Two dead baby mice being found in an own-label loaf you have supplied to a major supermarket customer must be right up there among the top 10 worst things that could happen to a plant baker. It may sound like the stuff of urban myth, but bizarre as it is, the episode did occur in September 2004. The supermarket in question, Somerfield, and the supplier, British Bakeries, have had over a year to assess what happened, make any necessary changes to procedure, and prepare for the negative publicity that the ensuing court case inevitably generated. And, as what Somerfield admitted was a “nightmare” situation unfolded, the fact the supermarket has stood by its major plant bread supplier must have been a great consolation. The case, which is British Bakeries’ only prosecution on pest control grounds in 10 years, finally conclu-ded this week. The verdict that it had supplied food unfit for human consumption, and the subsequent £7,000 fine, was unsurprising under the circumstances. While the case could be seen as a black mark against British Bakeries – with extra checks and inspections ordered by Somerfield – the continuing supply deal speaks volumes about the supermarket’s conviction that its supplier was the victim of an isolated infestation at its Avonmouth bakery – a circumstance Somerfield is confident will not be repeated. British Bakeries has, of course, apologised to the customer who made the gruesome discovery. But it also stresses the mouse infestation at the bakery was isolated. The fact that baby mice ended up in a loaf is highly unusual in itself. The loaf had been baked and sliced before a mouse entered it. The baby mice were then born in the bread, which also contained droppings. Sabotage has been ruled out.According to pest control experts called in by British Bakeries after the incident, baby mice are laid in nests. The mother mouse must have been disturbed to have burrowed through packaging and placed them in the loaf. While the odds are well stacked against anything like this happening, the news serves as a timely reminder to all bakers that pest control must be a priority and that bakers should ensure efficient measures and regular thorough checks are in place. It is easy to be wise in hindsight, but British Bakeries’ experience suggests it’s a much better idea to act wisely in advance.
Russell Finex (stand J130) will feature two new units that complement its range of powder sieves and liquid filters.The Russell 3in1 Sieving Station has been engineered to include a fully integrated screw conveyor. By combining the screening and movement of powders the process is simplified, removing double-handling and increasing productivity.The stand-alone 3in1 combines three features designed to aid good manufacturing practice: a low-level sack-tip platform with dust hood and integrated dust extraction system; a Russell Compact 600 Sieve; and a magnetic trap. These sieve and remove impurities from the bagged ingredients while protecting operatives from the potential health hazards caused by dust inhalation.The integrated and fully enclosed conveyor moves material through a hygiene break or onto the next processing stage without the use of collection bins or wheeled containers. Russell Finex will also be exhibiting its new 502 Eco Filter – the latest addition to its range of Eco Self Cleaning Filters. The 502 model has been re-engineered to provide greater benefits to liquid food processors. It eliminates contamination from liquids in a clean and simple fashion without the mess and environmental impact of the more traditional bag or cartridge filterThe Russell Eco Filter range also produces substantial savings in operating costs compared to other designs or disposable bags and cartridges. The re-usable Russell filter elements are continuously wiped clean and therefore the need for strip downs is infrequent.
Makes around 30 browniesGranulated sugar – 265gPlain flour – 100gSelf raising flour – 29gCocoa powder 10/12 – 29gWhole egg – 165gVegetable oil – 28gGlycerine – 19gGlucose syrup – 61gButter (melted) – 84gDark chocolate (70% solids) (melted) – 121gMethodBlend all the dry ingredients togetherAdd the water, vegetable oil, glucose and glycerine. Mix on a slow speed for one minuteMelt the butter and chocolate together and add to the mix. Mix on slow speed for one minutePut the mixture into an 8in trayBake at 350ºC for 40-45 minsCool and cut into 6cm squares
Cornish Pasty supplier Brittons of Devon has been bought from owner Quanon by its existing senior management, Steve Hathaway, Paul Whitaker and John Savege, for an undisclosed sum.MD Steve Hathaway said a program of restructuring and reorganisation has already begun following the management buyout. “In shareholder terms, the buy out represents a new era for the company. We intend to build on the company’s reputation for high quality and good service over the years to come.”
Ingredients company Macphie, (Glenbervie, Scotland) has added a limited-edition raspberry flavour to its range of indulgent Sensations cake mixes. Raspberry Sensations will be available from June, for a limited time over the summer months. The new flavour joins lemon, strawberry, apple & cinnamon, tropical, blueberry and banoffee. Sensations cake mixes contain real fruit pieces. “Macphie Raspberry Sensation gives an old favourite a sophisticated twist. It recaptures happy childhood memories. The contrasting flavours and textures are sure to make it a top choice for everyone – young, old and in-between,” says Ian Wolfenden, bakery solutions commercial director. “Research shows that up to 80% of bakery buys are impulse buys. Bakers should offer free samples beside their till to encourage trial and capitalise on impulse purchases. We’re certain that the Raspberry Sensation will attract new consumers generating incremental sales and profits for bakers, but they need to act now as it’s only available over the summer months.”
Leeds-based malt loaf specialist Oakdale Bakeries called in administrators KPMG Restructuring on January 26.The company, which turned over £30m last year, blamed trading losses and a competitive environment for the decision.Richard Fleming, joint administrator and restructuring partner at KPMG’s Leeds office, said: “The business has encountered difficulties as it has been making trading losses in the highly competitive environment of the food production sector. However, we are looking to continue to trade the business with a view to selling it as a going concern.”He said administrators are keen to hear from any parties interested in buying the business.Oakdale employs a total of 350 staff across three sites in Doncaster, Morley and Wigan. It produces cakes, fruit pies, malt loaves and pies as own-label products for a number of supermarkets and retailers across the UK.Oakdale parted company with its chief executive Des Kingsley six months ago. He had led it through a management buy-out in July 2004 from Oakdale’s founder Marshall Capel. Andy Deutsch from the Thomas Food Partnership had been due to take over before the company went into administration.
Rising utility costs, changing legislation and the increasing environmental awareness of consumers all present challenges for the baking industry. But these issues could equally be viewed as opportunities for businesses to create competitive advantages.Consumer demand for ’greener’ food, for example, has been estimated to add an additional £16.35 to the average weekly shopping basket, with spending on ’sustainable’ foods set to top £20bn a year.getting startedIn the course of researching this article, two things became very clear. Firstly, the baking industry and its supply chain recognise the pressures to work in a greener, more environmentally friendly way, harnessed to responsible corporate and social practices, and are keen to take action.Secondly, there is a huge amount of confusion about how to make a start, where to find help, what impact this will have on individual firms and whether it will be of any business benefit.”Many bakeries are spending thousands of pounds on wasted energy, while needlessly emitting hundreds of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere,” says Hugh Jones, a senior account manager at the Carbon Trust. “As the effects of climate change become increasingly apparent, the need for businesses in this sector to take steps to cut carbon emissions, the main cause of climate change, has never been greater. Taking action to reduce energy-use can benefit an organisation’s bottom line, as well as the environment. For help with improving energy efficiency, talk to us. We can help companies leverage the business opportunity that climate change presents.”Despite the confusion surrounding green issues and how to react, some bakeries have already begun working corporate social responsibility (CSR) into their business structures.Michele Young, retail and brands director at BB’s Coffee and Muffins, sums up the current state of play for many companies: “We are in the process of formulating our policy and establishing where we can become more environmentally compliant. We are working with our suppliers to identify our environmental impact, but as this is a very complex area, we don’t want to rush into making easy but ineffectual claims,” she says.Some companies in the food sector, such as Waitrose, Brakes and Greggs, have already published environmental/CSR policies and materials. Jess Hughes, Waitrose’s corporate press officer, explains its approach: “We have developed a long-term CSR strategy, which is at the heart of our business and is outlined in our ’constitution’. Our ongoing work includes reducing packaging weight, relative to sales, by 33% since 2000.”Meanwhile, Tesco has recently announced a £25m research initiative looking into sustainable retailing practices. This includes the prospect of market gardens on supermarket roofs and investigating the conversion of poultry feathers into a form of packaging.carbon footprintCarbon footprints and controlling carbon emissions are leading the environmental debate. Some consumer products, such as Walkers crisps, are now carrying carbon footprint statements alongside ingredients listings and nutritional information. But how do you work out your carbon footprint?The Carbon Trust provides a good starting point with a free guide on the topic. This provides an explanation of key footprinting concepts, a definition of the term ’carbon footprint’ and an overview of the key issues in calculating carbon impact.The Carbon Trust is an independent company, set up by the government, to provide free advice to companies on reducing their carbon footprints and energy consumption. It also provides information on free energy surveys and design advice for smaller businesses, and offers larger companies a carbon management service. It can provide information on tax breaks and interest-free loans for capital equipment that reduces energy usage. The Trust also makes grants – in some cases sums in excess of £150,000 – towards new technology that will contribute towards a greener business.As previously reported in British Baker, Brakes, a leading foodservice distributor, is working towards accreditation to ISO14001, the international standard for environmental performance, in conjunction with the Carbon Trust, by recycling and reducing packaging on products and by reusing water in a circulation system for washing vehicles.resource efficiencyBeyond carbon footprints, Envirowise, another government-funded organisation, offers support to the food and drink industry and hospitality sector to become more resource-efficient, reduce environmental impact and increase profits.It offers over 700 publications, a free advice line and access to free expert consultancy designed to help identify sources of waste and enable businesses to start making immediate savings.”Businesses consider many ways to cut costs before they consider waste. However this is an area that they can transform profitably, based on some relatively low-cost, pain-free measures,” Martin Gibson, Envirowise’s chief project officer. “Issues such as excessive water use, the creation of unnecessary waste and ignorance of regulations can have a huge impact on profitability. Instead of throwing money down the drain, businesses could build brighter futures, by reinvesting savings realised through better environmental practices on staff and product development.”A good example is provided by R Mathieson & Sons, a firm of fifth-generation master bakers founded in 1872. The company has a retail estate of 26 shops in eastern central Scotland and seven shopping centre-based coffee shops, stretching from Elgin to Gretna. “Our approach has been very much on the basis that, in most cases, good environmental practice is also good business sense,” says MD George Stevenson.Working with Envirowise, the company implemented a structured programme of progressive waste minimisation. The key to success lay in the involvement of employee teams across the business, which helped identify areas for improvement.The programme brought significant benefits, including a 66% reduction in waste disposal costs, saving £12,000 a year, savings of £3,700 a year on minimising wastage of bakery products and frying oil, decreased consumption of raw materials, water and energy, and a reduction of around 20% of the waste the company sent to landfill, at 31 tonnes each year.beyond productionSome of the biggest savings came from outside the production area. Better scheduling of deliveries led to savings of around 30% in delivery miles and almost £30,000 in fuel and vehicle costs.The project, and the way waste minimisation training was incorporated into Mathieson’s induction programme for all new staff, also earned the company a Scottish Enterprise Forth Valley Best Green Business award, and the accolade of Enterprising Scotland’s Best Business in the Community award.”The considerable savings we made through the Envirowise programme meant that when we moved to our purpose-designed new premises in 2006, we were able to make use of all that we had learned and kept environmental considerations to the forefront of the design, planning and operations at the new site,” says Mathieson.Green values are also woven into the fabric of Macphie, the independent food ingredients manufacturer based in Glenbervie in the north-east of Scotland.The company has an environmental manager and all of its manufacturing sites operate to the ISO 14001 standard. In 2000, it invested £500,000 in its third effluent water treatment plant. A by-product of this process is sludge, which is recycled on the estate where the company is based as a fertiliser.Every year, Macphie plants 30,000 trees on—-=== Counting the cost ===According to Envirowise, the food and drink sector in the UK uses 440 million cubic metres of water, produces 12.6 million tonnes of waste, and gives rise to 12.4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from energy use each year. The annual cost of waste disposal in the UK has risen to £500m, with seven tonnes of waste produced per person in the UK, four of which go straight to landfill.
The year is 2013. Tesco has passed the milestone of having a superstore in every square mile of Britain. The megalithic multiple is then granted planning permission to build a store on the side of a cliff.Having no more room to expand, Tesco wages war on Denmark in a bid to create “the first retail super-state”. Its tag line – ’Every little helps’ – is replaced by ’We control every aspect of your lives’. No, this is not some prophecy based on the long-term effects of the Competition Commission’s report into the power of the supermarkets. It is, in fact, a sketch from BBC2’s Time Trumpet – a spoof nostalgia show looking back at history from the vantage point of 2031. It would hardly surprise me if it transpired that the authors of the CC report had watched this and taken it as an inspiration – nay a template.In fact, in light of the CC’s championing of competition between the supermarkets – potentially paving the way for more edge-of-town stores – this dystopian scene seems barely a parody. Political expediency favours the supermarkets, which have kept inflation in check through forcing down food prices by 7% in real terms since 2000. It is true that the public may benefit from the supermarkets offering low prices, as the report concluded. And the multiples can hardly be blamed for growing their business and meeting their obligations to shareholders. Neither can the buyers, who are themselves under enormous pressure to cut costs.But the CC continues to see the supermarkets in splendid isolation from the shockwave effects they have throughout industry. And there are some real horror stories from suppliers complaining of late invoicing, hidden charges and take-it-or-leave-it price reductions having a strangling effect on their business.As the saying goes, ’Don’t blame the player, blame the game’. The supermarkets operate within the rules that they are given and, although they have a powerful influence on the lobby process, there is reluctance from government to acknowledge that the broader social need of supporting small business must be served. The alternative is that consumer choice is reduced to a handful of mega-retailers. Which is no choice at all.
Does the baking industry need its own National Skills Academy for the bakery sector? Anyone who feels bakery needs a higher profile when it comes to training and attracting new blood is urgently asked to attend a drinks reception on Tuesday April 8 at the Gallery Seminar Suite, NEC Birmingham, starting at 5.30pm, at the Baking Industry Exhibition.The event is supported by National Association of Master Bakers, The Alliance for Bakery Students and Trainees, The Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers, Improve, the Worshipful Co of Bakers and the British Society of Baking.Employers large and small, college tutors and industry leaders are all asked to attend. The baking industry is worth 7.5bn a year but due to a skills shortage the associations are inviting everyone to take part in discussions to explore the opportunity of developing a specialist bakery academy. Please register by Mar 28 by emailing: [email protected]
The Finsbury Food Group has strengthened its operations in the ‘free- from’ gluten market with the £8.9 million acquisition of Yorkshire Farm Bakery (YFB) and A&P Foods.YFB is a major manufacturer of gluten-free breads as well as rolls and cakes and is located on a freehold site in Hull. A&P shares the same site and produces gluten-free pre-mixes for YFB, as well as United Central Bakeries, which is already part of the Finsbury Group.Both businesses have been acquired by Finsbury from the Arnett family, three of whom will remain involved. Finsbury has created a new trading company, Livwell, and £4.8m will be paid on completion, with the remainder payable in stages, ending with a final payment of £2.5m in July 2010.Finsbury group, chief executive Dave Brooks told British Baker: “Yorkshire Farm is the biggest UK supplier of free-from with £10m of sales in the UK gluten-free market so this is an excellent opportunity. I have known the Arnett family for three years through UCB and three members of the family will remain in the business.”In a statement issued by the company Brooks said: “The UK retail market offers huge scope for growth, as more and more consumers choose a wheat-free diet, and the UK medical prescription market, which is twice the size of the retail market, brings new opportunity.“There is also significant scope to develop a stronger export business, as awareness grows in Europe. These businesses perfectly fit our acquisition criteria and their acquisition is further evidence of our group’s confidence in our market positioning and trading performance.”Combined YFB and A&P sales in the year ended March 2007 were £7.3m, with forecast sales for this year expected to be no less than £8.5m. The acquired net assets are valued at £3.66m.