Union strikes back at attacks on pensions

first_imgLast week’s annual Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) conference gave its full backing to the union’s efforts to counter the erosion of final pension schemes that is prevalent across many industry sectors. It also opposed government moves to raise the retirement age.Bakers are being treated no differently to other workers, general secretary Joe Marino told British Baker. But he stressed: “We have to continue campaigning against government attacks on pension rights.”Marino said plans to raise the retirement age were “outrageous”. He was also highly critical of the CBI, whose members have complained they cannot afford the 3% compulsory contribution proposed in the pensions White Paper.There were more than 200 delegates in a total attendance of around 300 at the Bridlington conference. In addition to expressing their concerns over pensions, they heard union president Ron Draper condemn the state of elderly care in the UK. Draper called for free health care at the point of need for everyone, regardless of age. “This is a wealthy country; we have got the money,” he said.last_img read more

Loaf in the spotlight

first_imgwith research, but does the rest of the industry agree, asks Andrew WilliamsIn a scenario akin to a dinghy playing chicken with a juggernaut, organic baker Andrew Whitley has published a passionate and controversial book, Bread Matters, slating plant-baking methods and the mass-produced loaf.Armed with a slingshot of publicity and a few carefully-chosen missiles – so far, a Radio 4 debate and articles in the nationals entitled ’The poisonous truth about our daily bread’ and ’The shocking truth about bread’ – the effect has been a potentially damaging broadside to the plant-baking industry’s boughs. At least as far as public perceptions are concerned.At the heart of Whitley’s claims is the impact on the nutritional qualities of the humble loaf following the introduction of the Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP), which did away with long fermentation times in the 1960s through high-speed mixing. He also criticises enzymes and other ingredients outside the trinity of flour, water and salt – yeast excepted.He alleges that plant-produced breads could be behind a whole host of nasty afflictions, from irritable bowel syndrome, candidiasis, Crohn’s disease and constipation to wheat allergies. This forceful polemic raises a prickly question: with no-time dough processes accounting for most of the bread we eat, does the baking industry have a case to answer?”The baking industry must respond to the growing body of research that is charting the profound unhealthiness of making bread quickly,” says Whitley.Although the ’big three’ bakeries – Warburtons, British Bakeries and Allied Bakeries – declined to comment, David Roberts, chairman of plant producer Roberts Bakeries, who went head-to-head with Whitley in a recent radio debate, insists the ingredient-approval process is rigorous enough to pick up any potential health risks. “All foodstuffs, and bread is no exception, are subject to a regime of such analytical intensity that no element of the ingredients, from wheat and flour to enzyme preparation, is without both its safety and processing need being scrutinised and subject to a stringent approval process,” he says.The CBP produces a wholesome, nutritious bread that offers convenience and availability, he adds. Would all consumers want the product that craft bakers offer? Would they be happy to shop daily for bread? Where would we find the skilled bakers to meet this shift? And would the consumer pay the price?Meanwhile, those bastions of traditional bread – France and Germany – are seeing numbers of craft bakeries decline as shopping and eating habits favour plant-baked products.”The irony is that plant-baking is based on an understanding of the underlying principles of breadmaking, while craft bread production is based on myth, magic and word of mouth,” says Stan Cauvain of bakery consultants BakeTran, formerly of Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association.”Does Whitley’s belief of the unacceptable nature of rapid production times in breadmaking apply to the manufacture of traditional flat breads in the Middle East and elsewhere, where the transition of flour to bread may take less than half the time of that for UK plant bread?”Surely, the message we as a baking industry – and this includes Andrew – should be sending out is that bread, in its many forms, is good for consumers and let consumers decide for themselves what bread they prefer to eat and where they purchase it from.””Judgments about ingredients should take into account the whole food; an enzyme may be harmless in itself but may be used to make an undesirable product,” says Andrew Whitley.Because enzymes are not declared on the ingredients label, this leaves the industry open to “emotional attack”, says Cauvain. “Maybe it does need to change the way it deals with enzymes, not least because a long list of permitted enzymes gives the false impression that they are used in all bread – which is definitely not the case.”The approval process for enzyme use takes into account the end product, he claims. But could there be unintended consequences for our health? There is “a whole lot of debate about what actually is an allergy – it’s a term that’s floated around a lot,” says Federation of Bakers director Gordon Polson. “But there’s no evidence to suggest that the plant-baking process is contributing to allergies.”In fact, he claims the enzyme transglutaminase – said by Whitley to be used to make dough stretchier in croissants and some breads, and may turn part of the wheat protein toxic to people with a severe gluten intolerance – is not in bread at all. “And as far as I understand, it’s not in any bread in Europe,” he adds.WIDE OF THE MARKSo are Whitley’s comments off the mark?”I think they are unfortunate because a lot of them are wrong,” says Polson. “Chlorine is not in bread and the EU has recognised that enzymes do not require to be labelled.” On this front, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is currently consulting on European Commission proposals on enzyme use (the closing date is 27 November 2006).There is no evidence to suggest that enzymes used in modern baking have contributed to a rise in food allergies, says an FSA spokesperson. “Under existing European legislation, enzymes that are used in the food-making process, but inactive in the final product, do not currently have to be listed on a label. However, under recent proposals from the European Commission, enzymes that provide a technological function in food may have to be labelled in future.”Meanwhile, there is a large discrepancy between the public perception of food allergy and intolerance, and the incidence of diagnosed food allergy that is reported in the scientific literature, says Dr Joanne Lunn, nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation. “Some sources have suggested that as many as 20 to 30% of adults in the UK believe they have a food allergy or intolerance, however, when the same people have been tested, the reality is quite different – official figures fall between 1 and 2%,” she says.”Similarly, I have not come across any evidence that suggests that modern manufacturing processes have any effect on the nutritional quality of the loaf.”But Andrew Whitley says: “Modern varieties of wheat have 30 to 50% fewer minerals than traditional ones. Fast-roller milling separates grain into its constituent parts so effectively that white flour has up to 88% less of a range of minerals and vitamins than whole wheat.”So have modern milling methods contributed to a less nutritious loaf? The essential elements of the flour-milling process have remained unchanged since roller mills were introduced in the late 1800s, insists Alex Waugh, director general of NABIM. “Bread and flour play a hugely important part in the UK food supply and culture, and are an essential part of a healthy diet. They do not pose a health risk.”There is no evidence that the variety of wheat used makes any difference to the nutritional value of bread, he says, including organic wheat. “The nutrients wheat contains will depend upon the soils and climatic conditions in which it has been grown. We are not aware of any thorough comparative studies on the nutrient differences between organic and conventionally grown wheat.”If cereal yields had not risen there would be insufficient food for the global population. Returning to low production levels would be a recipe for global starvation.”So what do we conclude from the industry’s responses? Andrew Whitley has compiled a long list of research to illustrate his claims, and though he admits he’s no scientist, he invites the industry to run the rule over his evidence.Jeya Henry, professor of human nutrition at Oxford Brookes University, says since most of the bread consumed in this country is industrially processed, more hard evidence is needed to settle the debate.Catch 22″It’s important for us to try to elucidate these huge public health issues, but to single out bread may be a little bit unfair,” he says. “The catch-22 is that people don’t want to spend a lot of money on food and by definition, are killing off artisan bread-makers.”He urges the plant-baking industry to look at the issues raised systematically to ensure the consumer doesn’t end up demonising bread – and recommends a declaration of anything used in the process to stave off shoppers’ suspicions. “The amount of enzymes used are quite small, but a small quantity doesn’t mean it couldn’t have an effect. We aren’t bad people, let’s come clean and be honest.So would the plant-baking industry benefit from research defending its processes? “The big companies are continually developing, they would not make an inferior product, and I don’t think we’re at a stage where there are any requirements for special research,” says the FoB’s Gordon Polson.But Professor Henry thinks otherwise. “The climate is changing. The time has come where the industry has to put its hand in its pocket and say ’We are going to take the lead because, for our long-term survival and consumer goodwill, it will pay off a million times.’”n—-=== Whitley’s claims ===Heart of the matter: Lack of nutritional qualitiesPlant-produced: Behind a number of afflictionsEnzymes: May be harmless, could be undesirableFast-roll mills: Lose minerals and vitaminsEvidence: Welcomes the industry to evaluatelast_img read more

Pricing policies prove tough

first_imgA recent survey of company directors in the food supply chain conducted by Grant Thornton, leading business and financial adviser to the food industry sought to probe the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers and the extent of supermarket power.It found that eight out of 10 (83%) UK food suppliers expect to see more firms within their sector become insolvent during 2007, with more than 50% laying the blame squarely on supermarkets and pointing to price pressure, excessive power, de-listing and the refusal to renegotiate prices in the light of higher costs as the main examples of unreasonable behaviour. Other potential triggers for insolvencies include: rising costs, competition and poor management.Duncan Swift, head of food and agribusiness at Grant Thornton, has specific experience of problems within the bakery sector. He says: “Bakery is a large market within the food supply chain. It has been acutely affected in the past six years by supermarket pressure.”It is probably the category which has managed to re-buff the advance of supermarket own-label more than any other, thanks to NPD, resisting the strategy of the main players on occasion by standing very firm on discounts.”This normally involves the words: ’We can’t do that but we can do this, this and this’, referring to price or other financial arrangements for particular products.”Swift says there are two key reasons why there have been failures in the bakery sector. “There have been a number of new entrants who think they can reap the fertile ground of own-label supply, but the perceived vacuum is not there.”Secondly, certain businesses to fail to have a complete overview of all the financial commitments and their consequences. They don’t understand all the parts of their business that interface with the supermarkets. For example it is essential for bakeries to have an accurate Customer Contribution Analysis, also showing cash flow.”Swift says this is what tells you if you are making a profit and the level of profitability (or loss) incurred for each customer. “You would be surprised at the number of bakery businesses that have key accounts representing 30% of turnover that is not actually benefiting their bottom line.”Recently I have seen a bakery business where a member of the finance team made a financial commitment and did not share it with the rest of the accounts team – it was a cash flow issue – which shook the confidence of that business’s financial stakeholders and funders.”But it is not all bad news, Swift stresses: “The strength of the bakery sector has been the quality of its products and to say ’no’ on occasions “It must stand by that decision and offer alternatives. And, having identified areas that are not making money, you must address these as a priority.” n—-=== The results revealed: ===? Almost two-thirds (64%) of sup- pliers operate without formal contract terms with supermarkets. Just 22% enjoy written terms? Largely because of no written terms, almost a quarter of suppliers complained of having an order cancelled or significantly reduced within 72 hours of delivery (9% often, 9% a few times, 6% once) without obtaining any form of compensation.? 22% of respondents stated the period of time between the delivery of goods/issue of invoice to receiptof payment had been extended by the supermarket(s) they supply.? Almost 60% of suppliers have no notice period in respect of their supply agreements, so that supermarkets have few, if any, obligation if they were to de-list them. Forty-one per cent of respondents claim to have a notice period, but for half of these, it’s purely on a verbal basis.? Over the past three years, almost 80% of suppliers have been sub- jected to supermarket pressure to drop their prices. Suppliers stated that their products are now sold between 0% to 30% more cheaply than three years ago – the average being 8%.? Between 0% and 25% (average of 4%) is the proportion of suppliers gross sales value that is contributed back to supermarkets in the form of volume over-riders, discounts, promotional and marketing contributions and any other payments.last_img read more

McCambridge axes failing own-label sites

first_imgMcCambridge has announced that it intends to close two of its own-label division factories as part of its strategy to streamline the business.Group commercial director Neil Fraser said Lisa Bakery in Oldham, which produces predominantly Swiss- and mini rolls, and William Lusty in Heywood, Lancashire, which manufactures slab cakes, have “physical constraints” that do not facilitate economic growth. “It is proposed to transfer the production at these sites to other north west-based manufacturing facilities within the own-label division of the McCambridge group,” said Fraser. “We’re not walking away from these products, we’re just going to move them, and obviously this will require staffing at the other sites.”last_img

Dawn grows fudge icing selection

first_imgDawn Foods has extended its range of toppings. Orange, lemon, strawberry and coffee fudge icings join Dawn’s existing portfolio of icings and frostings. The new fudge icings contain no artificial flavours or colours and are available in 7kg pails.Marketing manager, Jacqui Passmore commented: “As we continue to add to our ready-to-finish products, such as cupcake bases and sheetcakes, as well as our Baker’s Select range of premixes, we are working hard to offer our customers the range of toppings in frostings and icings that provide ease-of-use, great tastes and the flexibility to offer novelty products that shout from the shelf.”last_img

Motorway service firm to trial Pasty Presto outlets

first_imgPasty Presto is to up its outlet numbers, as motorway service station area Roadchef has announced it is to trial a franchise of the bakery café chain, with a view to further rolling out the brand across its estate.Roadchef will be running the trial at three of its sites: Norton Canes, on the M6 Toll, and Sedgemoor and Taunton Deane South, on the M5.Pastry Presto MD Steve Grocutt told British Baker that the firm had been trying to court the three largest motorway service station operators for a number of years. In July 2009 it opened an outlet at Extra motorway services on the M40 near Beaconsfield its first in the travel-retail sector and the success of this helped the firm get its foot in the door at Roadchef.”The Beaconsfield outlet allowed the other service station operators to see how the operation worked. Then, at the end of 2010, Roadchef said it would like to trial the franchise operation,” said Grocutt. “Including its north- and south-bound services Roadchef has 27 potential locations for us to set up at. However, it’s more likely to be between 10 and 20, if the franchise operation gets rolled out.”Grocutt said one of the key benefits of the new partnership would be the increased exposure of the brand name in areas other than its heartland in the south west. He also confirmed the firm was now in talks with “one of the biggest stadium operators in the country” about a possible partnership deal.Pasty Presto owns and operates 29 standalone shops in the UK. Its pasties are made to a bespoke recipe by Proper Cornish, with Viennoiserie from French producer Bridor.At the Roadchef sites the Pasty Presto kiosks will offer a range of pasties, as well as drinks and patisserie.last_img read more

Starbucks posts profits rise, warns on UK & Europe

first_imgStarbucks, the global coffee giant, has reported a 39% rise in fourth quarter profits to $358.5m (£223.9m), but said that sales across Europe and the UK softened during the period.International revenues rose by 6%, driven by strong gains in China, which offset some softness across the UK and Europe, where it said that consumers had been hit hardest by the economic problems.Howard Schultz, chairman, president and ceo, said: “Fiscal 2011 was an extraordinary year in which Starbucks reported record earnings every quarter, and for the full year, and very strong comp store sales growth all around the world.“Starbucks today is executing in all markets and across all channels, and we have never been better positioned to go hard and go fast after the tremendous opportunity that lies ahead in 2012 and beyond,”last_img read more

Chancellor’s plans meet with bakers’ approval

first_imgThe government has outlined a new set of measures aimed at improving the UK economy, including a £40bn plan for credit-easing that would allow small businesses to borrow cash.In his autumn statement Chancellor George Osborne also said anyone investing up to £100,000 in a start-up business from April 2012 would be eligible for income tax relief of 50%.And he confirmed the setting up of a £1bn business finance partnership to help secure funding for medium-sized firms and extended the business rates holiday until April 2013. The scrapping of an expected fuel duty escalator has also been welcomed by small businesses.The moves were cautiously welcomed by David Jenkins, commercial director of south Wales firm Jenkins Bakery. On the day of the release of the autumn statement, the bakery was featured on BBC television discussing the downturn on the high street. Jenkins said: “We have a good relationship with our banks and are well-funded so credit easing is not an issue that would impact us. There were some positives, but we would have liked to have heard more being said about the state of the high street.”This was echoed by Mike Holling, head of retail operations at Bird’s of Derby and chairman of the National Association of Master Bakers. He said: “There is no doubt about it, these are challenging times. The duty relief is to be welcomed, although that is only being put off for the time being and the freezing of business rates will be welcomed by smaller businesses.”Osborne said the UK economy was now forecast to grow by 0.9% this year, compared with 1.7% forecast in March and 0.7% next yearlast_img read more

SSP closes Ixxy’s outlets in UK

first_imgSSP has closed all of its Ixxy’s Bagels outlets operating in the UK.The firm, which owns, operates and franchises food and beverage concessions at transportation hubs across the country, told British Baker that it has not replaced the brand, which will remain in its portfolio. The news comes as SSP launched a new Mexican fast food brand called Mi Casa Burritos, with its first store opening in one of Ixxy’s existing outlets in London’s Victoria railway station last week.In response to the move, Steve MacDavid, brands director for SSP UK, told British Baker: “It’s all a matter of the right brand in the right place at the right time and in the right format. We operate at over 600 retail and catering outlets including restaurants, pubs, bars and coffee shops at 20 airports and over 130 rail stations throughout UK and Ireland. “We look at each location to carefully assess which brand will be ideally suited to the passenger needs at each of these locations, reviewing that brand mix regularly. At the Victoria location, we believe that Mi Casa Burritos will be a stronger performer, with more appeal to a wider number of today’s passengers.”The new Mexican burrito brand, which was created and is owned by SSP, sells burritos, nachos and salads as part of its offering.MacDavid added: “We believe Mi Casa will be more successful at the location previously occupied by Ixxy’s at Victoria. As a new brand, we wanted to launch Mi Casa Burritos at a good location where it would be well placed to make a successful debut and, on the basis of the first few days of trading, this is working well.”last_img read more

Former Baker of the Year returns to UK

first_imgFormer Baker of the Year Chris Pollard has returned to the UK to open a new French-inspired bakery and patisserie.Pollard, who won the title at British Baker’s Baking Industry Awards in 2002, has purchased a three-floor premises on the High Street in Tunbridge Wells. Pollard is set to transform the site into La Roche, named after his château in France.The new premises will include a shop on the ground floor, with a bakery in the basement and a patisserie laboratory located on the second floor, which will be run by his wife Harpal. The couple are due to open the new bakery at Easter.Speaking about the new bakery, Pollard said: “We have managed big bakery businesses in the past, so when we decided to move back to Blighty this year, we wanted to keep La Roche as a small, but beautiful boutique-style bakery. We saw the Tunbridge Wells location and thought it lends itself to what we want to do – produce beautiful pastries and bread and build up a regular, dedicated clientele who want to come back for more.”The bakery couple hopes to link La Roche to the French château in the future as a residential holiday destination, where people can learn about the history of bread.Pollard added: “People whom we hope will be fascinated by the products we make and sell on-site at La Roche may then want to learn more about where they came from and how we produce them. We can then give them that insight and a taste of the French influences in our work.”Pollard previously ran the Le Papillon Patisserie London chain, before moving to France three years ago.last_img read more