Sunday I meet Lorna Bennett at Liverpool Airport before setting off on our trip. Lorna works for Huffkins of Burford and won the Piero Scacco Award from the Worshipful Company of Bakers. I was the winner of the Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers (ABIM) Award. Both awards are funding our trip to the Richemont school, which has been arranged with help from Liz Davidson, president of the Richemont Club of Great Britain.On arrival in Basle, Switzerland, we meet up with some of the other people attending the course and make our way to Lucerne together. We have a slight problem on the train – we had all purchased children’s tickets – so we have to pay full fare on the train itself. On arrival in Lucerne, we make our way to the hotel and check in. The hotel and room are lovely. Then we go to a delightful Italian restaurant – most of the group eat together, which is good because we get to know each other before the course starts. Then we have a quick stroll by the lake and retire to bed.MondayWe go to the school for breakfast and meet up with everyone else. We are greeted by our demonstrators and translators. We then have a tour of the school. Wow! What an amazing place. I’m sure we are going to learn a lot. After the tour we go into the classroom. Our first lecturer talks to us about working with chocolate. I find it very interesting and I get some great ideas from it. After lunch, it is back to the classroom for the rest of the afternoon. That evening we have dinner at the Richemont Gastretto restaurant, then most of the group walk to Lucerne for a drink. It is a nice end to a really interesting day.TuesdayWe start the day by being shown how to make moulds from silicon, then get the chance to make our own. This is particularly useful because we get to take them home. In the afternoon we make a chocolate Easter line, which involves marzipan modelling, piping chocolate, piping Royal Icing and air brushing. These are all techniques that I have not had much experience in, so I learn an awful lot of new skills during the session. School finishes for the day, then it is back to Richemont Gastretto for our evening meal, before turning in early – it is tiring work learning so many new skills!WednesdayAfter breakfast we have a two-hour coach journey to Chur to visit a bakery and chocolate company called Confiserie Merz. It is absolutely amazing. The range and quality of the products is superb. The staff are really friendly and answer all our questions. They also let us take lots of photographs of the products.The bakery visit is followed by a trip to Zurich and the well-known chocolate company Lindt & Sprüngli. We look around its chocolate museum and also visit the shop. Back at the hotel, we have time to change before being picked up and taken to a Swiss restaurant. Two members of the school accompany us to the meal that evening, which is lovely. A case of great food, great company!ThursdayWe are introduced to the head pastry chef at the Richemont School. He shows us various types of bread, such as potato, leek and onion, and rye. He also encourages us to come up with new ideas for speciality breads. The president of the Richemont School then presents the group with a certificate, and thanks us all for attending. We all have a glass of champagne and say our goodbyes.I had a wonderful time and have been inspired by the quality of products that I have seen. I had the good fortune to join the course, run by the Richemont Club of Great Britain – I’m very grateful to its president, Liz Davidson, for all her help. Bakers interested in applying for the 2006 Piero Scacco and ABIM Awards, should contact the Worshipful Company of Bakers, email: [email protected] or ABIM’s Steven Birrell, tel: 0131 229 9415 or email: [email protected]
Shirley Ryder was installed as the NA’s 112th president at its annual conference. Mrs Ryder succeeds Colin Fulcher, who runs the Lilleys Bakery chain in Essex. The new president elect is Mike Holling, retail operations manager of Birds of Derby. Mrs Ryder is the youngest president and only woman to wear the chain of office: “We’ve done it ladies, we have reached the top, she said.”
Billington’s (Peterborough) has been selling organic cane sugar in the UK since 1992, as an extension to its range of natural unrefined cane sugars. The firm now supplies the food manufacturing, retail and foodservice sector with the widest range of organic cane sugars, it says. The range includes: Organic Unrefined Granulated Sugar, an organic alternative to white refined sugar; Organic Unrefined Caster Sugar, a light, free-flowing sugar with a buttery taste; and Organic Unrefined Demerara Sugar, with a coarser crystal.
Maldon, Essex) has developed its InfraLab range of at-line analysers for the baking industry, designed to meet the need for rapid accurate analysis of parameters, such as moisture, fat or oil and protein, without the need for special operator skills.Until now, the InfraLab analyser was used in conjunction with a PC, which acted as the interface and data storage facility to the analyser. Now, the InfraLab features an integral Operator Interface with onboard data storage and can download measurement record files to a PC via a USB, serial or ethernet connection.
The ’robust’ case for fortifying bread with folic acid is distinctly dodgy when one examines the details.We are told that mandatory fortification has reduced Neural Tube Defect (NTD) births in the US. Yet I believe the evidence does not indicate this at all. The US Centers for Disease Control found that there was actually a 8-16% decline in folate levels in women of child-bearing age after the measure was introduced, suggesting that the cause was, instead, the greater intake of vitamins from the ’five-a-day’ and wholegrain campaigns, which occurred over the same period. Like many vitamins, folate needs to be consumed with other vitamins to be effective.Folic acid is a synthetic version of vitamin B9, not the natural vitamin. Since the 1950s, research has shown that natural vitamins protect against neuro-degenerative diseases and heart disease. The assumption was that synthetic vitamins would do the same, and the vitamin supplements industry was born. But on August 5 last year, the New Scientist reported on years of studies into Vitamin A and E supplements, which found that there was some controversial evidence they could be harmful. Why, then, should we trust synthetic folic acid?Although currently produced chemically, methods to produce folic acid through genetic modification are at an advanced stage. The bread industry will need to have exceptionally good reasons for allowing bread, with its wholesome image, to be treated with GM supplements. To mass-produce nutrients from GM bacteria, requires forcibly amplifying a bacterial metabolic pathway and increases all the by-products of that pathway, some of which may be toxic.There are 700-900 pregnancies affected by NTDs each year, with only 200 or so babies actually born with them. This policy will reduce these rates by only 11-18%. Mass-medicating the whole population for this – 500,000 people for each case saved – is wrong. And this focus on a single nutrient is a refusal to recognise the greater problem – serious food-related disorders affecting millions of people in this country. Obesity, cancer, infertility, heart disease, behavioural problems, and constipation all have a common cause (in part) with NTDs – namely, diets that are too high in refined, processed foods and too low in wholegrains and vegetables.The Soil Association believes that, for good health, diets should be predominantly composed of minimally processed foods. Crops grown from a living soil, without pesticides, should provide all the vitamins and minerals needed.Sales of organic food in the UK were £1.6bn last year and are increasing by £7m every week. So we cannot accept policies that support the routine degradation of nutrients by intensive processing and then the replacement of a few of the missing elements by ’fortification’ with synthetic versions.Thus, the SA opposes mandatory fortification and supports the option of improving diets, through education and the promotion of healthy foods. But we also believe the baking industry should recognise its vital role. Natural folate levels are highly influenced by the wheat variety, the milling of white flour and the Chorleywood process. Rather than being a hostage to fortification, the industry could assess the nutritional value of the wheat varieties it buys, and influence farmers’ choices. It could make slow fermentation more accessible and educate consumers about the health benefits.The baking industry should take the initiative in this challenge. Surely, little is more important than the quality of the nation’s staple foods.
Companies should be wary of alienating loyal customers by tampering with tried-and-trusted brands, says a report from market research company Datamonitor.The report warns manufacturers of long-established products that ’brand loyalty’ may be more important than attracting new consumers.”It costs nine times more to attract a new consumer than retain an existing one,” said the report.It added that many brands are evocative of childhood memories – and consumers attribute symbolic meanings to brands across many consumer goods.According to a survey last year by the Grocery Manufacturers Association in the US, only 29% of brand-loyal consumers would buy an alternative product, if their favourite brand was out of stock in a particular shop. Most would prefer to go to another store or wait until their next shopping trip to see if their chosen product was back on the shelves.Consumer market analyst Matthew Adams, author of the study, said that while customers were often on the look-out for new goods, they liked to be sure long-established favourites, such as Hovis, were still around.Earlier this year, Allied Bakeries put £14m behind a TV advertising campaign to re-launch Kingsmill after the company admitted the flagship brand had lost its way with the poorly-received advertising campaign ’The King’.The pull of brand loyalty was demonstrated by Warburtons hanging onto its position as number one bread brand last year, helped by achieving nationwide distribution.
A range of new festive bakery products have been launched using branded alcohol from culinary alcohol supplier, Thomas Lowndes – part of Beam Global Spirits and Wine. Tesco are now using Courvoisier VS Cognac for the first time in its Finest Mince Pie range, including its Tesco Finest 12 Mini Mince Pies and Tesco Finest 6 Standard Mince Pies, which also contain sultanas, walnuts, lemon and orange peel and almonds. Asda’s Extra Special Christmas Cake range, manufactured by Finsbury Food Group, now also features Courvoisier VS Cognac. “The addition of a well-known brand like Courvoisier gives the product something special that consumers have come to expect at Christmas,” said Ellie Procter, seasonal cake buyer at Asda. “Tradition is still a huge part of Christmas cake purchase and a cake without alcohol is just not the same.” Grand Marnier has been added to McVities’ Christmas Cranberry, Orange and Grand Marnier cake and Marks & Spencer has also used it in its Mini Christmas Puddings. Other new products include a new Christmas Melt in the Middle, from the Serious Food Company, with Courvoisier VS Cognac and a Mincemeat & Grand Marnier Topped Orange Sponge Pudding from Waitrose.Mark Riley, sales director, Beam Global Spirits and Wine, remarked that the general feeling is that consumers will still spend on luxury items this Christmas, despite the economic downturn.
The latest TNS figures on the UK grocery market cast a positive light on trading over the Christmas period. For the 12 weeks to 27 December 2009, the major multiples achieved higher sales than the comparable figures in 2007.Waitrose, in particular, saw a large sales rise – up 16.5%, while The Co-operative’s sales were up 13.1%, Morrisons’ rose by 10.3% and Sainsbury’s sales increased by 6.9%.According to TNS, Waitrose’s sales hike was the highest recorded growth for the supermarket in both market share and turnover since August 2005.Edward Garner, communications director at TNS Worldpanel, said that, in 2008, the recession put a stop to consumers prioritising the quality of food over its value. “But we are now seeing signs of a return to more traditional Christmas purchasing habits, with a growth in premium ranges, particularly Tesco Finest, over the festive period,” said Garner.
Starbucks is to open its first motorway services outlet in the UK, in a change of heart as it explores new avenues of trading.The American giant plans to open 29 sites at Welcome Break service stations over the next 16 months, replacing Welcome Break’s Coffee Primo own-brand.It is understood that the Starbucks outlets will feature an updated, less corporate look, with reduced signage and a contemporary feel. Prices of the coffee have yet to be finalised. The deal came after Welcome Break approached Starbucks, which currently has 661 UK outlets, having been knocked back by the coffee chain in the past.The first sites to be revamped will be at Oxford Services on the M40 and Hopwood Park on the M42 – these will open by the end of March or early April.Welcome Break chief executive Rod McKie said: “This will complement the expansion of the Waitrose estate within Welcome Break and is part of a significant investment by the company. We are looking forward to opening the 29 Starbucks and are confident that there is potential to open many more.”Coffee Primo stores already sell 16 million cups of coffee a year, but McKie said he expected the deal with Starbucks to boost sales by at least 30% — a similar increase to that enjoyed by the rival Roadchef chain after it introduced Costa Coffee.He said he had chosen Starbucks as a partner after detecting “a new attitude” in the business since the arrival of UK managing director Darcy Willson–Rymer, adding: “There’s a completely different approach.”Starbucks’ Willson-Rymer said: “Customers’ expectations are rising and they want their coffee shops to be as good on-the-go as they are at home. We’ll meet those expectations by setting a new standard for coffee on the UK’s motorways.”Starbucks is second only to Costa in store numbers in the UK, with 681 outlets, according to British Baker’s annual BB75 league table of bakery retailers. The chain was hit in 2009 by the closure of Borders book stores, where it had multiple concessions.
The Worshipful Company of Bakers is asking employers to urgently put forward candidates for three awards for expenses-paid trips to the renowned Richemont School in Switzerland.The Piero Scacco Award is given to two individuals. The Abim Award, from the Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers, is for one person. The Joseph Travelling Award is for one mature applicant.Recipients of all three awards will depart for Switzerland on 17 October and return on 21 October 2010. The trips will include a two-day English-spoken course on decorative breads, marzipan modelling and chocolate at the Richemont School.Closing date for applications is 22 April 2010! Contact: The Clerk, The Worshipful Company of Bakers, Bakers’ Hall, 9 Harp Lane, London EC3R 6DP; email: [email protected] or tel: 020 7623 2223