Picture a black backdrop and a lushly spotlighted loaf. Fleetwood Mac plays softly in the background, while a sexy voice says: “This is not just a French stick. This is a hand-crafted baguette made using the best French flour, stone baked to crusty, golden perfection by artisan bakers.”Marks & Spencer is yet to feature bread in its television advertising campaign, but if it did it would probably sound something like this. Beneath the marketing hype, ads such as these demonstrate a tangible shift in shoppers’ perceptions, which is something that bakers and ingredients suppliers are responding to with gusto. Graham Dunton, chef patissier at Unifine Food & Bake Ingredients, says that more and more UK bakers are seeing the value in a traditional bread offering, using simple, well-sourced and trustworthy ingredients. “There is a huge move in America and Australia towards artisanal-type breads – natural fermentation and breads that don’t look perfect, with character, that are interesting to eat,” he says.This was the message given at the Flour and Ingredients in Action event, organised by Unifine and miller FWP Matthews. Also at the event was French miller Moul-bie, a division of Grands Moulins de Paris, which is supplied in the UK by FWP Matthews. Craft bakers from across the country were invited to witness Moul-bie’s bakery technician Claude Jacopin give a master class in hand moulding at Unifine’s new base in Milton Keynes.Plats, boules, pain d’Aix (a double mounded bread), baguettes, batards (a large rustic loaf) and tricorn-shaped breads were dashed off with a few dextrous flicks of the wrist and a hint of Gallic nonchalance. Mr Jacopin’s skill comes after seven years on the road as a travelling baker in France, but his message was simple: a few basic techniques, once mastered, can produce delicious, wonderful-looking loaves to inspire shoppers to pay more for their breads.Open textureThe doughs were made with a high water content and mixed slowly before hand moulding. Moul-bie’s flours, such as Campaillette Grand Siecle, were used to create authentic breads with an open texture and a thick, chewy, rustic looking crust – a common sight in France’s plentiful boulangeries. But whereas there are around 35,000 French craft bakeries, the UK has seen numbers dwindle to a tenth of that figure. Flour mills are also more prevalent across the Channel. Of course, a helping hand from the government in the shape of minimum pricing has helped keep baking traditions alive, but even French bakers have had to dig their heels in against the onslaught of the supermarkets. “Bakers in France are protected a bit more and the minimum price of a baguette in France is governed,” says Graham Emberson, general sales manager for Moul-bie (UK). “They are under huge pressure as supermarkets are becoming bigger, but they are still holding the line. In France the big move is towards ‘baguette de tradition’, using water, flour, yeast and salt and nothing else. It’s carrying a premium – the average baguette in France is about 32 cents but the baguette de tradition is about 59-65 cents.”Moul-bie is keen to promote the artisanal method to the UK’s bakers and this year recruited Mr Jacopin and the highly skilled French baker Gregory Moutry, as bakery sales manager, to bolster its British operation. This technical expertise is available to assist craft bakers in their bakeries who want to tap into the artisanal resurgence. “We have English-speaking French technicians who are highly skilled and will come into the bakery and work alongside bakers,” says Mr Emberson. Clean label, traceable ingredients – the company’s stock trade – are proving a pull for bakers, he adds. “We only mill French grain and in most cases it’s our grain. We have full traceability.”Turbo separationGrands Moulins de Paris uses a turbo separation method of milling. For instance, a traditional T55 baguette flour at 10.5% protein has undergone centrifugal force to separate the molecules. This splits the flour into three levels of particle size carrying different protein levels: 7% protein (with larger molecules carrying more of the starch), which is suitable for wafer biscuits; a 10.5% protein flour; and a particle with a protein level up to 19%. The latter is then put back into a mother flour to create specific functional flours, such as puff pastry flour.“We can take a very poor quality wheat and create a puff pastry flour that will not shrink by subjecting it to turbo separation, with no chemicals added. We don’t use anything artificial at all – we use the wheat for its special characteristic, we then mill it – that’s it. We have clean label flours,” says Mr Emberson.This nothing-added ethic is seeing a surge in demand across the bakery market, as we report from Unifine’s Ingredients in Action day next week.
Limpet Tapes (Huntingdon, Cambs) has introduced the SIAT Paklet range of semi-automatic stretch wrappers. They are designed to meet all packaging requirements and also offer the flexibility to be upgraded to meet changing demands, says Limpet.The new modular system enables the Paklet machines to be customised to suit individual applications. The company has also launched a high-resolution ink jet printer called Merlin. It can print text, graphics and barcodes up to 70mm high at 300 dots-per-inch resolution onto outer cases and trays. The printer can be easily linked to existing systems, says Limpet.
A NORFOLK bakery has been fined a total of £2,000 after a contaminated bread roll was delivered to a canteen at Norwich City Hall – headquarters of Norwich Environmental Health Department.Ian Watkins of the Cottage Loaf Bakery, Hopton, near Yar-mouth, admitted selling sub-standard food when he appeared before Norwich magistrates. The bakery had previously been warned over hygiene and served with an improvement notice. In mitigation, it was said that the bakery’s hygiene systems had now been upgraded.Mr Watkins was fined £700 with £1,300 costs.
T he merger of RHM with Premier Foods (pgs 4,12) will create a massive new food company. It’s early days, but at the moment it looks a great fit with enhanced buying power. What if, perish the thought, milling and baking go a bit pear-shaped? Because they are the sectors feeling the pressure most from increased grain costs on the one hand and supermarket price pressures on the other.Well as milling and baking are going into one division, as expected, it will be easy to retain or, though unlikely, divest.Robert Schofield Premier’s chief executive told me: “Our plans are strong innovation and investment in products.” So it looks like the plant baking ’battle of the brands’ will really hot up in 2007 between Warburtons and Hovis, while Allied’s Kingsmill also has promised to come out fighting.The City reaction to the proposed merger sounds positive and you only have to look at the table on page 12 to see that as a brand Hovis is at the top of the acquisition tree. It fits in comfortably with Robert Schofield’s patriotic quote that “The acquisition brings Premier more great British brands.”For employees, takeovers can be both hugely motivating and deeply unsettling. The city’s leading analyst for bakery and milling, David Lang of Investec, tells us that Premier is likely to to strip distribution and administrative costs from the bakery division. It is also promising to extend the Hovis brand into categories more such as biscuits and cereals.Remember, Robert Schofield was the man who formerly headed up United Biscuits as MD and then joined Premier in 2001. He actually tried to buy UB two months ago and was trumped by private equity firms Blackstone and PAI. But breakfast cereals perhaps under the Hovis brand? That might be an interesting development! So we wish all at RHM well and look forward to tracking their progress.Elsewhere this week British Baker has been busy too. We have launched our own website with the latest news and links (pg 16). And our owners, William Reed, have launched a new ’Baking Industry Exhibition’ to take place in 2008 alongside the popular Convenience Retailing Show, Food & Drink show and Foodex Meatex (pg 4). Around 70,000 people including craft bakers and supermarket buyers attended the shows this year, so it should be a busy new event.
Nightmares with planning permission, finding out the machinery you’ve bought is completely unsuitable for your purpose, delays with getting the packaging and design sorted, a complete lack of government grants available and banks with a stonewall approach to funding new businesses… newly-formed Taste Essential was unfortunate to fall foul of all the above after acquiring its production site in June last year. “It hasn’t been easy,” admits the firm’s undaunted director Tim Latham Taylor. “The last time I set up a business it wasn’t as hard as this. Banks don’t support new businesses and suppliers could be more helpful.”Some ingredients suppliers are over-cautious and he urges them to offer account facilities for new businesses. “Every new business has to pay cash on delivery or pro forma, and that puts you in hardship before you start.”But now the dust has settled, Taste has picked up five UK distributors, giving national coverage. “We have a sound business plan; foodservice suppliers have to shop around – they get their Danish pastries from one company, gateaux from another and muffins from another. We supply everything.”Officially launched in January, Taste Essential’s focus is on natural ingredients. “It’s frustrating competing just on price. There’s a better market out there than that. We use natural ingredients, and we only use natural or nature-identical flavourings. If it’s a chocolate muffin, for example, we’ll only use Barry Callebaut chocolate.”The next step will be rolling out half a dozen high-footfall cafés with 3,000sq ft or above units, supplied from the central bakery. The first outlet should open early next year, selling ground coffee and freshly squeezed juices, sandwiches and cakes. “We’re trialling our products in the market to see what sells and to see what’s slow. I’m taking a bit of Costa, a bit of Starbucks, putting it together with my own concepts and giving it a twist,” he says. n—-=== The pros and cons ===Biggest challenge:I’m used to working with more sophisticated machinery, working in senior management for a larger company where it’s a privilege to be able to put a recipe together and let the production manager get on with it. I can’t do that here, and that was a bit of a shock. You have to adapt that recipe to your environment, and that took me some time.Unique selling pointThere are a lot of interesting ingredients in Europe, such as orange fillings, vanillas and caramels, that not many of our competitors in this market are using. So I’ll be bringing those in and making something slightly different. Europe will have a heavy influence on our products, such as croissants with natural raspberry fruit filling.—-=== Going it alone ===The firm: Leicester-based Taste Essential (Europe)The brief: To create a foodservice cake bakery brand with a focus on using natural ingredients, supplying pallet quantities and above. A chain of branded café outlets will followSuppliers: Barry Callebaut, Macphie, Rank HovisStaff: six, including two directorsFinance: £200,000 self-financed, mostly spent on a manufacturing facility and machinery, with £50,000 going to brand development, packaging and labellingBackground: NPD and sales director Tim Latham Taylor sold his chain of four hot bread shops 10 years ago to Greggs.Since then he has worked as a consultant, for a coffee chain, for a fairy cake company and, finally, in senior management at Leicester’s Blackfriars BakeryWebsite: [http://www.taste-essential.com]
Talks aimed at securing the future of cake company Inter Link are expected to reach a conclusion next week.By next Monday, 23 July, it is understood that Irish firm McCambridge will announce whether or not it will buy the troubled business, which has nine UK bakeries and one in Poland.If a deal with McCambridge falls through, Inter Link said it would enter into discussions with other unnamed prospective buyers who have shown an interest.Whoever takes over will have to re-finance Inter Link, which has run up a £63m bank debt.The company’s chairman Jeremy Hamer said this week: “Talks are still ongoing but we haven’t quite got to the end. We’re awaiting a conclusion. We want to give everyone the surety of new ownership and re-financing.”Hamer added that he was not yet in a position to say what the outcome of the present discussions with McCambridge would be.Earlier, McCambridge made an initial offer based on the condition that Barclays wrote off some of the debt. But the bank said it was unacceptable that it should lose out while shareholders profited from the deal.The revised offer from the Irish business, which is the subject of the present round of talks, means that shareholders would get nothing. But the jobs of Inter Link’s 1,700 staff should be assured.
Grainfarmers Group, which recently struck a deal with Sainsbury’s to supply its in-store bakeries with fully traceable milling wheat, has reached profitability after paring down staff and transport costs.See 21 March British Baker
Sandwich bar and coffee chain O’Briens plans to open a further 15 franchise units by the end of this year, with a focus on north- east England and the Midlands.Franchise director Paul Stanton said that major cities such as Newcastle still had “massive potential” for further expansion. The move will bring O’Brien’s total number of outlets in the UK to 155.The chain operates various styles of franchise, including high street and shopping centre outlets, express-style bars and kiosks within businesses. Stanton said customers were becoming more interested in healthier choices such as low-fat and organic products.O’Briens has also noticed customers are more choosy about ingredients and relishes.
Pine nuts: There have been no improvements since the last report. Supply of unsold stock from China appears to be dwindling to near zero and any offers emerging are from re-sellers who are offering sporadic containers sourced, presumably, from sellers who are defaulting on earlier, lower-priced contracts. There have been some sporadic offers of Pakistani pine nuts at slightly cheaper levels although the size, shape and flavour characteristics are no like-for-like match for Chinese. With the new crop likely to be small, the concern is that the high pricing might extend into the New Year.Pumpkin seeds: These are seeing a similar scenario to pine nuts. China, as the dominant origin, has a significantly reduced supply this year and demand for this seed is strong from a variety of core destinations. It looks like supply will struggle to meet demand over the second half of the year. We would recommend that buyers cover their requirements sooner rather than later.Sunflower seeds: Prices are being dragged up by general strength across the seeds sector. Demand from the oils category is weaker and, despite there being no major supply issues at origin, sunflower prices are rising, against expectations. Short- to medium-term cover is recommended.l Based on information provided by ingredients supplier RM Curtis
Dawn Foods has given its Evesham site a £750,000 revamp.Finance, administration, customer service and reception areas have been refurbished as part of the project, as well as customer meeting and presentation facilities. The factory supplies the UK and Europe with ingre-dients, along with frozen muffins, brownies, cookies and cakes.Glenn Anderson, sales and operations director, UK and Ireland, said that the investment demonstrated confidence for Dawn’s products during the economic downturn. “Product development continues to be the main focus of our business and is supported by these recent changes,” said Anderson.He added that recent investment in depositing and cutting equipment at the Evesham site and its Steenbergen factory in The Netherlands, meant Dawn could produce bar cakes, brownies and new tray cake concepts.