Kensington High St in London could hold the key to the future of supermarket in-store bakeries as Marks & Spencer go head-to-head with new arrival Whole Foods Market, as both retailers trial their latest high street bakery concepts. Find out more in British Baker 22 June
There have been, I admit, quite a few occasions when I’ve made a decision that didn’t really work out as planned, such as the location for a shop. Then, through a stroke of good fortune, someone has come along and made me an offer for the site that gave me a good profit – and I always took the credit for being so far-sighted.The older I get, the more convinced I am that luck plays a part in life: that old cliché of being in the right place at the right time has a lot of truth.Mind you, a few people always seem to get bad luck, but equally, there is a small percentage of people who are always falling on their feet, no matter how daft their behaviour.The vast majority of us get pretty average luck and the secret is to take advantage of the good.When times are good, we invest virtually all our money back into the company, so that when hard times come, most of our equipment is fairly new and everything is in good condition.Keeping borrowing under control is vital. If you go into a recession having heavily borrowed, lenders are reluctant to give you more and worry about your capacity to service the loan. One rule of thumb we have is to ask if we could carry on servicing the loan if turnover dropped by, say, 10%. If the answer is yes, then we can consider expanding should the opportunity arise.The discussions I now have with manager Neville are about which direction to take, as we want to keep our lines of distribution local. We feel there is a risk of city centres declining and rents are often far too high for our type of trade, as we sell a low-priced product involving high labour costs. Shops in secondary locations don’t generate very high sales, but costs are invariably lower than city- centre sites, thus the profit to us is higher.People love to talk about their high turnover rather than high profits, a little like that golf expression ’drive for show, putt for dough’. We have diversified, but always tried to remember that our core business is being a bakery.Our main and profitable divisions are retail shops, sandwich vans, and corporate buffets, with the jury still out on chocolate and candy. We do a little wholesale, provided it is profitable to us. Stop and think how long it takes to make, pack, invoice, load and unload, set against the profit on the order. It very difficult to do retail and wholesale well, as one is quality-led and the other has to have a price and cost factor built in.I’m not saying that wholesale is poor quality – of course it isn’t or wholesalers wouldn’t survive. But few people can do both well and we’ve found that wholesale tends to take over, often at the expense of the retail. The customer phones up asking where their 36 doughnuts are and the tendency is to take them off a shop order to pacify the complainant.So it’s true that you can’t do everything – but you can still be lucky.
Spraying Systems has developed pulse width modulation (PWM) to form part of its PulsaJet spray coating range. The PWM system applies fast on/off signals to PulsaJet, enabling the controlled and adjustable application of a coating to a product. The PWM spray system is made up of two elements – an AutoJet control unit and automatic spray nozzles from Spraying Systems’ PulsaJet series. The flavourate is controlled by changing how long the PulsaJet is spraying during one cycle, which eliminates the need to change nozzles.The new PWM controller has a maximum speed of 20,000 cycles per minute. It has a wide working range and fluid pressure remains unchanged. Small amounts of fluid can also be sprayed in combination with larger spray nozzles, which reduces problems with clogging. PWM also produces less mist, reducing material costs.[http://www.spray.com]
There’s nothing quite like a good, juicy dust-up between industry giants to shake things up, is there? Especially when it’s between two heavyweights who are about to knock ten shades of – shall we say chocolate brownies – out of each other.In a “let’s get ready to rumble” moment, wholesale foodservice giant Brakes exclusively revealed to BB last month that it would be fronting up to arch rival 3663 in a head-to-head grapple for the bakery foodservice market.While Brakes weighs in heavier – it’s currently the biggest foodser-vice wholesaler in the country – the form is with number two player 3663, which, for many years, has dominated bakery foodservice supply, classed as everything from sandwich and coffee shops to catering and hotels, and a market believed to be worth about £266m.So the stage is set: an out-of-form giant facing an uphill struggle to regain the belt. Most remarkable is that Brakes has only been in training for nine months, having decided last summer to target bakery. Since then, it has established a dedicated bakery division and engaged in a whirlwind of new product development.The real work started in August 2008, following a hefty chunk of market research across corporate and independent customers, in which they identified 100 product gaps, and scrubbed out some repetition and poor sellers. Senior purchasing manager Emma Kent says the time was right for Brakes to up its game. “From the response we got back, I think people were looking for another player in the market,” she says.”We found there were 60 true gaps versus our competitor’s. We didn’t just want to be ’me too’ and replicate their range. We tried to understand, from market research, where we could add to the range.” This led to a total new product launch of over 70 skus (stock-keeping units). “That’s normally a year’s worth of product development for us and we were looking to launch that in one month,” she says, somewhat exasperated.Suppliers were handed a breathless four-week turnaround to pitch for business and present new product ideas and prices. The result is the launch of the new division La Boulangerie, which division head Simon Cannell describes as “the total shop”. Within that, the La Boulangerie brand is attached to a line-up of products – from artisanal breads to Viennoiserie, alongside Brakes-branded items, ranging from burger buns to sliced breads.But given the short time frame, can the quality of the products really stack up against that of its established rival? A view of the new range suggests the Cannell has not settled for default products on the market, but pushed the boat out a bit to overhaul the perception that Brakes was mainly about commodity bread. “Within our range we realised that we did not have a speciality section,” he explains. “We really wanted to rectify that. “The feedback we got – quality wise – was that quality was fairly consistent across the main competitor. The main things that came out were about the breadth and depth of our range; we were seen very much for our commodity bread lines.”So he focused on the key development areas of artisanal loaves, sandwich carriers, and what he calls “traditional” bakery – traybakes, muffins, flapjacks and Viennoiserie. “We needed a much broader range. Whereas before we had a really good all-butter ready-to-bake croissant and a fully-baked croissant, that was it. We’ve now got everything from a ready-to-prove authentic French croissant, a fantastic 24% butter 16-laminations croissant, a crescent shape for the UK market and a premium, gold-plated, all-singing, all-dancing ready-to-bake French croissant that has won awards in France.”And while Brakes has been working to FSA salt targets, it has notably taken a refreshing “there’s some products you don’t touch” approach to its no-nonsense, properly salted focaccia with cherry tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, where other focaccias in the market have pandered and suffered from blandness. Having said that, the revamp is not just about premium artisanal products, and includes a sub roll, designed for independents to compete with Subway.While The Brakes Group already has a bakery and food-to-go division in Country Choice, Cannell says, the crossover was “surprisingly minimal”. He aims to make inroads into coffee shops. “We knew there was an opportunity to develop this business solely dedicated to foodservice,” he says. “One of the key sectors where we probably didn’t place well was the coffee shop market. We’ve got products in the range that really address that, and we’ve already got loads of ideas to be developed.”But can Brakes really become number one in bakery foodservice, given that many accounts are tied up in long-term contracts? “On the corporate side, we already had five customers confirmed pre-launch. So, over the next two years, I think we’re going to see some really significant wins.” And we’ll be taking ringside seats to see who comes out on top.—-=== Brakes/La Boulangerie at a glance ===The Brakes Group: La Boulangerie is purely foodservice-focused, with a special eye on the café market; Country Choice is also a division of Brakes, offering bakery retail food-to-go, from bread, sandwiches and confectionery to doughnuts and savoury pastriesKey personnel: Simon Cannell heads up La Boulangerie as ’bakery specialist’; Emma Kent is the senior purchasing manager; NPD manager is Peter Innes; marketing and product manager is Neil Smith and Par Liddar is technical managerProducts: 70+ new products alongside 200 existing skus—-=== Simon Cannell on the new range ===l Artisan loaves: “It wasn’t about finding artisan-style products for us; we really wanted to do this properly and they all fit within the Real Bread campaign. We found a proper traditional artisan bakery called Brown Sugar, based in Henley-on-Thames. They are phenomenal. They use a 60-year-old ferment, in which they’ve added wine from the local vineyard. It’s not too overpowering a sour. We’ve also got more basic doughs, but with interesting shapes and exciting visuals, and seeded breads and rolls, which is an area we needed to bolster.”l Sandwich breads: “We have a caramelised onion loaf, which is not too overpowering; a multigrain baton, which was a great find because most in the market are too uniform; an artisan baguette, which is nicely aerated; a unique ’Oxford sandwich bread’, again by Brown Sugar; a twisted ciabatta; and a good, proper crusty white roll. Believe it or not, trying to find one was a nightmare!”l Muffins: “People take their standard muffin mix, put it in a tulip muffin case, and charge double the price for it. We’ve gone for a really premium quality. For example, I would never normally touch a carrot cake muffin – I call them bird feed muffins – because they’re normally very dry. But ours has got cran-berries, sultanas, shredded carrots, lots of different seeds and it’s packed full of flavour. And our treacle toffee muffin is… awesome!”l Signature product: “An absolutely unique product that we’re really excited about – and nobody else would be crazy enough to make it because of the ridiculous amount of time it takes – is our rosemary tree bark bread. It starts with a foot-long piece of dough that’s pockmarked, doubled in size, proved for two hours, stretched to double-size and pockmarked again, proved, and then the process is done again and again until you have a six-foot long dough, which is cut into squares. The female market is moving away from bread, and this is a much lighter eat.”
Private-label bakery products lost ground against branded rivals in both value and volume terms last year, according to new research from the Private Label Manufacturers’ Association in conjunction with research firm AC Nielsen.Consumers stuck by branded bakery products last year, despite the onset of the recession, with private-label’s volume share of the bakery market falling 0.5% to 53.5%, compared to the previous year, while value share was down 0.2% to 49.3%.Private-label categories that did particularly badly included large, whole packaged cakes, which saw volume and value share fall by 5.5% and 3.9% respectively, while private-label buns, scones and teacakes declined by 4% (volume) and 2.5% (value).However, in sliced bread private-label grew its market share slightly, with volumes edging ahead by 1.2% to account for 35.5% of the market, while value share grew 1.5% to take 27.1%.Jean-Jacques Vandenheede, retail insights director Europe at AC Nielsen, said that private-label decline could be explained by branded manufacturers introducing new packaging, flavours and products. Last year, for example, Premier Foods brought its Mr Kipling brand to the celebration cakes market with the launch of the Big French Fancy – a giant version of its popular French Fancy line. The launch was supported by a £4.4m spend across the entire Mr Kipling brand.
Rank Hovis has launched a new flour variant Hovis Multiseed which has been developed to meet growing consumer demand for seed and grain products. A blend of seeds and wheatgerm, the new variant is suitable for the production of tinned or handcrafted breads and rolls.Its launch will also support the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, as Rank Hovis will donate a proportion of the profit from each sale of the product to the appeal. Rank Hovis will also encourage its customers to make a donation to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal for each Multiseed loaf sold.Sara Reid, marketing manager, said: “We have used our milling experience to create a unique grade of flour with a blend of five seeds and cooked germ.”Customers also have the opportunity to use bespoke Hovis bread tins and receive promotional point-of-sale material.Hovis Multiseed is available in 16kg bags.www.rankhovis.co.uk
Reid’s bakery of Thurso, Caithness, Scotland has won first prize in the New Products category in the Highlands and Island Awards.The family retail and wholesale business won the award for a new range of five biscuits and five loaf cakes.The winning range included Viking Fruit Cake made with free range eggs and spices and Crofters Cake made with lemon and sultanas. Biscuits included Oat and Honey, and Treacle and Toffee, which haspreviously won a Gold Star at the Great Taste Awards.The family business employs 30 people and customers include supermarkets and hotels. Director Donald Reid’s grandmother began baking biscuits and cakes over 100 years ago. Donald’s wife Joyce and sons Gary and Graeme are all in the business.
Retail property values have fallen by 16% compared to their peak in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to brokers Christie + Co’s latest Business Outlook publication.The annual publication, which uses average price information derived from retail transactions brokered by the company, showed that average retail property prices for 2009 dropped by 9.8%, compared to a decline of 6.5% in the previous year.Tony Evans, head of retail at Christie + Co, said: “The retail sector, like all sectors, has not been immune to the economic downturn. However, it has remained more robust, with property values falling less than in other markets. The recession has undoubtedly changed the way that we shop, with the acceleration of long-running trends, such as discounting and the introduction of value ranges.”The report predicts that the next 12 months will bring further downward pressure on gross profit margins, continued growth of on-line shopping, the introduction of further value ranges and more consolidation across the sector.David Rugg, chairman, added: “Although trading conditions proved tough across all sectors, operators successfully mitigated losses by focusing on reducing costs and providing value for money goods and services. It is worth noting that most of the business failures in our sectors were due to overleveraging, or unsustainable rent commitments, rather than as a result of poor trading.”
Consumers still balk at the price of organic food, a new report from YouGov SixthSense reveals. Price remains a strong deterrent, with 58% of UK consumers stating that they avoid purchasing organic foods, because of perceived high prices.Around one in four consu-mers also abstain from eating organic because they do not believe it has any benefits over non-organic food. The report also revealed that 13% of UK consumers would only buy organic foods if they were locally sourced, while the same percentage said they would buy organic only, despite the issue of cost. Organic-only consumers were found to be predominantly affluent, Londoners, women aged 25 and over, educated, home-owners and in one-person households. Forty-two percentof consumers said they would buy more organic if they could afford it.”There is a notable level of consumer disdain directed towards organic and those who engage in the organic lifestyle, as one in five consumers believe that organic products are used as status symbols,” commented James McCoy, research director for YouGov SixthSense. “For many, organic foods occasion a feeling of insecurity with 14% of consumers saying they feel “guilty” for not buying enough organic products.”l The online survey (August 2010) was carried out on 2,168 UK adults aged 16+.
Food companies are setting themselves more ambitious green challenges as part of the Food and Drink Federation’s (FDF) environmental strategy.The FDF has updated its Five-fold Environmental Ambition, launched in 2007, which targets carbon reduction, waste to landfill, packaging reduction, water efficiency and transport miles. Its five new principles include raising its 2020 CO2 reduction target from 30% to 35%. Outgoing FDF president Ross Warburton said: “More will need to be produced with less – and with less impact – if we are to ensure sustainable food and drink production at the heart of a strong, internationally competitive low-carbon UK economy.” Warburtons has set new energy efficiency targets and efforts include diverting spoiled dough and bread from landfill to animal feed, and trialling increased oven insulation and reuse of heat technologies. Jim Moseley of General Mills takes over as president of the FDF in January.