Grieves challenges bakers to safeguard their future

first_imgFormer bakery tutor and past chairman of the British Society of Baking Jean Grieves has called on the industry to re-evaluate its thinking on training, with a view to retaining traditional skills and bringing another generation of bakers to the fore.Speaking at the Bakers Benevolent Society ball at the Mandarin Oriental, London, on 22 June, Grieves said: “Several years ago, when I was still actively involved in bakery education, I forecast that by 2012 there may only be two colleges in the country offering bakery courses. I see no reason to change this prediction.”She noted that the decline in college-based courses is due to many factors, not least being that bakery is an expensive programme to operate, both in terms of equipment and space, and added: “If the closure of bakery schools is likely to continue, how are we going to ensure that there are training opportunities for the next generation of bakers? We are caretakers for the baking industry and should accept the responsibility for safeguarding its future.”Although the industry is not without resources available in various scholarships and bursaries, she noted, these might be better channelled to work through today’s employees and practising craftsmen to ensure the existing skill base in the industry is transferred to another generation.Capturing skills, she said, could be done easily by addressing two key elements essential to training: teaching generic skills through computer-based standard training packages used at a place of training convenient to the student and the baker, including the workplace; and teaching basic craft skills, with a nationwide network of training locations, both industry- and college-based, established. Grieves acknowledged, however, that training is not enough and the industry still needs to attract young people. She suggested establishing a helpline for marketing to young people and encouraging them to join the industry. “The industry employs 145,000 craft people who support a turnover of £2bn. “There is every reason for young people to join our industry. Let’s shout it from the rooftops,” she concluded.last_img read more

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CHris PARR TRIBUTE

first_imgWarburtons’ Chris Parr died suddenly on Monday, 18 September.Aged 57, he was technical director at Warburtons, and was respected throughout the baking and milling industries.He died after developing an infection following surgery. He had been suffering from an illness over the past few months, but was expected to return to work.The funeral took place on Tuesday, 26 September at the Manchester Crematorium. Any letters or donations c/o J Alcock & Sons, 0161 428 2097.Brett Warburton, executive director, Warburtons:Chris’ commitment to baking and his loyalty to Warburtons over his 27 years of service with us was remarkable and our family has always been and always will be deeply appreciative of his dedication and support.Chris was a unique character who will be deeply missed by friends, colleagues and the baking industry at home and abroad. We have been moved by the tributes that have been paid to him in this last week from all over the world. Our thoughts are with his family – Stuart, Gemma and Lynn.David Roberts, former chairman of the Federation of Bakers:It was with a sense of shock and deep sympathy that I heard of the death of Chris Parr. We got to know each other when he and I were on the Bread Advisory Panel at FMBRA, Chorleywood. This committee had the distinction of having the co-inventors of the Chorleywood Bread Process – Norman Chamberlain and Bill Collins as members.Chris brought his well developed understanding of cereal chemistry and the physics of bread-making technology to the deliberations of this committee. He was able to sense the point at which to discard the more esoteric and fanciful research projects, with a more realistic focus on issues that really mattered. It was obvious to me that Chris was going to become one of the most outstanding bread bakers of his generation. He had the unique ability to bring the immense complexity of wheat variety, flour milling and baking technology into a coherent and manageable combination. His extraordinary ability enabled bread to be produced throughout the country and he played a significant part in helping Warburtons to become the pre-eminent company it is today. Personally, he was always very approachable and conveyed both his enthusiasm and immense knowledge. He knew when to be dogmatic but it was tempered with a healthy scepticism, the hallmark of an absolute professional.David Marsh, Benier (UK):I was shocked at the news of Chris’ passing this week. I could never claim to be a close friend or business associate of Chris’s. But although our joint dealings were modest, he was someone for whom I had a profound respect for in terms of the breadth and depth of his knowledge regarding the science and processes of our industry.He was in a position to “push boundaries” and, together with his team at Warburtons, he pushed them and moved them. Plus he was a thoroughly nice chap. A “massive” hole will be left where once he sat.John Foster, managing director, Fosters Bakery, Barnsley:There are those who know bakery science and there are others who see it more as an art. Chris Parr was a master of baking technology, baking art and knew exactly where and how the two combined. He was probably the wisest baker I have known.My wife – then girlfriend – Elaine worked for Chris in the early 1980s at Warburton’s Bolton bakery and he was a great influence in encouraging us in our early baking careers, something he continued to do over the years, when we bumped into him at baking exhibitions and events.Behind huge brands there are huge people making it happen and you have to admire the great success of Warburtons, which is due in no small part to the bread being technically outstanding. Much of this has been due to or greatly influenced by the lovely man and the great baker Chris Parr.Trevor Oakley, friend and Warburtons’ colleague:I had the pleasure of working regularly with Chris for 30 years and my lasting memories of him will be his extensive knowledge of breadmaking – both practical and theoretical – and his unwavering passion for superior quality in everything we did.But for me, far more than his technical skills was his willingness to get stuck in and help with any challenges we faced – sometimes with things well outside his responsibility. But he did it cheerfully because he cared. He will be sorely missed.David Tomlinson, friend and former Warburtons colleague:Chris had the most incredible enthusiasm for baking the highest-quality products and was particularly passionate about spreading the gospel of the quality of plant bread for his beloved Warburtons. In later years, Chris worked with cereal chemists, farmers, millers and bakers all over the world to produce the most suitable flour for the finest plant bread. This will be his legacy to the baking business; his enthusiasm knew no bounds and his passion for baking will be remembered, particularly by colleagues and indeed the whole of our industry.Stan Cauvain and Linda Young, BakeTran:Bread-making was one of the passions in the life of Chris Parr and he was always willing to share that passion with others around the world. Debating the intricacies of bread technology was always a stimulating experience with Chris as he constantly strove to understand what controlled bread quality and how to exploit his knowledge of ingredients and processing to improve it. His constant questioning of what constituted ’good’ bread quality would often stimulate new ideas in others, which in turn would lead to new developments, benefiting not only Warburtons’ business, but often the baking industry as a whole.One was never offended by the outcome of a debate with Chris, because no matter how heated it became, one always recognised the passion he felt for his subject. That passion and stimulation will be missed by both of us and many others in the baking industry.Bob Beard, friend and colleague:A more loyal person to the baking industry and to Warburtons you will not find.I knew Chris for over 15 years, initially as a supplier and latterly as a work colleague. It was Chris’ passion for quality that was utterly infectious; his attention to detail, patience if you did not understand and willingness to challenge the status quo will always be remembered.He knew more about wheat, milling, ingredients and the technical baking process than anyone I have met. What’s more, he always wanted to share his knowledge, thoughts and feelings, especially if it improved bread quality.He was an expert and a friend and is sadly missed. n—-=== Chris Parr ===Died Monday 18 September, aged 57.In his youth, Chris played football to a high standard and always remained involved in the game as an enthusiastic and vocal Manchester United supporter!He attended Manchester Bakery School (Hollings College – now part of Manchester Metropolitan University) from 1966-69.Worked at Sharrocks Bakery in Bredbury, Stockport as a trainee manager, then joined British Arkady (now BakeMark) as a test baker.Chris quickly became an expert in the Chorleywood Breadmaking process and, along with colleagues, developed dough conditioners and other ingredients that were at the cutting-edge of technology. In the mid 1970s, he joined Warburtons, working directly for Derrick Warburton in advancing the technology of breadmaking processes and new product development.Latterly, Chris held the role of technical development director for Warburtons. He enjoyed many years of service with the family business.last_img read more

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Inter Link’s rollercoaster ride

first_imgA timeline on supplier Inter Link’s website charts its phenomenal growth since it was founded in 1994. It has not been updated since 2005.That year, Inter Link became the UK’s number two cake supplier, with the £12.25m purchase of the Yorkshire Cottage Bakeries Group. The deal was its ninth and largest acquisition and gave it annualised turnover of £125m, putting it ahead of Northern Foods’ annual £110m cake turnover, but still behind RHM on £300m cakes turnover.Inter Link was then one of the brightest stars of the Alternative Investment Market with shares trading at 770p. In the 18 months since, its fortunes have turned, hitting rock bottom last week as it suspended trading of shares (then at 106p), an admission that they could be worthless. Inter Link’s market capitalisation was £88.6m in early 2006, now it has only debts of £63m. What happened? And where does this rollercoaster go next?Impending troubleAnalysts agree that five major issues plunged the company into chaos, but that there was a whiff of impending trouble around it all along. Inter Link had over-expan-ded and did not consolidate fast enough. It had high debts, market dynamics changed and then its senior managers left en masse.In something of an understatement, Shore Capital analyst Andy Blain suggests that Inter Link has been “the victim of an unfortunate series of events”. He says: “We were concerned two years’ ago about Inter Link and its debt levels and performance in the underlying business. Management was starting to run out of room to manoeuvre.”Another analyst echoes these views: “It was growing rapidly through acquisition and should have put the investment in place to pull the business together. Customers did not want 12 lorries from different Inter Link bakeries turning up at their back doors, so Inter Link came under pressure to centralise distribution. Supermarkets are more tolerant of smaller sup- pliers, but once it was on the radar, it needed to reach higher standards. So the emphasis changed from acquisition to consolidation and organic growth.”Inter Link began to pull the company together. It spent £1m on a central IT system. And in early 2006, it announced plans for a 189,000sq ft central distribution depot in Warrington, Cheshire, run by logistics company Christian Salvesen. Commissioning that site took longer than expected and there were major issues in integrating Inter Link’s systems. All that lead to major cost duplications and exceptional costs of £1.3m in the six months to November 2006. Service levels for its customers also became simply “unacceptable”, it has since admitted.At the same time the company closed its smaller Newton House Bakery, in Herne Bay, its Crossfield site in Blackburn and Hoppers in Kent, centralising production.And it announced two new 30,000sq ft production sites in Trafford Park, alongside the existing Soreen plant. The first, which doubled its capacity for Soreen branded products, opened in August 2006. The second, the company’s first pudding site, is just opening now.Meanwhile, it was working towards ambitions to expand in Eastern Europe, starting by doubling production capacity at its new Polish factory to 150,000sq ft.This frenetic schedule overstretched management. Inter Link has since admitted it failed to bring in proper outside expertise.Market dynamics were also changing. Following its flotation on the stock exchange in 2005, RHM, which owned Manor Bakeries and branded cakes businesses including Mr Kipling, decided to focus on an aggressive fight-back with a promotional campaign for its Mr Kipling brand.One analyst suggests: “The supermarkets like to encourage smaller suppliers to grow. RHM was dominant, but when Inter Link became a large supplier itself things were different.”Another issue was management churn. Late last year, Inter Link, then valued at £59.6m, was approached by a private equity house. The talks led to nothing, but prompted chief executive Paul Griffiths to review his priorities. He left to restore a monastery in Manchester, a project he had been pursuing part-time.Finance director Chris Thomson was promoted to CEO, leaving the finance position unfilled. Chairman and founder Alwin Thompson was forced to resign due to ill health in February. Former chairman Jeremy Hamer, who had scaled back his role to non-executive director, took over. Inter Link has still not recruited a new finance director.Inter Link had always had always run a volume business on unforgiving margins. It could not absorb unexpected costs on all sides. Its efficient low-cost volume production model did not work without the ’efficient’ bit.The company now has £63m debt with the banks, led by Barclays. They are looking for a sensible offer from a buyer, perhaps as low as £30m to £40m, according to analysts’ estimates.Potential buyers circling are tipped to include Vision Capital to run alongside its Park Cakes business, Premier Foods, Finsbury Food Group and Greencore. Irish company McCambridge, which this month withdrew a bid when banks would not agree to write off any debt to seal the deal, is expected to re-enter the fray.Inter Link is unlikely to attract much interest from venture capitalists though, an analyst sugges-ted. With its need for restructuring it is not what they would look for.The irony is that despite its troubles, Inter Link is back on the up. The firm still has sales of £120m a year and service levels have stabilised, according to latest trading updates. With new IT systems in place, better-quality management information is available.Jeremy Hamer is impressively calm and effective in keeping the business going in this crisis, and the new MD, Ian Croxford, has a strong operations background, useful in a disparate business which needs welding together.And any buyer can be sure there is still plenty of retailer support for the company, which is fortunate for the 1,800 staff it employs. Analyst Andy Blain puts it in simple terms: “When you think how many mince pies it makes – 100 million plus a year – if it went under we would have no mince pies at Christmas.” nlast_img read more

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FSA proposes saturated fat targets for savouries

first_imgSavoury snacks, including meat pies and pastries, are the focus of a new consultation by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Launched this week, it is the second of two consultations on the reduction of saturated fat and calories in foods.The first, which launched in July and closed in November, covered biscuits, cakes, sweet pastries and buns.Among the new recommendations is the reduction of the saturated fat content of pastry, used in pies and pastries by at least 10% by the end of 2012, compared to the highest level in the product during 2008. There is also a recommendation for businesses to develop their own internal targets to reduce the saturated fat content of the fillings of pies and pastries on a case-by-case basis.Both reductions should be accompanied by a calorie reduction unless a technical case can be made that it is not achievable, said the FSA.It is also consulting on recommendations to increase the promotion of reduced/low-fat options. “However, EU regulations will make it harder for companies to make nutrition claims from January 2010 and may prevent them from rising to the FSA’s challenge on marketing,” commented Julian Hunt, director of communications, Food and Drink Federation. The FSA’s consultation closes on 9 March 2010. To download the document go to: tinyurl.com/yas35uflast_img read more

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Seed pricing

first_imgPine nuts: The Chinese home-grown crop was smaller than forecast, and the expected supplemental supply from Russia has dried up. With globally warmer weather also apparently impacting on the yield itself, there has been an estimated 60% reduction in supply and prices are now trading at levels over 125% higher than previous highs.Pumpkin seeds: The lack of any medium- to longer-term chance of availability “respite” is likely to keep pumpkin prices firm. Replacement prices, reflecting the poor supply and weak sterling, are now 150% higher than the normal prices we experienced before the short 2008/9 crop, and it appears China does not intend to reverse the decision to reduce the land dedicated to pumpkin production in favour of better-yielding crops.Sunflower seeds: Prices continue to creep upwards. The twin assault of weak currency and strong demand has been accentuated by bakeries and manufacturers looking to take advantage of the discount sunflower seeds still offer, compared to the ludicrous pricing on pumpkin seeds and pine nuts.l Based on information provided by ingredients suppler RM Curtislast_img read more

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Lees Foods announces record sales

first_imgLees Foods has achieved record sales in both its Lees of Scotland and The Waverley Bakery businesses, for the six months to June 2010.In its latest trading update the firm revealed group sales were up 9%, to £9.62m, and said demand for its Lees range of products continued to be strong.Lees said it expected pre-tax profits for the first half of 2010 to be significantly ahead of last year’s figure of £394,000.A statement by the firm said: “The company remains cautiously optimistic in respect of the second half of the year and expects that both sales and pre-tax profits will be ahead of market forecasts for the full year.”* Following the disposal of its Patisserie UK business – which went into administration in March 2009 – Lees has more than doubled its pre-tax profits, from £379,000 in 2008 to £843,000 in 2009.>>Lees plans for growth as profits rise>>Lees and Patisserie UK resolve disputelast_img read more

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CSM adds Classic Cakes to its business portfolio

first_imgCSM has acquired Classic Cakes, which produces a range of premium sweet bakery products, servicing the foodservice and retail markets.Based in Daventry, its products include flapjacks, shortbread, traybakes and portioned multi-layer cakes. It has an annual turnover of £9.8m and employs 90 people.“This acquisition strengthens CSM’s leadership position in the market segments that it has targeted for growth, particularly the retail and foodservice channels,” said a CSM company statement. It added that it would also broaden CSM’s manufacturing capabilities, enabling the company to offer customers a wider range of innovative products, while providing capacity for future growth in and outside the UK.It said the purchase showed CSM’s commitment to strengthen its leading position, driving synergies in the supply chain and leveraging global capabilities.Classic Cakes was set up in 1987 and has recently worked on developing gluten-free, Fairtrade and organic products.last_img read more

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Dawn Foods gets set to purchase Unifine F&Bi

first_imgDawn Foods looks set to acquire Unifine Food & Bake Ingredients, following the announcement in December that Unifine’s parent company Royal Cosun was investigating its potential sale.The intended transaction would include the acquisition of all seven of the pastry ingredients business Unifine’s manufacturing sites, 10 sales offices in Europe and the brands of Sucrea, Fruibel, Caullet and Dethmers.”We see this as a very positive move,” Simon Solway, MD of Unifine F&Bi UK told British Baker. “Unifine has gone from strength to strength in the past 10 years by doing all the right things where it matters to our customers. This has created a highly saleable business, and acquisition by Dawn Foods makes perfect sense if we want to have a greater presence in the European marketplace.”US-based bakery manufacturer and ingredients supplier Dawn Foods said the intended acquisition would provide significant benefits to both businesses. Dawn Foods president of global commercial and international Laurence Saul told British Baker: “Our foundation 90 years ago was in bakery ingredients, then mixes, which is very complementary to the way Unifine will fit our business. This intended acquisition will provide our team, customers, joint venture partners and suppliers with global market access through the Dawn Foods family network and enable long-term growth opportunities.”Robert P Smith, president and CEO of Netherlands-based Royal Cosun, explained the firm decided to divest its fine bakery operations “as these do not fit in our core strategic focus which is on the processing of arable crops”.Subject to approval, the transaction is due to be concluded in the second quarter of 2011.last_img read more

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Bloomberg conducts annual mince pie test

first_imgHarrods and Starbucks’ mince pies were the highest rated in Bloomberg’s annual mince pie taste test.Chef Angela Hartnett tested 13 mince pies from various retailers including The Co-operative, Lidl and Fortnum & Mason. However it was the two most expensive that were rated the best mince pies, with Starbucks’ awarded seven out of 10 points for its mince pies, and Harrods taking the top spot with eight points.Previous winners include Fortnum & Mason in 2010, Marks & Spencer in 2009 and Selfridges in 2008.last_img

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Spar distributor introduces cookies to thaw-and-serves

first_imgJames Hall & Co has added a new line of cookies to its recently launched thaw and serve food-to-go range.The distributor for Spar in the north of England has created three product varieties in the range, including Belgian chocolate chunk, Belgian triple chocolate chunk and Belgian white chocolate and raspberry. Products in the range, which currently includes muffins and donuts, can be easily thawed in-store and have a shelf-life of up to four days.Stuart Berry, sales and development manager for James Hall’s Fresh Foods, said: “Fresh products, such as the thaw-and-serve range, are what customers want, and have come to expect from their local convenience store. This is a superb range, that comes with a free display stand and point-of-sale material”The new cookies will retail at 79p each.last_img read more

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