Scottish wholesale and retail baker Murdoch Allan says it is seeing massive sales growth after signing a supply deal with supermarket Asda in January 2005.The Hatton-based baker now supplies nine Asda stores in Scotland with 40 bakery lines, including bread, buns, butte-ries and biscuits. And managing diretor Paul Allan told British Baker that, from the end of June, it will start supplying all Scottish stores through Asda’s central distribution depot.“We feel very privileged to be working with Asda,” he said. “Over the last year, we have pushed hard to get our brand known, through activities such as sampling.”Mr Allan said the company started supplying Asda with six types of biscuits after attending an Asda Meet the Buyer event. By July, Asda will account for a third of its turnover. Its biggest-selling lines are Aberdeen butteries in four- and six-packs, which sell up to 1,000 packs per store per week. Murdoch Allan also supplies Somerfield and Morrisons in Scotland and Mace own-label biscuits in the UK and Ireland through wholesaler Palmer & Harvey. Two-thirds of the business is wholesale and the firm also has seven retail outlets.Asda fresh food manager Andy Smith said: “We are always keen to use local suppliers and enjoy an excellent relationship with Murdoch Allan.”
The Record Lam range of reversible pastry sheeters are designed with consideration for small bread and pastry bakeries.The machine’s dimensions are compact. When not in use, the conveyor tables can be raised so they take up less space and this also facilitates effective cleaning.The sheeters are only available through Brook Food processing equipment (Minehead, Somerset).
United Central Bakeries’ (UCB’s) West Lothian factory should be back in full production next April, following a fire last month which destroyed much of the plant.Parent company Finsbury Food Group said at least 70% of its range is expected to be back in full supply this month. Its Christmas cakes are being made at its California Cake Company, while its speciality breads business Nicholas & Harris will supply bread rolls. Potato scones have been outsourced and gluten-free products will be back on line this month.The rebuilding and business interruption costs of the fire will probably top £5m, said Dave Brooks, chief executive of Finsbury. Losses will be covered by insurance and UCB will likely retain most of its business thanks to supportive customers, which in some cases have rejected approaches by rivals, he said.UCB is close to ordering ovens and replacement equipment costing more than £2m. No job losses are expected among the 140 UCB workers. “It’s a successful first phase of recovery but there’s still a lot to do,” said Brooks.The fire was probably the result of naan bread catching fire as it emerged from an oven. The factory’s first bay was destroyed completely.
With a trained chef as a mother to teach her cookery from an early age and a father who worked for Lloyds Bank providing commercial nous, it’s perhaps not surprising that Gemma Parker has ended up running an increasingly successful cake-making business in Norfolk.Parker gained inspiration through her globe-trotting – she has travelled extensively in Africa, Asia and Europe – and fine-tuned her culinary skills at Leiths School of Food & Wine, thanks to a scholarship she won through the Observer Food Monthly.”The training was intense but a good basis for everything I do now. Cooking has always been a part of my upbringing and I saw a gap in the market for home-baked cakes, using seasonal, locally sourced and, where possible, organic ingredients,” she says.”Buying locally supports businesses in the Norfolk and Suffolk area, as well as reducing food miles that contribute to carbon emissions.”Her Humble Cake business currently operates out of her parents’ house – the Old Rectory at Flixton on the Norfolk and Suffolk border – but she needs a larger oven and there is scope to take on staff as demand grows.So she is planning on a move soon, but not far; she will be relocating to a purpose-built log cabin in her parents’ garden. Her parents run a holiday cottages business and Parker helps out with that when she is not busy.Sales are via mail order, where her website plays a pivotal role, and she also supplies locally a deli, two cafés and a museum, as well as private individuals.Her website has also been the ideal vehicle for launching her cake club. “It’s like having a subscription to a magazine, only every month you receive a cake instead,” she says.Club members get a cake that matches the seasonal ingredients in them: for spring, there is rhubarb; if it’s summer it must be raspberry cake; then there’s pear and amaretto or spiced apple in the autumn. There is also the classic Simnel cake at Easter and a traditional Christmas offering, with a tasty cranberry and orange alternative for Yuletide. And there are alternatives at other times of the year too, so if you don’t fancy gooseberry and elderflower…So far, she has 20 subscriptions, some from as far away as Scotland, and she is confident they will grow rapidly. They are particularly suitable for the “hard-to-buy-for” category which, she says, includes most men.== Going it alone ==The business: Humble Cake in Flixton, SuffolkFinance: a £5,000 loan from a family member to get the website up and running and for “bits and bobs”. The log cabin housing the expanded business is costing between £6,000 and £7,000Training: Won a scholarship through the Observer Food Monthly to Leiths School of Food & WineThe Cake Club: an annual subscription costs £90 plus £60 postage, £49 for six months plus £30 postage for a seasonal cake delivered to your doorstepMarketing: in the early days it involved issuing press releases to local newspapers such as the Eastern Daily Press to raise the business’ profile in the local communityWebsite: [http://www.humblecake.co.uk]== The pros and cons ==Biggest challenges:The first was to get enough exposure in a rural area, although word-of-mouth recommendations are now helping. The second was convincing some customers that quality organic ingredients don’t come cheap and that has to be reflected in the price.Greatest satisfaction:I am most excited about the fact that the concept works and that I am now confident my business will grow by 50% a year. My non-traditional wedding cakes are going well. I think that some traditional wedding cakes are lavishly presented, but that often means sacrificing taste.
With a title like ’Fantastic Party Cakes’, cake maker extraordinaire Mich Turner’s latest opus, which features a gushing endorsement from alpha male chef Gordon Rammo on the cover (the f-words must have been edited out), could equally be strapped with the anti-Yorkie tagline: ’It’s not for boys’.This collection of dainty cakes, desserts, cookies and pastries, is Mich’s second book, following Spectacular Cakes, which focused on celebration cake-making techniques.Here, Mich, the dynamo driving The Little Venice Cake Company, taps into the craze for small cakes, offering decoration tips on how to add value to any bakery, café or patisserie offering. Elsewhere, hands and feet cookies offer a simple treat to appeal to kids, while you could easily see Espresso Bites served alongside a sit-in coffee.
The Real Good Food Company (RGFC) achieved increased sales last year, but profits suffered as a result of soaring commodity prices, with a decline in its bakery ingredients division from £5.6 million to £4m, according to its end-of-year results.Revenue across its sugar, ingredients and bakery divisions rose to £231.1m, up from £221.7m in 2006, but total operating profit was £9.6m, down from £13.3m.Sales in Renshaw, its bakery ingredients division, were 3.8% down from the previous year but, in a statement, the firm said that revenues remained in line on a like-for-like basis, following the disposal of its nut business and £400,000 of non-recurring income in relation to a supply agreement. Renshaw supplies a range of food ingredients to craft bakers and major cake manufacturers.Meanwhile, RGFC’s Hayden’s Bakeries, which produces chilled and ambient premium patisserie and dessert products, saw strong growth for a fourth consecutive year with a 6% rise in sales. But the company said “profitability remained flat”, partly as a result of higher raw material costs.Chief executive Stephen Heslop told British Baker he believed the longer-term outlook for desserts and bakery products remained “fairly positive”, but added that much depended on consumer confidence and broader market economics.People will “always buy indulgent products as treats”, he said, but it remained to be seen whether these wider economic issues, including house prices, were transmitted to the high street.
Chris Beaney must be one of the few people left in the country with a good word to say about the banks. The owner of Beaney’s Bakery in Strood, Kent, who is also currently President of the National Association of Master Bakers (NAMB), recently secured generous financial backing from his local Barclays to take over a shop and bakery in the nearby town of Snodland in West Malling. “My bank manager has been really supportive. I was surprised how keen he was to help out when I went to see him about buying the bakery,” says Beaney.Mind you, this was back in October, before the banks had really started to put the crunch on credit – bakers approaching their bank managers these days might get a different reaction altogether.The new shop is a big step for the Beaney business, which was first set up by Chris’ father in 1936, before Chris joined in 1968. Well-known for traditional loaves, confectionery and savouries, as well as artfully decorated celebration cakes (see At a Glance), for a long time, Beaney’s has only operated two shops – a small branch in Gillingham and an equally small shop at the main bakery in Strood. With increased parking restrictions in the town centres, not to mention the rise of the supermarkets, the business naturally began to focus more on wholesale, with two vans currently making 40-50 drops to restaurants, hotels, local shops and pubs.But the acquisition of the Snodland shop and bakery has changed this around, so that there is now a 60/40 split in favour of retail sales. Altogether the company employs 17 people, with six on production, not forgetting Beaney himself who still starts work most days at 4am. “I’m very much a hands-on baker,” he says.== A calculated risk ==While some might think that now is a strange time to expand a business, Beaney says he is taking a calculated risk. “The shop is in a great loca-tion – on a prominent corner, opposite a bank and next to a post office. Shoppers have always gone there in their droves,” he says. “When opportunities arise, you have to be brave enough to take them.”Beaney’s bullish approach is partly informed by his experience of being NAMB president. “I’ve met lots of fellow bakers at various events and heard about their experiences,” he says. “I’ve built up so much knowledge, it has given me confidence to grow my own business.”Providing an opportunity for craft bakers and suppliers to meet and share ideas is one of several important functions of the NAMB, says Beaney. “I know how to bake, but as a small business owner, I’m also expected to know about employment legislation, health and safety, and tax. It’s a lot to deal with, so it’s good to have the NAMB at the end of the phone if I have a question or need expert advice. Then there are the member discounts on things like insurance and telephone bills, laundry and breakdown cover.”A lot of bakers don’t realise the range of services available, so they either don’t join, or fail to make full use of their membership. But in the current economic climate, being an NAMB member is more important than ever.” Other projects currently being considered by the NAMB include a celebratory craft bakers’ week each year and a forum where baking and business questions can be discussed, he adds.== Riding the recession ==As well as sticking together via the NAMB, craft bakers will have a better chance of riding out the recession if they stick to their principles, says Beaney. “We have to carry on doing what we do best – making good quality products that are correctly priced. It would be madness to start competing with the supermarkets by launching economy lines. We need to hold our nerve. Shoppers will soon realise that a 50p loaf from the supermarket isn’t actually value for money, because it is full of additives and most of it will be thrown away because it has gone stale.”The downturn is by no means the only issue occupying craft bakers’ minds at the moment. Rising ingredients prices and soaring utility bills prompted Beaney to increase his own prices last year, with a large tin loaf going from £1.20 to £1.40. “That’s still competitive with the plant loaves in the supermarkets and I would argue I’m selling a superior product in terms of quality. We make our bread fresh by hand every day and always use a good grade of flour with high protein and gluten levels,” he says.Another ongoing challenge is the constant rises in the minimum wage. “Over the years we’ve seen increases that are double or triple inflation and it puts tremendous pressure on us. It’s not just the people on or close to minimum wage that we have to pay more. Everybody has to get a rise to maintain the differential.”Beyond the everyday challenges, Beaney remains distinctly upbeat about the future of craft baking, especially if people work together. But this is perhaps not surprising from a man who readily admits he has always been in love with baking. “As a schoolboy I always used to help my father out in the holidays,” he says. “To tell the truth I never wanted to do anything else but work in a bakery.”
== Bread ambitions ==Heatherslaw Bakery hopes to be making bread “on a big scale”, following the success of its new 1lb Heatherslaw bloomer, made with ingredients sourced within a three-mile radius. Heatherslaw Bakery in Northumberland, which employs up to 40 people, had previously concentrated on producing cakes and biscuits, but is now looking to breadmaking as an additional business focus.== Britvic revenue rises ==Britvic has announced its Q3 trading figures ahead of schedule “in light of particularly strong trading”. Total revenue was up 5.9% to £249.1m for the 12 weeks to 5 July 2009. GB stills saw revenue growth of 8.3% in Q3, while revenue for GB carbonates rose by 14.4%. International growth was up by 17.5%.== Waitrose desserts ==Waitrose has launched three new frozen dinner party desserts: Key Lime Pie, Mississippi Mud Pie and Banoffee pie – all at £2.99.== Miller close to goal ==Miller FWP Matthews hopes to complete the installation of its new flour mixing and blending plant within the next few weeks. Initially it will use the equipment to produce existing products that are currently mixed ’off-site’, but hopes to introduce a range of new products over the coming months.== Doritos’ mystery ==Pepsico has launched a mystery flavour of Doritos in a single-serve and sharing format. Consumers can guess the flavour of ID3 for the chance to win £20,000. Other prizes on offer include laptops and mobile phones. The promotion will be supported by a heavyweight marketing campaign, including indoor and outdoor media.
David Powell, Master of the Worshipful Company of BakersI am often told that in this industry ’the day you stop learning, is the day you go stale in heaven!’ I have no desire to put this to the test, but so far I have found this to be correct. I’ve also found that the rate at which we learn, and the source of the information, changes over the years.For those of us not lucky enough to be born into the trade, often the first major source of learning is when we enrol at one of the colleges with a bakery course.I was fortunate enough to go to the National Bakery School (NBS) on London’s South Bank for two years and after finishing as top student I was presented with the freedom of the Worshipful Company of Bakers’, hence why I have the honour of being Master today.College gives one an invaluable source of learning but hands on production experience is still vital. Without banging on about ’in my day it never did me any harm’, like a crusty old man in a fur-lined cloak and big chain, I have noticed that many of the students that apply to us for bursaries do not combine getting work experience with their time at college.Now, ’in my day’ apart from attending the NBS full time I worked as a jobber on Friday and Sunday nights at Fred Ayres’ wonderful bakery. Working a full night shift immediately before or after a full day at college was not easy, but apart from the money, the experience was invaluable and the blend of practical and theory made me what I am today. It also means you learn very quickly.My manager at Fred’s made sure that as the jobber I got all the ’best’ jobs, which the ’skilled’ guys did not like doing, anything from traying up to frying doughnuts.He was rather taken aback when, some 15 years later, I walked into the bakery he was managing and introduced myself as the new owner! To be fair, his opening remark was: “Oh it’s you! I suppose I had better make the tea!” This trade is too small to upset people as you never know when you will meet them again and often in different circumstances.The baking industry has allowed me to achieve my dreams and to travel all over the world learning at exhibitions, demonstrations and visiting bakeries.I write this article on Prince Edward Island off the East Coast of Canada, having discovered Mary’s Bakehouse in a tiny Canadian town called Cornwall, where I have learnt who makes THE best cinnamon swirl ever. What will I learn tomorrow?
By Max Jenvey of Oxxygen Marketing Partnership, a strategic management agency that works on brand development in the bakery, foodservice and convenience retail sectors More facts, insights and selling strategies in from Café+ Live included how to set up a successful food-to-go (FTG) offer.First of all, who are the FTG consumers? Dave Marshall from Market Fresh, one of the UK’s leading food-on-the-move innovators, tells us we must take two main shopper groups into account: the premium consumers for example, white van man and travelling executives; and the value consumers for example, school kids and local retail workers. Together these groups make up 73% of all consumers, 19% of them buy food on the move three or four times a week and 49% have FTG on a regular basis (between one and three times a week). These statistics are also supported by our colleagues at him!.That is outstanding news, as 21% of these customers buy from local bakeries and 28% from a convenience store, Marshall reveals. There are just three simple steps to success: understanding who your customers are, finding out what they want and translating this information into your offer and service.Focus on different customer segments, such as travelling executives, white van man, shop workers, mums with kids, pensioners and office workers. Conduct your own mini market research study, keep a notebook by the till and note down the different types of customers visiting your store across a normal week, excluding holidays, and ask your customers what they are looking for; also review your sales per hour to understand when your busiest periods are.Next, establish the perfect match between your customer demographics and your bakery offer armed with your research. For instance, if your bakery or convenience store is a target for morning commuters, you need to focus on anything and everything to do with breakfast delicious sausage rolls, bacon and cheese turnovers, mouth-watering cinnamon swirls, warm seeded breads or even humble toast which are easy to take away and can be served quickly.And finally don’t forget to offer an amazing quality coffee to sit alongside your delicious bakery, sandwich and snacking ranges; simply use the information you have gathered to turn your offer into a competitive advantage.