A double-wall packaging system that prolongs the shelf-life of part-baked bread and reduces the quantity of additives required for its preservation has been awarded patents in the UK and France.The system seals a layer of modified gas around the bread, but the gas does not come into contact with the contents. Taste and quality are both said to be safeguarded.Initially the bread is wrapped with a biodegradable micro-perforated film before being placed into a larger bag. The gas system is then injected, stabilising humidity and preventing moisture from affecting bread quality.According to the system’s inventor, Joel Gourlain, it is suitable for French breads, croissants and paninis. He hopes it will be introduced in 2007.
(Brentwood, Essex) the independent flour miller, offers bakers a range of premixes, concentrates and toppings, for producing Easter goods.The Bakers Mixes range includes Bun Mix, a premix versatile enough to produce Hot Cross Buns. Other Easter recipes include; Simnel Cake, Easter Gateau and Cinnamon Fruit Plait, which can be seen on its website at [http://www.admmilling.co.uk].
On visiting Tesco’s inconspicuous HQ in Cheshunt, surrounded as it is by Hertfordshire suburban semis, the initial impression is that it’s a pretty understated setting for the brain-room of the retailer that accounts for one in every eight pounds that leaves our wallets.This changes the moment you enter the bustling foyer, where a hubbub of wheeling and dealing presumably masks the squeals of suppliers jamming their feet in the door. It’s here that I’m greeted by Simon Holt, Tesco’s genial but no-nonsense in-store bakery (ISB) buyer, who tells me that the ISB is on a roll, reporting some of the strongest numbers within food at Tesco. The multiple is upping its game in everything, from on-pack communication, skills training to, crucially, product launches. Henceforth, nothing will go on shelf until it’s a sure bet (BB, 25 Jan, pg 4). “In-store bakery is doing really well. For a long time in Tesco it hasn’t been,” admits Holt.The step-change came last year when Tesco gave the green light to a hefty training investment: all its bakers will be sent on a three-day bespoke course with the Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association. “Customers tell us that in-store bakery is a real hero category and the business has already been supporting us with exciting plans for this year. One thing we’ve done is really engage our bakers, because I think they felt a little bit unloved. But over the last 12 months, we’ve communicated with them a lot more.”He says that, from now on, Tesco will look to make as much bread as possible from raw ingredients, although some of the more elaborate breads that require longer fermentation will continue to be bought in. This year Tesco will be looking at its methods of packaging to better communicate its in-store credentials – always a struggle in the ISB.”It’s my responsibility, or my product developers’ responsibility, to have the best products on the market,” says Holt. “If there’s a story attached to it we need to be telling customers that. People bang on about provenance, but my bread is made in front of our customers from the best flour we can get. You can’t get much more natural than that in terms of provenance.”Communicating that message is something we haven’t traditionally done that well, so communication will be a big project this year.” This is why Rolo-branded donuts and cookies have been two of the most successful launches in the last 12 months and the lines are already worth around £2 million each. They’re a good product and customers know the brand,” he says. “But I cannot communicate all the health benefits of a Finest Multigrain Farmhouse loaf due to a lack of space on pack. So selecting products that customers can understand very quickly is important.”== COMMUNICATION PROBLEM ==The difficulty in conveying marketing messages in-store is why products like Fairtrade haven’t touched the category, he adds. “If you look at Green & Black’s chocolate, they’ve got a lot of packaging to communicate that message. I could move all the chocolate in our cookies to Fairtrade but how do I communicate that? At the moment we’ve left that to the brands, but if it’s something the customer wants, we’ll always listen to them.” And that packaging is set to reduce even further, following a pledge to cut packaging by 25% this year.New in-store products need to offer real innovation – not just duplicate what works in, say, packaged morning goods. “Where is the customer rationale for launching brioches through the in-store bakery? Have you done your research and is it a growth area? That mentality of suppliers phoning buyers up saying ’I’ve got this great product, we think you could stock it’ just won’t wash any more.”While this approach may have worked when Holt was a Selfridges Food Hall buyer, at Tesco his focus is as much on the figures as the quality. “The main KPI at Selfridges was, ’What is the next big thing in food?’” he says, but dealing in enormous scales at Tesco means that making products more “relevant” to customers brings number-crunching to the fore: sales, profit, margin, waste, performance against the market and availability are the first things he looks for in a product – something suppliers should bear in mind.Holt insists suppliers must back up a proposition with a sales plan: how will the product be launched; will there be introductory offers; how will it be packaged; what is it going to look like on shelf; and will there be 100% availability all the time?Using market data such as Tesco Link – Tesco’s free-to-access sales information website – is essential. “If it’s not backed up with that information the likelihood of me launching it is very slim,” states Holt. “I’ve got a great supply base but suppliers need to focus on the customer. Many of them have historically thought that ’Tesco is the customer’. I want suppliers to think more about the end-user.”The aim this year will be to end the ’hit and hope’ approach of the past. One such example was flatbreads, which fell flat in the ISB last year. “Customers just didn’t understand why the ISB was selling flatbreads,” he recalls. “It was a good product, but it didn’t transfer to the shelf. We took them out within two months.”Put simply, he says, any new product has got to be better, simpler and cheaper: “Everything has to abide by those three simple principles.” —-=== CV ===Tesco ISB buyer for the past 18 months; Holt was previously a buyer of leeks, garlic, mushrooms, onions, swedes and turnips. Before that, he bought wet fish, smoked fish, meat and luxury goods for Selfridges Food HallPersonal approach: “What I’ve tried to do is have a level of honesty and integrity with my supply base. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions but if you’re honest and there’s an element of trust you’re more likely to have a better relationship.”Pastimes: “We have a gym here, which is a great perk. I live in London so I like the theatre, films, concerts. I’ve got friends who work in music television, so I get invited to lots of gigs.”Holt’s new product checklist for suppliers:* It’s got to offer… great quality, great value for money, real innovation and be customer-focused* It must be…better, simpler, cheaper than what’s in the market*…and backed up with… a rationale based on customer data* Suppliers need to be… developing bespoke products for Tesco Express, smaller pack sizes and eat-on-the-go formats, such as its successful cheese twist
Greggs has appointed a new general manager for the Midlands. Ian Bagnall will be responsible for the 168 shops located in the Midlands as well as the company’s bakery operations in Birmingham.He joined as sales director of Greggs of the Midlands in 2005 from Greggs’ south west division, and takes over from recently retired managing director Alan Dick.“Alan is an inspirational leader who took Greggs from strength to strength in the Midlands and we all wish him the very best for his retirement,” said Bagnall. “The future looks extremely promising for Greggs in the Midlands as we continue to open new shops across the region and expand our range of fresh products to meet our customer’s needs.”
Environmentally friendly packaging is not only a good way for your business to ’do its bit’, but can also act as a selling point for goods, as consumers become increasingly aware of their benefits. But are eco-only packaging companies better than generic companies that offer sustainable options as part of their range?One of the main ’green’ packaging companies, London Bio Packaging (LBP), aims to reduce negative environmental impacts of packaging and other products. It claims a major advantage of eco- specialists is their willingness to supply small runs.The firm supplies a range of biodegradable, compostable, recycled and bespoke green packaging – for example, biodegradable coffee cups and cake boxes made from recycled paper. Supply manager Jerome Cogan explains there can sometimes be a slight cost issue when it comes to using eco-only suppliers.”For example, when you buy a case of 1,000, which is the company’s standard case size, it may be the difference between £36 or £30 for 1,000 cups. However, many people are quite happy to go with a bio- degradable one, even if it is more expensive.”LBP also offers a next-day delivery service, as well a closed-loop composting service, whereby the products sold – made from plants – are collected after use, and returned to the fields.Eco-packaging company Vegware, also offers a bespoke packaging service. Products in its range include sandwich wedges made from recycled card, with a corn starch window and compostable cellophane bags. “We try and make our offering very flexible,” says managing director Joe Frankel. “Many products – for example, coffee cup lids – come in cases of 1,000 but, within that case, there are 20 bags of 50 and we sell those bags of 50 separately. Obviously you get a better price if you buy 10,000 cups, but that’s not always what people want.”Biopac director Mark Brigden says one of the most important things eco-only companies are about is taking waste away from the landfill stream. “The problem with plastic packaging is that it’s very difficult to recycle, because you’ve often got numerous different polymer types within the generic term ’plastic packaging’, which have to be segregated in order to be recycled efficiently.”For products that would conventionally be lined with a plastic liner, such as food boxes, Biopac uses a biopolymer alternative, rendering the whole product biodegradable. It also uses a lot of fibre-based materials, produced from renewable crops, including sugar cane, bulrush and palm fibres.In terms of how these smaller eco-only companies compete on price, Brigden concedes that it can be more expensive than buying plastic products, but says the market for these products – reflecting the eco industry in general – is growing rapidly. “As volumes increase, we anticipate that the prices are going to become more aligned,” he adds. “The most important thing is that the final consumer is made aware that the packaging is environmentally responsible. It’s no good using a drinks tumbler made from a corn starch and not actually telling the consumer about it.”At the other end of the packaging scale are big packaging companies, such as multi-material supplier Linpac Packaging, which has a product range in excess of 10,000 items, but says “a commitment to sustainability lies at the heart of its ethos”.Linpac offers a range of products specifically for the bakery sector, including confectionery trays, sandwich containers, films for baguette bags and high-barrier films for MAP packaging. It also has a substantial plastics recycling division. While it doesn’t offer small runs, it does operate through a distributor that can offer them. Linpac’s minimum run can vary depending on the product, says group commmunications manager Barbara Laing, but for a product such as sandwich wedges, it would be a minimum of approximately 10,000 units.Linpac argues that the “right choice of packaging depends on the product and also the market you are trying to sell to”. If you need certain products that you cannot find in an eco-range or are not suitable for your business, then having a comprehensive range of packaging options will make life easier.It’s easy to see why, in today’s cost-cutting climate, bakery and food-to-go retailers don’t want to spend extra on packaging. But there is no denying that the eco-packaging market is gathering pace, and the more popular it gets, the cheaper it will become.
Easy Glove is to launch a new product for the foodservice market to help businesses provide a practical, hygienic and fast way to serve customers.The Clean Hands System, which will be launched in the UK market in March, is a glove that can easily be put on and taken off through the use of a magnetic holder. This enables the operator to handle food and then remove the glove quickly to handle money. The glove features a magnetic collar, enabling it to be held in place while the hand is removed.It has been designed for bakeries, sandwich bars, cafés, mobile snack vans and delis anywhere food and money are handled by the same person.It is fully HACCP approved.Cost: £29.99 www.easyglove.co.uk
Bakery retailers are showing their support for criticism of upward-only rent reviews, with calls for the practice to be abolished in the UK.The Irish government banned upward-only rent reviews in all new retail leases last month, while the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in the UK is currently gathering evidence from its members on the issue, which will be presented to the government after the election.Ken McMeikan, chief executive of Greggs, recently argued that the UK should follow the Irish by abolishing the practice. “Given the increasing proportion of empty retail space on the high street, upward-only rent reviews impose an inappropriate pressure on retailers. In rent reviews over the next 12-18 months, we expect to see many rents frozen when they would have fallen in an open market,” he said.The financial director of one of the country’s leading retail bakery chains told British Baker that upward only rent reviews were anti-competitive. “Upward-only reviews penalise established well-run businesses. Landlords want to protect themselves during recessionary times, but they are driving people out of business.”A spokesperson for the BRC said it is looking into the practice because of complaints from its members. “Some of our members have reported that upward-only rent reviews are a problem, but others are concerned what effect removing them will have in terms of future developments and security of tenure,” he said.However, Chris Peck, executive chairman of Cooplands of Doncaster, said unhappy retailers only have themselves to blame. “Some retailers jumped headlong into leases simply to get prime sites, before other interested parties, and did some very bad deals. Nobody had a gun to their heads to enter into leases. They should honour them and stop moaning.”
The price of California raisins is set to rise, following a drop in production and exports. With the crop yet to be harvested, there is currently less than a month’s supply on hand, and the squeeze on availability was compounded by wet weather last week.”We’re into a new era of prices,” Kalem Barserian, president of American Dried Fruit Co told BB. He predicted the price per (short) ton would rise from $1,323 to $1,500, based on a smaller crop this year, down from 298,532 tons last year to 287,000 tons. The tonnage available to export was predicted to plummet from 160,218 to 100,000. Last year the UK imported 32,000 tons from California.”We estimate 20% or 60,000 tons is still exposed, with losses amounting to about 20%,” he added last week.Gary Shulz, president of the California Raisin Administrative Committee, revealed that, for the first time in seven years, supply and demand were finely balanced. “This will affect price,” he said. Prices of Turkish raisins were expected to follow suit.
Rumours of the death of the high street punter’s spending power have been grossly exaggerated. Or they have if your barometer is the public’s unwillingness to part with those modern icons of disposable income: the daily latte and muffin.Sales in the coffee shop sector are predicted to grow by nearly 9% over the next three years. “Over 50% of the population don’t use coffee shops,” stated Jim Slater, marketing director of Costa Coffee, the UK’s largest chain. “The main reason is that there isn’t a coffee shop near them to meet this blatant need.” Food accounts for roughly 60-70% of Costa’s business, but there are still huge areas to exploit.Growth is not just being driven by more shops, but a renewed focus on under-performing trading times during the day. This is the view following Allegra Strategies’ consumer research, which highlights gaps in the coffee shops’ day-part focus. “The evening opportunity is absolutely phenomenal, as the coffee shops become more and more part of the fabric of society and the chains develop their evening trade,” said MD Jeffrey Young. “But before that, there is an amazing opportunity for breakfast.”So how best to target those consumers? “People who consume coffee and eat food at different times of the day can be the same person with a different need state,” said Costa’s Slater. “We relaunched our breakfast offer this year and developed new bread carriers with our suppliers, retailers and the motorway network to understand the best products to deliver sales and profits. It resulted in a 20% like-for-like sales increase at breakfast-time across food.”While the sector is still witnessing incredible growth (see panel), the challenges ahead are significant. Starbucks’ UK CEO Darcy Willson-Rymer noted that out-of-town retail space has overtaken that of the high street. And with bakery food inflation hitting over 8% in February, how is the margin squeeze affecting the chains’ relationship with bakery suppliers?”In the UK we’ve created the most competitive coffee market in the world,” Willson-Rymer told BB. “Given the headwind in the economy and customers’ desire for ever-higher quality, I don’t see that we have any room left for pushing some of those prices up, certainly in our business.”For us that means being more efficient. For example, we’ve reconfigured how we do waste management; 95% of anything that gets thrown away in our stores gets recycled. By doing that, we’ve saved up to £700,000 a year.”While the branded chains’ growth is predicted to outstrip the independents, Australian-influenced artisanal coffee shops are booming, teaching the big boys a thing or two about quality food and coffee. “Word of mouth drives business a lot more than branding,” noted Shelagh Ryan, owner of indie business Lantana. “We focus on simple but interesting, best-quality food in a casual and welcoming environment.”There are now 100 artisan venues in London; around 70% of those weren’t there three years ago, said Allegra’s Young. “The rise of the independents has been phenomenal to see,” added Willson-Rymer. “Last year, there were about 50 coffee shops in this country where you could get a flat white; now you can get them up and down the country.”
Robert DittyDirector Ditty’s Home BakeryCastledawson”I hope the judges enjoyed what they saw, heard and ate,” says Robert Ditty. “And that they saw how much of myself I put into my business and how much I try to pay back the industry and my community for the support I have had from both.”The judges were in total agreement, describing Ditty as a “beacon in the industry” and a real example of a hands-on baker, whose strong personality is indelibly stamped on his business.Ditty’s parents bought the original, smaller, bakery in 1953 and he joined them in the 1970s. Since then, he has monitored the benefits of retail versus wholesale trade and steered the E3m (£2.64m) business to take advantage of both. His wholesale clients include high-end retailers, hamper and gift companies and Cathay Pacific, for which he makes long shelf-life oatcakes. He has two shops, in the market town of Magherafelt and the more rural Castledawson.Ditty’s is well known for its breads, including wheaten or brown soda bread, as well as its hotplate range, which includes soda farls and potato cakes. It does a “roaring trade” in what are known as wee buns; the 40-strong range includes fondant fancies and pineapple creams and sells approximately 7,000 per week. In high season, as many as 70 staff work across the bakery and two shops, and Ditty has set up a training schedule for them through the Belfast Bakery School.David SmartBakery directorGreenhalgh’s Craft BakeryLostock, Bolton, Lancashire”I’d like to think people view me as a baker with very exacting standards,” says Smart. “Yes, we produce in bulk, but everything is top quality and it’s our skilled staff who ensure that. There’s a fine balance between craft bakery and being a food supplier,” he adds. “We buy machinery to make a product, never adapt a product to a machine’s capability. It’s people who dictate what happens during each process.”With 60 shops across Cumbria, Cheshire, Merseyside and Oldham, and around 870 staff, Greenhalgh’s is renowned for its savouries and breads, the bakery also produces creams, desserts and cakes.The son of the founder, he started full-time over 30 years ago. As director his time is now split between the bakery and administration; his day starts at 6.30am on the shop floor. Smart’s greatest love is product development, “turning a traditional product on its side”Christopher FreemanManaging DirectorDunn’s BakeryCrouch End, LondonChristopher Freeman is the fifth generation of his family to work in the industry, joining the family business in 1973. “I always wanted to be a baker,” he says.He describes Dunn’s as a “traditional English takeaway bakery”, producing bread, morning goods, fresh creams, celebration cakes and patisserie. One of his favourite products is a crusty, seedy oven-bottomed bloomer loaf and he loves the innovative low-GI cranberry loaf. The local Budgens is the bakery’s single wholesale customer.Forty staff work in the business; around a dozen in the bakery. Freeman credits them as a major reason for the bakery’s success: “We try to get all our bakery staff through NVQ Level 2 and 3 and some of the shop staff have Bakery Skills Level 2 and even 3. They are experienced and skilled there’s not a make-up line in sight.” Freeman time is spent developing new products.