With the sale of its quiche manufacturing plant to The Food Investment Group at the end of January, Milton Keynes-based Giles Foods closed the door on nearly 30 years of producing and selling chilled quiches. But why sell a successful business that had grown by 150% in its previous year? The answer, says Giles, is added-value bread.Giles has just completed the final phase of building a state-of-the-art speciality bread bakery, at a cost of over £5m. This is situated just around the corner from the old quiche factory. The site has been built in two phases: the initial phase saw construction of a speciality bakery, which has been fitted out with three automated bread lines. This now feeds a new added-value plant, with four automated lines, able to pack into chilled or frozen formats. Realistic pricesBaguettes, ciabatta, focaccia, flat breads, slices and ‘tear-and-share’ are all produced at the new facility. Giles says it offers retailers and foodservice customers quality products, made to individual specifications, at realistic prices. To do this, the firm operates at high technical standards and completed the first full audit of the new site in February, gaining British Retail Consortium (BRC) Accreditation, grade A.While this was happening, the company says it has kept its focus on the Danish pastry market. It has also upgraded its Warminster site, nearly doubling it in size. This site, too, has just achieved BRC accreditation, grade A. Giles Foods’ technical director Cindy Lester says: “To gain grade A accreditation on both sites, while going through the turmoil of selling a major part of the business, has been an immense achievement by all members of the team. It was a real test of our systems and their robustness.” Shop floor upwardsAs a privately owned and managed company, Giles Foods does not have a complicated decision-making structure. The management runs the company from the shop floor upwards. Having turned over nearly £28m a year, before the sale of its quiche business, Giles now has ambitions to double its business from its new base of £13m over the next two years.“‘Who are you?’ has been a question too often asked by buyers, when being contacted by the sales team,” says David Marx, sales and marketing director. “With buyers in high street retailers changing every 18 months to two years, we have to make a lasting impact. In order to do that, we will lead in development, quality and reliability.”
Belcolade (Belgium) is launching a new Collection range of single-origin chocolate.”From cocoa plantations of Costa Rica, Ecuador, Papua New Guinea, Peru and Venezuela, it will help bakers, chocolatiers and pastry chefs capitalise on the rising demand for single-origin chocolate,” says Matt Crumpton, marketing director of Puratos UK. “It offers a
Small businesses should ditch the landlord and buy their freehold if they want to save money, according to property website [http://www.publicangel.com].It said that many companies could boost their long-term profitability by buying their commercial property instead of renting it.Recent changes in the commercial mortgage market mean many businesses that currently rent can now get up to 100% mortgages and, in most cases, will end up paying the same monthly amount.Public Angel’s director Nilesh Gohil said: “In years gone by, you could have approached a high street bank for a commercial property mortgage, but without a perfect track record and a hefty deposit you’d have been turned away. These days there are many more lenders available, who are willing to lend 100% of the price of the freehold, secured on the property itself – for bakers with retail premises, this is particularly relevant.”
Susina Maiden, 17, is already mapping out her career path to launch her own bakery business in Solihull, after graduating from Warburtons Young Bakers Aca-demy. After completing a three- month course at the academy at the University College of Bir-mingham, she has now embarked on an NVQ Level One in baking skills. She said: “I love baking and really enjoyed the practical side of the course. To be able to continue to learn more about the business side of baking is really interesting. I am now studying cake decoration, confectionery, and bread production, all of which will help me reach my goal to own my own bakery business in Solihull.”Mike Ewing, area business development manager at War-burtons bakery in Wednesbury, said: “We are delighted to sponsor the programme and congratulate all of the bakers, especially Susina. It’s great to see young people keeping this tradition alive.”
Last week I took a call from BB asking if I’d like to become a regular columnist, and I thought, ’At last! I’ve found a new audience for my ever-rising enthusiasm for all things baking.’ But where to start? My five-minute verbal stream, spilling out like dough on the move, covered some of the issues of the moment: my relief at getting five stars at our third shop in the EHO’s ’Scores on the Doors’ scheme; and a recently revived Lardy cake recipe, generously shared with me by Ro Richards, who although in his 90s, spent a day with me in the bakery, passing on the recipe and, vitally, his time-honoured method. Then there’s my work with Theo Guy at Bristol City college to introduce a Craft Bakery Modern Apprenticeship scheme; the reaction of our customers to the foreign taste of Oil of Cassia in our proper Easter biscuits.Having signed a 40-year rolling contract to write this column(!), I figured, why not start with an unashamed plug for a new book to which I’ve written the foreword: Baking Bread with Children by Warren Lee Cohen (Hawthorn Press). Check it out for top-drawer inspiration.So, why do I think it’s important that we bake with children? Well, my observation is that anyone who baked as a child always remembers it in a very positive way (mentally insert 1950s knitting pattern image of baking with mother). Those young helpers grow up, and if they don’t go on to actually become bakers, they’re surely more likely to part with their disposable income on our fancies. Is this a half-baked idea?My visits to bake at local schools have proved otherwise. As part of our long-term strategy to increase footfall, we need to let these youngsters glimpse the wonders and joys of our ancient craft; they’re the customers and bakers of the future.Last week, while collecting wood for my oven, I bumped into a neighbour, who was supervising a group of disaffected teenagers, on a camp out. The biggest of the kids was effin’ and jeffin’, because someone had stolen his fags. He sauntered up to me and demanded, “You Hobbs?….. I ****in’ love your sun-dried tomato bread!”Bread is a universal language. We need it and it’s ace to be reminded that it’s even possible to love it.See you at the Baking Industry Exhibition at the NEC. I’ll be wearing a badge reading Hobbs House Bakery and on the blag for scalpels. If you have any childhood memories of baking you’d like to share, please email me: [email protected]
A recent announcement by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) suggests that the number of foreign workers being exploited is higher than previously thought, particularly in the food processing industry. To tackle the problem of rogue employers, the GLA launched Operation Ajax, an initiative that will see the authority carry out up to 30 raids during the next 18 months.The types of worker abuse uncovered by the GLA since it was set up in 2006 include forced labour; threats and verbal abuse; pay below the minimum wage; illegal wage deductions for unsuitable or overcrowded accommodation; and workers forced to travel to work in ’death trap’ vans and other health and safety risks.The GLA’s new high-profile approach is probably the only realistic way of enforcing the law. The people working for gangmasters – mainly foreign workers – are unlikely to complain and rarely have the support of established UK residents or access to union representation.More and more jobs in food processing and manufacturing are being filled by workers from overseas. Many depend on gangmasters to find them work. Most businesses in the baking industry, as well as the law-abiding majority of gangmasters, will welcome the announcement of Operation Ajax. Nevertheless, if unscrupulous practices are uncovered, this may be very damaging to businesses. For example, if it transpires that the gangmaster was unlicensed, the businesses it was supplying could themselves face criminal charges.Even if a gangmaster targeted by the GLA has a licence, if it has been operating outside the rules, the GLA can effectively shut down its business. For brand names, there is the additional conside-ration that scandals about worker exploitation can be very damaging.To safeguard against the risks, companies should check out their own suppliers via the GLA public register, which lists all the labour providers who hold a licence, and before agreeing to take on labour from a gangmaster. Better still, businesses can sign up for the GLA’s Active Check service – on website [http://www.gla.gov.uk] – which will alert users if a particular gangmaster loses its licence.Labour users also need to be sensitive to signs of worker exploitation. The GLA publishes the minimum rate that a labour provider is likely to have to charge. A gangmaster charging less than those rates should set the alarm bells ringing at once. Similarly, labour users could be storing up trouble for themselves if they turn a blind eye to complaints by workers about issues such as not being paid, dodgy accommodation, threats and abuse. While the end-user may not be in the wrong, its reputation could be severely dented if the supplying gangmaster is, and the GLA catches up with them.—-=== What is a gangmaster? ===A gangmaster supplies labour to agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering or food processing or packaging; or uses labour to provide a service in any of those sectors. For example, someone who supplies labour to a bakery food manufacturer will be a gangmaster, unless the labour use falls into an exempt category. These include wholesale establishments and retail outlets, as well as work in distribution warehouses.It is a criminal offence for a gangmaster to operate without a licence from the GLA or for a business in a relevant sector to use labour supplied by an unlicensed gangmaster. The maximum penalty for using an unlicensed gangmaster is six months in prison and a fine.—-=== Is there exploitation in the baking industry? ===In March 2008, British Bakeries was raided by the GLA. In this case, the gangmaster, who also supplied workers to Thorntons and Florette, forced migrant workers to live in cramped, run-down accommodation, and overcharged them for the privilege.”It’s not unusual to find employers, having turned to agencies for short-term solutions, ending up with agency workers from 12 months to three years in the same jobs,” says Joe Marino, general secretary, Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union. This can build resentment for a company’s employees, who fear for their future and existing terms and conditions of employment. “Union policy on the use of agency labour seeks to address both the fear of permanent workers and the occasional need for casual/agency work.”
Esher-based bakery, The Cookie Man, has been crowned winner of the Surrey Business Waste Minimisation Award. The privately-owned business introduced two waste minimisation schemes last year and now recycles all food and cardboard waste. As well as preventing around 750 tonnes of waste going to landfill, it will also save the bakery £60k a year.The company also aims to ensure its products don’t use excess packaging and employs an environmental task group committed to improving these figures.The Cookie Man supplies a number of major supermarket chains, including Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Somerfield.
Jo Fairley is co-owner of Judges organic bakery and grocery shop in Hastings and co-founder of Green & Black’s chocolate firm with hubby Craig SamsIs success spelt s-p-e-l-t? When we first opened Judges Bakery in Hastings, spelt loaves were a Saturday-only item – but by popular demand, we’re now baking them on the 362 days a year that we’re open. It’s simple: demand for spelt is booming.There’s a widespread perception among the public that spelt’s easier on the tummy. Roger Saul, the ex-Mulberry dynamo, who has an organic farm near Glastonbury, is even building an empire on the back of it, offering not just spelt flour but pearlised spelt, which is also great for risotto, as well as spelt cookies and spelt loaves. His wife Monty’s experience was similar to thousands of other individuals: that spelt seemed, to her, more digestible compared to many other flours and breads.Spelt grain – triticum spelta – is said to be much older than most wheats, eaten in the Bronze age, medieval times and by the Romans. Some archaeologists date spelt’s history as far back as the fifth millennium BC and remains have been found north of the Black Sea. But can its history explain why it appears to be better tolerated by fragile digestive systems than more modern forms of the grain? Personally, I have a theory that it’s another factor entirely that makes spelt more digestible – namely, that many of the spelt loaves available are baked not in giant, industrial-scale bread units but in artisan bakeries like Judges, which showcase niche products.Certainly, the vast majority of our customers who buy our spelt bread tell us that it’s because they simply cannot tolerate ’normal’ flour. (Spelt’s certainly not suitable for coeliacs, although other people with a history of tummy troubles seem to get on with it fine.) But anecdotally, from my time behind the bakery counter, I’ve found that many formerly bread-wary customers find they can tolerate all our slow-dough breads, without triggering bloat, wind and other discomforts. It’s true of our spelt loaves – but equally of our other sourdoughs, in which the gluten chains are broken down by natural enzymes as the loaves slowly rise.Yes, the small, artisan bakeries which are once again flourishing in the UK often use spelt flour. But equally important may be the fact that these bakeries are not baking on an industrial scale – adding lots of yeast, enzymes and improvers to produce thousands of loaves an hour.Instead, artisan bakeries rely on that most precious commodity of all – time – to allow loaves (spelt and otherwise) to prove and rise. In previous centuries – never mind millennia – bread was always left to rise overnight. Now, in some cases, it’s made in as little as an hour. Go figure.
Ireks is marketing a new product, Avena Oat Bread, inspired by the historical importance of oats. The new bread mix contains more than 60% oats, an ingredient that Ireks says is being rediscovered more and more by consumers.Oats are rich in protein, contribute to the provision of essential amino acids, have valuable dietary fibre and provide boundless energy for an active life, said the company.www.ireks.com
Given the continually yelp-inducing world we wake up to each morning of apocalyptic economic forecasts, swingeing job cuts and institutional greed, it comes as little surprise that many of us are greeting the environmental call to arms with mutters of ’sod the environment’. An Allegra Strategies survey earlier this year suggested that business directors in the food industry were doing just that, jettisoning their glossy corporate social responsibility (CSR) brochures to keep their ships afloat; CSR dropped from third to 13th in their list of business priorities.But becoming more carbon-efficient can ease those pangs of guilt induced by focusing on your drooping bottom line rather than combating rising sea levels. Access to The Carbon Trust’s interest-free loans has become easier of late, with sums of up to £200,000 now available, and the required carbon thresholds and admin burden reduced. Keeping your head above water by using more carbon-efficient machinery means you could both save money and rescue East Anglia from becoming a marine theme park in 2050.Working with relicsAs a baker, the oven is the very fabric of your business. And you couldn’t get a more literal interpretation of that than The Cavan Bakery, now in its 80th year. The business comprises four shops and local wholesale and bakes breads, cakes, pastries and morning goods. It has just won a prestigious two stars for its bread from the Guild of Fine Foods. Cavan was baking bread and morning goods on two antiquated gas ovens built into its walls, which required two electric water boilers for steam, and which frequently conked out. One of the relics was claimed to be the first three-deck oven in the country when it was installed… in 1944. The other oven was second-hand when it was fitted in 1961.Patch-up jobs on the prehistoric kit were becoming ludicrously costly. When your annual maintenance fee is approaching that of a full-time salary, as it did with Cavan (a staggering £20,000), then it’s time to act. An upgrade was beyond reason. They had to be replaced.Having taken over the family business nine years ago, owners Sarah Greenall (daughter of Tony Cavan) and husband Jeff knew massive investment was needed. “It was very apparent that we had old, inefficient ovens,” says MD Jeff Greenall. “When we took over, fuel costs were manageable. As bills went higher and higher, fuel became a significant cost to the business – almost unmanageable.” As if to avoid any understatement, Sarah adds: “They were absolutely enormous!”As the business squeezed its way through traumatic times – not least the last recession and the opening of the then-biggest Sainsbury’s in the country a mile away, which saw off the greengrocer and butcher on the high street – new machinery was unaffordable. “The first thing we had to do was stabilise the business, make it profitable and secure the future of the staff,” says Jeff. “It was like, ’we know what the goal is’, but before we get there we’ve got to fight a few battles and get the cash to do it. There are probably more ovens like this being used out there than you’d think. Once we’d made the decision, it wasn’t just a case of pulling the ovens out. It’s a huge expense to make it good underneath, out the back and relay the floor.”Dismantling to build upBusiness building often takes a bit of business dismantling, and the bakery in Hampton Hill, Middlesex, did just that over four months of upheaval in 2008. It claimed a £31,000 Carbon Trust unsecured interest-free loan for an oven; longer-term loans were taken for other machinery at “relatively low rates” and extra cash for the refurb was part-funded by the sale of the Greenalls’ house.Disassembling the existing ovens doubled the cost of the new oven. And the expense didn’t stop there; the new oven shone an unflattering light on the other ageing kit. The quicker and more efficient oven outpaced the old bread plant, which then needed to be replaced. If the escalating costs were daunting, the results were worth it. Reduced heat-loss and discarding the electric boilers has lopped 75% off energy consumption.But had they known that economy was going to nose-dive, would they have made those same investments? “Yes,” Jeff answers quickly. “Our gas and electricity costs are still huge, but had we not done anything, they would have been twice or even three times as much.” Another benefit has been improving capacity by releasing space in the bakery, meaning they don’t need to shift production off-site.The next progression will be more shops – its latest opened in Teddington in late 2008 – as well as reintroducing electric vans; ironically, Cavan was the first bakery to use electric vans, similar to milk floats, in the 1950s. “We’re keen to keep all the traditional elements – the huge asset of being a craft, artisan bakery – while embracing new things,” says Sarah. “The world does move on and we need to appeal to that ever-moving market.”—-=== Ways to cut your bakery’s energy consumption ===1. By investing in an energy-efficient steam oven, you could reduce baking times, increase the rate of production and reduce heat loss thanks to better insulation2. Reduce your power consumption by up to 3-5% by replacing the motors on your bulk flour blowing systems with higher-efficiency ones3. Regularly, and at least twice a year, check that your ovens are properly sealed to avoid hot air escaping. By checking and replacing your oven seals, you will avoid increasing the gas-firing rate to compensate for heat loss, providing you with considerable energy savings4. Make sure your oven is regularly checked by a qualified gas engineer to ensure optimum combustion. Poor combustion will result in loss of efficiency, increased gas consumption and increased emissions of atmospheric pollutants5. Motors consume nearly two-thirds of the electricity in Britain’s plant bakeries. By replacing your standard motors with high-efficiency ones you could make a 3-5% energy saving, and by making a 20% reduction in fan speed, you could make a 50% saving in power6. The leak rate on an unmanaged compressed air systems can be as much as 40-50% of the generated output. By regularly checking air compressors and eliminating leaks, you could reduce leakage to 5% – representing a cost saving of 35%7. Switch off plant and machinery that is not in use and provide automatic controls where appropriate (for example, ventilation systems)8. Consider replacing any luminaries that are over 10 years old, and try to use energy-efficient light sources in all areas. Compact fluorescent bulbs use 20-25% of the energy of a tungsten bulb and can last up to 18 times longer. Regularly cleaning luminaries is also essential to maintain lighting efficiency—-=== Fact file ===The business: The Cavan Bakery, Hampton, Middlesex; established 1929; there has been a bakery behind the shop since 1870Turnover: £900,000Oven: A Bongard gas deck oven, supplied by Mono Equipment. (It also uses a separate new energy-saving Sveba Dahlen four-deck oven at its second bakery)Stumbling blocks: being restricted to gas – increasing the power to the electricity sub-station would have cost £14,000+Savings: Cavan was on good gas and electric contracts when it made the changes; gas has since increased from 1.8p per unit to 3.6p and electricity from 4.2p to 12p per unit. “As yet we haven’t made any financial savings in real terms,” says MD Jeff Greenall. “Hopefully we will start to see changes when these contracts run out. However, without making the change we would be in real trouble, with old ovens and the current high utility prices”Size of the Carbon Trust unsecured loan: £31,000 (36-month payback)Annual energy savings: 12,000 units of gas and 6,000 units of electricityAnnual CO2 saving: 81.2 tonnes