3% to be paid over the following two years.Mike Holling, retail and sales manager at Birds of Derby and chairman of the National Association of Master Bakers, said the reduction would help ease pressure on bakery retailers this year, but deferring the remainder was a “sting in the tail”. “The government could really have helped small businesses by completely freezing business rates, but, as always, you have to pay at some point,” he said.Thomas Adams, MD of Northampton bakery chain Oliver Adams, said the decision to reduce business rates was welcome, but had been left too late. “We have already paid a large part of our business rates at the 5% rate, because the decision was made so late on.”
At the National Association of Master Bakers (NAMB) conference in Bournemouth last week, both the Irish president Patrick Smyth and Scottish president George Stevenson congratulated the NAMB on its most successful event in many years.The conference, at the Marriott hotel in Bournemouth, saw a record attendance of 190 people. Highlighting changes for the NAMB, chairman Mike Holling said that, with 45 new members, total membership now stood at 743. (Though members may have one shop, 50 shops or over a 1,000 shops, each one still counts as one member.)Holling told members: “Changes that have helped raise the NAMB’s profile include licensing for Wallace & Gromit. This was from the film A Matter of Loaf and Death, which had the highest viewing figure for Christmas of 13.5m people.” As well as boos-ting bakers’ profits, the deal netted the NAMB £2,000 in commission on merchandising.Craft seminars organised by California Raisins had also proved a big success in the year, he said. There was also a very interesting NAMB trip to ingredients supplier Ireks in Germany. And National Doughnut Week had just kicked off, achieving mentions on national radio and TV show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.Holling highlighted National Craft Bakers’ Week, due to take place from June 8-13, with members urged to make the most of POS material, free with this week’s issue of British Baker. He also highlighted the successful link with British Baker magazine, which he described as “the Bible of the industry”.And he congratulated head office staff, especially chief executive Gill Brooks-Lonican and office manager Karen Dear, and said: “Everything has been achieved with no increase in subscriptions for the third year running.”