IAWS has reported an “excellent” performance for its financial year ending 31 July 2006, with pre-tax profits up by 14.6% to ?123.5m (£83.3m). Group revenue was 10.6% higher at ?1.557bn from ?1.408bn.The “outstanding feature” was the performance of the Group’s Food Division, which includes Delice de France and Cusisine de France. Revenues increased by 15.4% to ?975.4m. The food division contributed to 81% of the Group’s operating profit. This performance was reflected in markets across bakery and convenience in Ireland, UK, France and the US.Chief executive Owen Killian said: “The hallmark of the Food Division’s performance is revenue growth combined with margin stability against a backdrop of rising input costs.”The Group is well placed to achieve further growth from continuing operations in the current financial year, it said. In particular, the ’lifestyle foods’ market opportunity remains strong.
T he sandwich market is really buoyant and heading for a 9% rise this year, according to research from Mintel (pg 4). Certainly, the choice on offer from bakeries, coffee shops and supermarkets is phenomenal. The variety of breads, flavours of filling and healthy-eating options are all terrific. But there are two more comments about sandwiches in this week’s issue that also made me think.One is in our Consumer Watch column on page 6, where Laura Clark says she doesn’t go into bakeries often, as she doesn’t associate them with health. Instead, she prefers Boots or Marks & Spencer. That is an image that definitely needs countering! All bakery shops should offer ’healthy’ options and publicise them! It seems the message is not getting through to all shoppers.The second is the comment by Pret A Manger’s commercial director Simon Hargreaves, who tells us that he is expecting to sell around 70,000 Christmas Lunch special sandwiches over eight weeks at 170 outlets. The ’special’ comprises turkey breast, a pork and herb stuffing, fresh leaf spinach, crispy onions and mayo on malted wholegrain. It’s a simple but imaginative mix. Are you promoting something similar at a premium price – perhaps with a Christmas muffin or mince pie in the deal?Yet the respect and camaraderie that bread engenders really came home to me over the last two weeks. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Israel and Palestine, along with the Bishop of Croydon and a group of 25 people from around the UK. As well as visiting many places mentioned in the Bible, we had arranged to meet with local Jews, Muslims and Arab Christians to talk about the history and politics of the region – from the recent building of the wall, which trespasses on Pales- tinian land, to high feelings over nationality and security.But what bound us together, whenever we met, was bread. We opened discussions over bread, we passed round baskets of unleavened breads, we shared bread. It broke the ice, it gave us energy – no talk about low carbs here! – and it sustained our conversation. We ate it with hummus and olives, but the basic act of sharing the staff of life made us more polite and tolerant. Perhaps the politicians in both lands should try it more often.
== Colston quartet ==Colston Bakeries has opened a fourth shop in Malvern, Worcestershire. The family-run retail baker, now in its third generation, sells bread, filled rolls and sandwiches, cakes and savouries. Its central bakery makes 40,000 products a week.== Warburtons’ lucky 13 ==Warburtons is opening a new depot in Paddock Wood, Kent. It will be Warburtons’ 13th depot and has created over 60 jobs for Paddock Wood and its surrounding area. The depot will help Warburtons bakery in Enfield, north London, to distribute its range of products to the region’s local supermarkets.== Word on The Streat ==Irish sandwich bar chain, The Streat, is to expand into Scotland. A regional development franchise for Scotland will be run by John Belardo and former Rangers’ operations director Gerry Carey. The franchise operation has 26 cafés in Ireland, with a menu including sandwiches, salads and wraps, juice and its own blend of coffee.== Uniq closure ==Convenience foods group Uniq is planning to close its factory in Paignton, Devon with a potential loss of 390 jobs. The Buckinghamshire-based firm is starting a consultation process with employees about the transfer of production to its site in Minsterley, Shropshire. Uniq is a major supplier to Marks & Spencer.== McDougalls’ range ==McDougalls is extending its savoury pastry range with the launch of Upper Crust Savoury Tarts. The range consists of four variants – chicken and grilled pepper, mature Cheddar & pan-fried onion, chicken & mushroom, and asparagus & smoked ham.
Innovation at the cheaper end of the sandwich market is being stifled by a lack of originality in meeting the needs of hard-pressed consumers who seek out value alternatives, according to a top food consultant.Speaking at a panel discussion at the Lunch! show, held at London’s Old Billingsgate on 29 September, Nellie Nichols, formerly of Pret A Manger, said sandwich makers were too often guilty of “copycating” the larger manufacturers and retailers rather than coming up with original, price-conscious products.She said: “It’s a massive opportunity if people want to use their imaginations, to come up with innovative products that don’t cost the earth to produce. Yes, crayfish sandwiches will sell, but people now want a cheaper option and it’s not difficult to achieve with more cost-effective ingredients.”Rob Topping, bakery buyer for Compass, added that there was no longer an assumption among retailers that people would continue buying premium products. “We think consumers will seek that choice of value more frequently,” he said. “The sandwich category is really well placed: it can broadly be perceived as healthy and it should represent value. There are some fantastic products out there.”Meanwhile, Michelle Young of BB’s Coffee & Muffins said the key to riding the economic downturn would be strong price positioning and meal deals and discounting on a local store level.—-=== In Short ===== Pepsi’s Raw state ==Pepsi is launching its “all-natural” premium variant Pepsi Raw into the café and coffee shop sector. The carbonated drink, which is lighter than standard Pepsi and has natural ingredients, was launched into bars and clubs earlier this year. It will be available to cafés and foodservice operators in a 250ml can from March.== Slice of the action ==The Handmade Cake Company is to sell its six best-selling traybakes as individually-wrapped slices for the catering industry. The slices are delivered frozen in a display outer of 18 packs. The six varieties available are caramel shortcake, all-butter flapjack, chocolate fruit and nut slice, maple and pecan slice, Boston brownie and cranberry and sultana flapjack.== Panitaly takes on UK ==Italian manufacturer Panitaly is targeting the UK with its range of part-baked frozen bread. The firm aims to supply the foodservice sector with ready-to-serve pre-sliced bread for sandwiches, as well as selling its bake-off range to retailers. It uses a traditional natural starter technique, Biga, to make its bread, eliminating the need for flour improver and preservative.== Sussex bars ==Sussex-based chocolatier Montezuma’s is targeting the café sector with a range of five 30g bars. The mini bars come in dark chocolate chilli, milk chocolate butterscotch, Peruvian chocolate with a hint of sea salt, smooth milk chocolate and 73% cocoa dark chocolate versions.== Green cleaners ==London Bio Packaging has launched a range of eco-friendly cleaners for catering firms. The seven products in the range are washing-up liquid, multi-surface cleaner, multi-purpose spray, disinfectant, toilet cleaner and a glass and mirror spray.
Celebrity chef Raymond Blanc has returned after a long absence to spearhead a major relaunch of the Maison Blanc patisserie chain.Blanc started the company in 1981 and now aims to take it back to basics as a consultant chef, offering quality French bread and patisserie. Each store will offer breakfast, light lunches and afternoon tea.Maison Blanc promises to offer 15 varieties of French bread including the iconic baguette ‘tradition’. It sells speciality breads, Viennoiserie, savouries and patisserie as well as special occasion cakes. The patisserie is made in the Maison Blanc kitchens in London and delivered daily to the stores while the croissants and pastries are proofed and baked-off in store.Said a spokesperson: “Raymond is redeveloping the range, removing some products and adding new ones. They will be iconic French products.”In addition to store developments, Blanc and his team have recently produced a new range of cakes and patisserie for Waitrose, which are stocked in selected stores and updated seasonally. They include Macaroons and Apple & Blackberry Crumble Cake.Raymond Blanc said: “We all have a lot to do in 2009 to get the business to where it has the potential to be. We are determined to be the leader in this market and have lots of exciting plans ahead.”Maison Blanc has been acquiring new sites to grow the brand and recent openings include Hampstead in North London, Burford in the Cotswolds and Winchester, while a new store in Henley is due to open in June. It also plans to refurbish all of its 14 shops in London and the South East.Maison Blanc was previously owned by bakery group Lyndale, which went into administration in 2008, and was bought prior to this in 2007 by Kuwait-based Kout Food Group Company, which decided to return to the original concept and values created by Blanc.
Starbucks is currently trialling its new Live Well range in selected UK stores. The range has been designed in response to customers’ specific requests for additional fresh food choices, said a spokesperson for the chain. All options in the new range contain either less than 5% fat, one of your recommended five-a-day or a source of fibre.The range comprises six new salads, including Greek Salad, British Chicken with Red Pesto Pasta Salad and Tuna & Three Bean Salad, and three warm breakfast options including Dry Cured Ham Crepe, Mushroom & Tomato Crepe and Egg Florentine with Spinach & Cheese Crepe.The chain will also introduce new bakery items on 30 June including double-chocolate cookies and brownies. “At Starbucks, we’ve listened to our customers and we have expanded our fresh food range to reflect their needs and provide greater choice, whether they’re visiting our coffeehouses for breakfast or lunch,” said the spokesperson.“The trial of this new range, and new in-store look, is currently underway in almost 30 Starbucks stores in the south of England, Manchester and London,” she added.In the US Starbucks is currently reformulating 90% of its baked goods, involving removing high fructose corn syrup, artificial colours and flavours. A spokesperson for Starbucks confirmed reformulation work has already been carried out in the UK.
By Sylvia Macdonald and Georgi GytonProduction is to be cut at Finsbury Food Group’s premium cake business Memory Lane Cakes, as sales continue to fall in the recession.The bread, cake and morning goods manufacturer said production at the Cardiff business is likely to be cut from seven to five days a week. A consultation with employees is currently taking place on changes to shift patterns, with 95 jobs out of Memory Lane’s 1,000-or-so staff at risk. This represents 4% of Finsbury’s total workforce of 2,500. Memory Lane is the leading manufacturer of the UK retailers’ premium own-label cake ranges.Martin Lightbody, chairman and major shareholder at Finsbury, told British Baker: “There is a general decline in cake sales, including premium, and we have been at the forefront of premium, especially celebration and upper-tier cakes.”The number of products sold on deals this year increased dramatically, so we have been looking at cost-cutting over innovation. We must show our customers that we can produce excellent products again.”He continued: “Our strategy is going to be to innovate for the future. In the industry I would like to see a general improvement in quality available to consumers, while affordable to our customers. We shall continue to look at opportunities to keep us competitive.”The job losses and changes to shift patterns are only being made at Memory Lane’s Cardiff site, “not company-wide”.A spokeswoman said: “In the current economic climate, the firm believes this is a necessary step to safeguard the long-term employment of as many staff as possible, while ensuring that the company continues to work efficiently in providing high-quality products. Finsbury is committed to full and complete consultation with the affected employees on this matter and will aim to deliver improvements to factory operations, while keeping job losses to a minimum.”In Finsbury’s November trading update it announced that “sales in its larger cake business had declined by 6% in value”, slightly ahead of the overall market decline of 4%.An analyst at stock-broking and advisory house KBC Peel Hunt said that the share price had gone down quite aggressively in the couple of days following the announcement, from around 24-25p to 20p, but had now flattened off.
The 2.2% rise in the national minimum wage, due to come into force in October 2010, has been slammed by bakers, who argue that it could hamper economic recovery and put jobs at risk.The Low Pay Commission (LPC) announced that national minimum wage rates will increase from £5.80 to £5.93 an hour for workers aged 21 and over in October. Hourly pay will increase for workers aged 18-20 from £4.83 to £4.92 and from £3.57 to £3.64 an hour for workers aged 16-17.National Association of Master Bakers chief executive Gill Brooks-Lonican met with the LPC last year to call for a freeze on the minimum wage rate in light of the tough trading conditions caused by the recession. “Our members have already had to swallow huge fuel and ingredients increases, and cannot put prices up further. This will result in redundancies, which defeats the purpose of the increase,” she said.She also criticised the delay between when the minimum wage rises in October and when benefit thresholds are changed in April 2011. “A lot of our members have staff who work 16 hours a week and claim benefits. The increase will take them over the benefits threshold and staff then want to work fewer hours. They should be raised at the same time.”
By its very nature, baking is an inefficient use of energy: baking requires the highest temperatures (200-240°C); bread is a low-density product (90% air); and the occupation ratio in an oven is generally very small.Then there is the energy required for the preheating of the oven, as well as extra energy for the steaming that occurs at the beginning of the baking process. So in these days of environmental awareness, it may be lucky that baking has not been banned.That said, the Carbon Trust does have the baking industry firmly in its sights, with the aim of improving its carbon footprint and with grants on offer to those who make green choices. Also, the impact of rising energy costs on bakery firms is a strong incentive for bakers to look at reducing their carbon footprint.Unfortunately, the additional environmental considerations don’t make the already difficult and confusing choice of a new oven any easier. So what technologies are being developed, what is on the market from some of the key suppliers, and what funding is available from the Carbon Trust?Well, to start with the funding, the Carbon Trust offers loans of up to £100,000 in mainland Great Britain and £500,000 in Northern Ireland to bakers who wish to invest in energy-efficient ovens. The interest rate is 0%, with energy savings offsetting repayment costs. The scheme is available to any baker who can save six tonnes of CO2 emissions a year and an inspector from the Carbon Trust will visit the premises and verify this. A spokeswoman for the Carbon Trust says bakers can apply direct to the scheme, or through their oven supplier if the supplier has arrangements in place. Demand from the baking industry is currently high, she adds.Some of the options available include the Trezzaforni Steam Tube Oven from Italy, sold through Interbake in the UK. The two-, three- or four-deck ovens run on wood pellets that are produced from compressed sawdust a by-product of the forestry industry. Because the tree, while reaching maturity, absorbs carbon from the atmosphere, the wood pellets are termed as zero-carbon.The energy produced from the wood pellet burner is 66% cheaper than gas on today’s prices. With future price increases predicted on gas, using this type of wood pellet oven can potentially save thousands of pounds in running costs, says Interbake MD David Dunne.The benefits of baking with this type of unit are solid refractory materials, which provide a very mellow bake characteristic that is radiated throughout the baking chambers by means of steam tubes. These transmit a uniform heat throughout each baking chamber. This method of baking is very traditional, and is associated with baking on falling heat. Carbon Trust loans are available on this product through Interbake.Lower electrical powerA steel band travelling oven that is claimed to consume up to 45% less electrical power than rival systems is being hailed by its Danish maker as a major step forward in convection oven technology. Supplied by Epsom-based European Process Plant, the modular oven, called the Conny, is manufactured by Aasted Danish Food Technology. The oven, can be gas- or oil-fired, and features a heat transfer system, based on a balanced air velocity in the heat exchanger. When heated, air is distributed to the top and bottom ducts, the airways of which have been aerodynamically designed to ensure the most efficient airflow, maximum heat transfer and minimum heat loss.The oven’s impressive energy consumption figures are enhanced by its energy recovery system, called RecConny. Heat recovery rates up to 80% have been achieved using the system, which results in energy savings and considerably lower CO2 emissions. RecConny can be retrofitted on most convection ovens, says the firm.Also supplied by EPP is the MIWE eco:nova heat recovery system. Stewart Morris, EPP director, says: “Energy costs have soared in recent years and MIWE has responded to this by designing a highly effective heat recovery system, specifically designed to operate at its optimum in the conditions found in bakeries.” In most cases, the typical savings in a single day can be about 600 kilowatt hours. This, however, depends on how much energy is consumed during baking and the savings can vary from product to product. For example, the savings from crusty rolls are far greater than for croissants.The MIWE eco:nova is best-suited for bakers with more than four ovens and a gross burner capacity of at least 320kW. There are almost no upwards boundaries. The MIWE eco:nova can be constructed in modular steps, of 160kW (burner capacity).Brook Food Processing Equipment can also source Carbon Trust funding for customers on new Polin ovens when they are replacing their old, less energy-efficient ovens. The Polin oven range covers small bake-off ovens, modular deck ovens, rack ovens and steam tube artisan ovens.The loans can include the costs of changing electrical supplies, the removal of old equipment, installation of the new equipment and can be offered on a five-year agreement. A spokeswoman says: “We have worked alongside ’cost of life’ consultants to calculate emissions, energy usage and running costs and, in most cases as we are yet to find an exception, we are able to offer a more efficient new Polin oven against the existing oven.”Hamburg-based Daub handled in this country by Benier UK offers a thermal oil heating system, boasting reduced energy costs. The thermal oil is heated in a heat exchanger unit outside the oven and then distributed through a series of radiator plates above and below each shelf in a rack oven. Each oven has its own pump, and precise temperature control is achieved by throttling oil from the primary heat exchanger circuit through the oven circuit.Once the oil is heated, temperatures do not drop significantly when the oven is loaded or emptied and, as the heat capacity of thermal oil is 2,600 times higher than hot air, baking times are significantly reduced.Den Boer, based in the Netherlands, offers Multibake industrial tunnel ovens, used for products including bread, pizza, puff pastry and pies. The company’s power consumption management technology means that energy use is measured, controlled and adjusted in detail. Measurement of actual and average gas and electricity consumption in cubic metres per hour and kWh gives an insight into energy-saving potential when adjusting recipes; it also increases the accuracy of product cost calculation. Recognition of peak tariffs means that production can be switched to the cheapest tariff periods.For smaller operations, supplier Rational’s Self-Cooking Center is designed to be environmentally friendly, made with all recyclable materials. During use, the Rational SelfCooking Center, a combi-steamer, uses up to 60% less energy than conventional alternatives, it says, and uses at least 10% less energy than normal combi-steamers. Insulating materials are designed to ensure the heat stays in the cooking cabinet. All components of the SelfCooking Center are optimised for minimum energy consumption. For example, the fan motors are brushless 500W direct current motors, with an efficiency of approximately 95%.Because the SelfCooking Center has low heat emission into the kitchen area, there is less demand placed on ventilation equipment, such as extractor hoods and air conditioning systems, cutting the energy consumption of such units. Exploring new technology While the above lists some of the options on the market at present, buying an oven is a long-term commitment. So what is coming down the line in future? Professor Alain Le Bail is co-ordinator of an EU-funded project that has looked at developing more energy-efficient ovens, EU-Freshbake. Two of the innovative technologies he examined have actually recently been launched into the UK by supplier Capway Systems UK radio frequency and microwave ovens.Capway, supplied by the Dutch company Stalam, is targeting the ovens at medium-to-large bakers in this country. The Stalam technology is already being successfully used in Spain. Different versions of this sort of oven, used in the UK a few years back by one particular plant baker, were not cost-effective, but times have changed. The ovens are particularly suitable for crustless and par-baked products. They offer 60% shorter baking times and 90% improved energy efficiency, according to a spokesman. There is also no need to preheat and 0% carbon dioxide emissions. Professor Le Bail says other high-tech energy-saving options include impingement ovens, which consist of high-velocity air jets. The heat transfer by forced convection in an impingement oven is high and the technology reduces baking time and moisture loss, as well as using lower oven temperature and having lower operating costs.Infrared baking technology can also save energy, as the air in the oven is not heated and shorter baking times are achieved.As part of the EU-Freshbake project, academics at Professor Le Bail’s college, ONIRIS (l’Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire, Agroalimentaire et de l’Alimentation Nantes-Atlantique), developed a low-energy baking oven, based on infrared technology. Results showed that a 35-40% energy saving was obtained. In addition, the pre-heating time was significantly reduced (by 70%). But bread baking remains largely a “conventional” process and most environmental developments are more concerned with how to mimic the craft baker than on developing high-tech baking systems, says Le Bail. As in most things, however, it’s a case of horses for courses.
A well-spoken lady recently called into my shop, aghast at the range of “artisan” products we produce. After considerable conversation with my team, she enquired how we managed to make such light and fluffy meringues without the aid of a whisk? A little confused, I said we do use a whisk and an electric mixer and fold in the final icing sugar by hand. She then responded, “So, they are not artisan!” This begs the question, “What is artisan?”Originally the word artisan came from the Italian “artigiano”, meaning a skilled worker who makes decorative items using artisan hand tools. When we first considered calling our bakery ’More? The Artisan Bakery’, one of my best friends strongly advised against it. “No don’t call it that, no-one knows what artisan means. You will fail!” I value my friend’s honesty, but I did not take his advice.The public’s general perception of a word is not necessarily correct or agreed. When answering the lady in my shop, I gave her the option of letting me know if she thought a potter was an artisan, to which she replied, “Yes”. I reminded her that the wheel on which the clay is formed is part of the tools of his trade and is now often electrically powered like the mixer.We did have an industrial revolution and we do live in the age of technology. We have a great piece of kit called BaPS a computerised bakery and production system, which we simply could not live without, not to mention electric lighting, ventilation and wait for it the telephone!In my bakery world, the word artisan is an expression of passion and skill often handmade or moulded, but also embracing modern technology to produce a superior product. So why not use an Artofex mixer to knead the dough, temperature control and retarder provers to assist the products’ even fermentation? These methods save time and labour costs, allow the baker to reduce his price to the customer and give him more time to consider many other aspects of running a business.We are now scaling up production of one of our award-winning hero products the More? Muddee a decadent take on a chocolate brownie. But how do you produce a product that’s identical to the original without compromising, especially if you’re producing them in many thousands? We’ve been through the development stages and we’re looking to invest in technology such as ultrasonic cutters and flow-wrappers. Our simple philosophy is, if technology can assist without the need to change our products into something unethical, why shouldn’t we use it?The main reason I entered a career in the food industry was the pleasure my food brought to people. Would it be wrong to offer that pleasure to a wider audience? After all, if product quality is maintained, what is the difference if we make one or 10,000? And what if we later decide to par-bake and freeze our breads to deliver them to a wider audience, would this be considered wrong? Comments welcome!