Month: April 2021

Multi-tasking Micro

first_imgThe Mondial Forni Micro Oven, available from Eurobake (Bolton, Lancs), is designed for baking bread, pastry, pizza and snacks within the retail bakery environment. The oven features 99 baking programmes, each with nine possible differentiated baking phases. Automatic weekly programmable operation, for one or two ignitions a day, makes the oven easy to use. Four of the ovens are working within Reeve the Bakers, a chain of nine shops throughout Wiltshire, Dorset and Hampshire. Gary Reeve says he trialled the ovens on the recommendation of other bakers, in his Devizes shop. “We were so pleased with their performance, durability and cost that we purchased a further two Micro ovens when we revamped our Romsey shop last year,” he adds.last_img read more

Production schedules undergo IT revolution

first_imgHot on the heels of Japanese Brain Buns (British Baker, April 21, pg 9) comes another tale of baking with a cerebral twist. This time it takes the improbable form of a professor of cognitive science dressed in bakers’ whites doing a shift at a supermarket in-store bakery. But rather than developing another brain-boosting bread (or supplementing his day job), this academic is instead flexing his intellectual muscle on a new way of running bakeries – a project aimed at bringing bakery scheduling into the 21st century through integrated IT. Whereas bakery schedules generally employ the not-quite-so-cutting-edge technology of paper and pen, the new system uses software to work out how to plan production, share knowledge between staff and, ultimately, to highlight areas for improvements in the bakery.The Rollout project, which is drawing to the end of its three-year funding, has applications for craft and plant bakeries alike. Support has come from the major supermarkets, plant bakeries, oven manufacturers, craft bakers, universities and food technology experts. But it is in a Sainsbury’s in-store bakery in Ashford, Kent, where I witness the system on trial – an enclave largely bypassed by the IT revolution, until now. Simple diagramsWhile scheduling normally relies on the expertise of the bakery or shift manager, the program uses a simple diagrams-based interface, which can be picked up in a flash by all bakery staff, says program designer Professor Peter Cheng of Sussex University. He says: “All the benefits of diagrams that we’ve studied in cognitive science, cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence, we’re trying to bring to bakery.” This could be the first time that “cognitive psychology” and “bakery” have appeared together in the same sentence, but despite its lofty origins the program is intended to be accessible even to IT virgins.The software employs a graphical approach rather than dozens of confusing drop down menus and windows, to integrate all the information that is most important for scheduling. Despite first appearances (see above), the system is quite simple to grasp.The software’s screen layout allows you to view which product is being made with which equipment at any one time. Each block on the screen represents one of the processing stages around the bakery, from mixers through to ovens. These are tied together to represent the run of a batch of product through the bakery. The width of the block indicates the amount of time that product will be at each equipment stage; the depth shows how much of the machine’s capacity the product is using. “Ordinary bakery operatives are able to understand these kinds of diagrams and make intelligent decisions about what you can do with the schedules,” says Professor Cheng. And although the bakery manager might already have a good idea about what a typical day’s production might entail, the aim is to improve that by using software that does not require much in the way of specialist IT skills, he says.20 minutes’ trainingDuring an earlier trial at the test bakery at Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association, experienced bakers could understand the diagrams in just 20 minutes of training, he claims. They were presented with various troubleshooting scenarios, such as the need to fit in a rush order to replace sold-out bloomers, having to adjust the batch diagrams to find a workable solution.“People may not be able to use spreadsheets and numeracy may also be an issue,” explains Professor Cheng. “Having something which can directly represent what’s happening in the bakery, and gives bakers the quantitative information they need to manage the bakery, is a major point.”Another benefit is that bakers can easily judge how best to deploy their equipment by spotting under-capacity. “At a glance you may see that you have spare capacity in your prover to put some more product in if you have the need to.” The diagram turns red to show where capacity is squeezed too much, causing production clashes. Spare capacity at the mixing stage, for example, if filled up, could lead to bottlenecks in the schedule if there is no room in the oven for baking. “If a problem arises because you’ve made an adjustment, it lets you know without you having to recalculate everything yourself.” Quality versus efficiencyThe complex trade-off between quality and efficiency is often overlooked when talking about scheduling, since a product left waiting too long might deteriorate in quality, he notes. “At present you would be reliant on the bakery manager or the people handling the equipment to imagine what is going to happen in an hour or two’s time. If you’re relatively new to bakery scheduling then that’s a real problem.”So will this system see the light of day? “It’s a matter of whether the commercial partners [of the project] try to incorporate it as an addition to their existing IT vision or as a stand-alone program,” says Professor Cheng. With the commercial companies involved in the project, its future would seem to rest on whether the benefits outweigh the costs of implementation.But the potential is to have a system that is integral to the bakery, while accessible to all staff. “If there was a network of these around the bakery then each person who finishes their process step could update the diagram. They would also be looking to see how other people are coping with their processes.”“It’s a very good tool, says busy in-store bakery manager John Duke. He has been charged with trialling the software while also being a man down. The system has many pluses, he adds. One is that it enables in-store bakery managers to communicate to store bosses exactly what resources are needed, by showing precisely where the time goes and the staff numbers required to get products on shelf, he says. A further note of encouragement comes from Richard Ball, central retail operations specialist at Sainsbury’s, who comments that Rollout could provide a “real tool to do the job”.“All previous production-planning systems have related to sales figures, but left the conversion of these into mixes to the bakery manager,” he says. “No consideration has ever been given to the availability of the machinery, which has been left to a mental calculation for the bakery operative. Rollout has changed this,” he says.“For in-store bakeries this is invaluable as all staff can clearly view their tasks. Any production bunching will be alerted and a quick move of the cursor corrects the problem, says Mr Ball.”So what makes Rollout different from existing IT systems? Most are focused on automation, says Professor Cheng, but allowing bakers to make decisions quickly and easily should be the main purpose of integrating IT into a bakery. His message then seems to be that technology will take you so far, but leave the baking to the bakers. “If you have a system that is fully automated you can never build rules into the system that are sufficiently sophisticated to match the baker’s own knowledge,” he explains. – Rollout is a joint project involving bakery consultants BakeTran, University of Sussex, University of Nottingham, CCFRA, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Warburtons, Fine Lady Bakeries, British Bakeries, E Botham and Sons, Scobie & McIntosh and Tom Chandley. It is being funded by the Economic & Social Research Council and the DTI.last_img read more

Asda adapts to individual needs

first_imgAsda is enjoying increased sales of bread after completing the roll-out of a new store-specific merchandising system this month, according to bakery director Huw Edwards.Sales data from each individual store is used to decide what bought-in breads should be stocked and how much space to allocate to each line, he said. The supermarket has now introduced the new system in all of its 303 food stores around the UK, Edwards told British Baker. Each store offers a different mix of products. “It already seems to be paying off, as the initial impact on sales has been very good,” said Edwards.The system is only being applied on bought-in breads, he explained, as the cakes and in-store Bakery sections are less complex and diverse.He said: “We have always been conscious that there is a lot of regionality in demand for brands of bread and preferences, and this system allows us to offer the best range for local customers’ needs. In this way, we can give each store exactly what it needs.”Asda started rolling out the system to stores in January and completed the project at the start of this month, Edwards explained.last_img read more

Your letters

first_imgWith regards to Jonathan Brace’s letter (British Baker, April 27, pg 6), my book Bread Matters presents recent scientific research, which suggests that modern bread is based on wheat of declining nutritive value, processed in ways that make it less digestible than it could be.This should be either refuted or confirmed by joint industry research into the effects of different baking ingredients and methods.Until then, the attempt to mask industrial bread’s declining value by selective additions of synthetic nutrients is, at best, disingenuous. It verges on cynical manipulation when the mendacious notion of ’clean label’ is used to describe bread in which declared additives have been replaced by undeclared enzymes.Legal it may be – for the time being – but ethical trading it most certainly is not to deny those most concerned with eating healthy food the truth about what is really in it.I don’t dispute the industry’s efficiency and, having run a bakery for 25 years, I am well aware of market forces. With per capita bread consumption in long-term decline, suggesting reasons why modern bread doesn’t agree with so many people could hardly be called “scaremongering”.It is not “the whole milling and baking industry” that I criticise – simply its reluctance to deal honestly with disturbing evidence about its materials and techniques. Those who have nothing to hide have no need to be scared.Andrew Whitley, Bread Matters, Cumbrialast_img read more

viewpoint

first_imgFor years people have been predicting the death of the high street. I very strongly object to the lack of support many councils give to small shops. It is a total reversal of the ethic that exists in the rest of Europe and much of Asia.But our lead story this week about the changing face of the UK baking industry at least indicates that the decline in bakery shops has halted. In fact there is a slight increase in the number of shops, if not manufacturers (pg 4).But are you a retailer first and a baker second or the other way around? Bob Cardona (pg 22) believes you have to face up to the reality of being a retailer first. I have very mixed feelings about this. Yes, your shop says so much about you and your goods. It should visually state if you care about fresh, trendy, hygienically produced goods. On the other hand, if I don’t enjoy the baked offering itself there is no way I would return.But thinking about your shop design is vitally important and I hope our ’facelift’ feature gives you some ideas. Apart from the baked goods themselves I always notice lighting. I love a well lit (not garish) shop or in-store. It makes for a highly inviting ambience.Nowadays the baked goods themselves do not just need to include American or Italian influences but often, like Morrisons, Polish, Greek and Jewish (pg 4). Do you know the current make-up of your community? Could you be missing out on sales? Word spreads fast in local communities and smaller bakers have flexibility.If you want to be aware of the latest bakery and equipment then do come and see us at Baker’s Fair North West (pg 14). Many bakers and confectioners have registered to attend, including several from Devon and Scotland, as well as those of you who live locally.And there will be live demonstrations of how to decorate wedding cakes from members of the renowned Richemont Club. This comprises passionate and talented confectioners who will be pleased to share their techniques and tips with show visitors.So do come and bring your colleagues. Help make it a great bakery day out. The British Baker team and I hope to see you at the Bolton Arena on Sunday October 14.last_img read more

Commodities watch

first_imgThe Home-Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) and Scotland Food & Drink has launched a new campaign called All About Oats, which aims to promote the health benefits of oats and encourage people to eat them.”This campaign will help raise awareness and remind health professionals and consumers ’all about oats’. From coarse pinhead oats and superfine oatmeal to regular and jumbo rolled oats; there are so many ways to enjoy this great Scottish crop,” said Hamish Walls, Chair of the Scottish Oats Group.The campaign launch on 6 November was attended by Karen Gillon MSP, Shadow Minister for Rural Development, and was well supported by the Scottish food industry.The event included a presentation by Dr Derek Stewart of the Scottish Crop Research Institute, who has recently completed a literature review of the health benefits of oats.The HGCA’s consultant dietician, Jane Griffin, also explained why oats were a valuable and versatile part of a healthy, balanced diet. She said: “As well as their versatility, oats are full of nutritional benefits. Oats can help reduce cholesterol as part of a diet low in saturated fat and a healthy lifestyle, and are a wholegrain food. As they are slow energy-release foods, oats can also help keep you fuller for longer to avoid the temptation of snacking. Oats are a good source of beta-glucans, phytochemicals, B vitamins, iron and potassium, as well as various antioxidants.”The campaign will run until next summer. See [http://www.allaboutoats.com] for more information.last_img read more

Passion play

first_imgPassionate People, Passionate About Food’ is Rotherham-based Maple Leaf Bakery’s slogan. This passion, along with a huge pride about what it does and what it has achieved, were the main instigators behind the company’s decision to enter last year’s Baking Industry Awards and the reasons behind its Bakery Manufacturer Of The Year accolade. Sitting in marketing and innovation director Guy Hall’s office, drinking tea out of an ’I love New York bagels’ mug, the passion is certainly evident.Hall joined in July 2001, just before the company acquired the recently rebranded New York Bakery Co, formerly known as New York Bagel Co. “There has been quite a lot of change as the business has grown; when I joined there were about 40 people working here, now it’s 1,400,” says Hall. Maple Leaf Bakery, part of Maple Leaf Foods Inc of Toronto, Canada, started manufacturing at its first site in Meadow Way, Rotherham in 1998, producing own-label bagels for Tesco. “It was a lot smaller than what you see today,” explains Hall. “We built a small bakery to produce bagels and were the first on a commercial scale to boil bagels, which is the traditional process where you simmer the dough in water before baking it. We’re still one of the only ones who do that and we stone-bake as well.” The Rotherham factory has since had money poured into its expansion and development and now stands at 80,000sq ft.The company quickly expanded, manufacturing other own-label products, which it started to supply to Marks & Spencer and Asda. “That rolled out in Sainsbury’s in-store bakery as well, and subsequently others,” says Hall. In 2001, the bagel market was still relatively small, but, since then, it has become a runaway success. “On average, we probably make 50,000 bagels an hour – about six million bagels a week. In 2001, the bagel market at retail was worth about £10m; today it’s worth about £60m. It’s really up with the major markets in morning goods.”Back in 2001, Maple Leaf was competing with the company that is now its most famous brand – New York Bagel Co. “We had about a 50% share of the market each – Maple Leaf with private-label and New York with branded. So we decided to purchase the New York Bagel Co, which gave us the brand, and a route to communicating with consumers, which we couldn’t do just through private-label,” explains Hall.As soon as Maple Leaf took over New York Bagel, it changed the recipe from its previously denser, chewier, American-style texture to a lighter-style dough. They started to advertise and, since then, have seen double-digit growth. “Today we’ve got somewhere in the region of 85-90% of ambient bagel supply in this country and also, in terms of in-store bakery, we make up virtually all of that – so we are the lead supplier of bagels and are very proud of that.”The brand name change from New York Bagel Co to New York Bakery has opened up possible expansion routes for the previously restrictively-named brand and Maple Leaf is hoping to grow within the speciality bread sector. The company recently launched seven test products in Tesco – four speciality bread lines along an Italian theme and three in the sweet bakery area – which are still under review.Along with the rest of the baking industry, Maple Leaf has had to contend with escalating prices. Last year, heavy rainfall flattened all its South Yorkshire wheat and the company had to source it from the south of England. “We’ve had agreements in recent years with local growers to source wheat in South Yorkshire, which is great, as fewer food miles help the environment and it’s good for costs as well,” says Hall.Meanwhile, on the business front, many acquisitions followed, including a former pizza plant in Cumbria, a small bakery in Southend that makes pretzels and plant bakery Harvestime bakery in Walsall. It then went on to jointly purchase the French Croissant Company and speciality bread manufacturer, Avance bakery, and following that, speciality bread manufacturer La Fornaia in August last year.Since the awards, it has also acquired a former Bernard Matthews bakery in Dunstable, in November. “In the last three years we’ve taken on several big companies, at least the same size of what we were before, so for the last 12 months we’ve been really focused on that,” explains Hall.Although Maple Leaf has no immediate plans to buy up more bakeries, it never says ’never’, and its successes so far have seen its expected turnover grow to £140 million. “If something came along tomorrow that fits with our strategy then yes we’d give it some consideration,” Hall explains. “Sometimes it’s just opportunistic; for example, we wouldn’t have purchased Dunstable on the back of several other big acquisitions, but it was there and available and we had to move quickly. You have to bite the bullet – if you don’t, you miss the opportunity.”Maple Leaf had never entered any awards before BIA07, and Hall felt that with all they had achieved in recent years, it was a good time to do it. “We had a great story to tell in terms of growth and we had also secured a lot of jobs within the industry as Harvestime was purchased from the administrator and Dunstable was heading the same way.” For perhaps obvious reasons, the company focused on bagels when it came to writing their application. “Although we didn’t initiate the market, from a very small and flat base, it’s Maple Leaf that’s taken that on,” says Hall.”We’re really proud of our investment and commitment to it and we’ve ploughed a lot of money back in to grow the market to where it is today. I think the judges were impressed by our commitment to the category and also the investment that we’ve brought to this bakery site and indeed other areas,” he adds. “We’ve spent around £15m of capital on this site plus the investment going into the marketplace, so we were recognised for that and the success it generated. With acquisitions, if you’ve got the money, anybody could do it. The smart thing’s not really the purchase – it’s what you do with it afterwards.”—-=== What winning meant to us ===”The reason we entered [the ADM-sponsored Bakery Food Manufacturer of the Year] was hopefully to win, and it was a great recognition of the business’ achievements. Everybody’s been very pleased by it and we got a lot of media coverage, which is good for morale and good for recruitment in terms of profiling the business. We’re not a well-known company because of our private-label history, but in terms of the local area, it got us a lot of exposure.”—-=== View from the awards night ===”It’s a good night out, very entertaining and a good chance to meet everybody else,” says Hall. “It’s easy to get parochial about your own product and there aren’t many opportunities to meet up with people in the industry. There’s some rivalry, but I think it’s friendly!”last_img read more

Association encourages franchisees

first_imgThe Franchisee Association says current economic conditions should not put people off consi-dering taking out a licence.Trevor Hart, who set up the online Franchisee Association in August, told British Baker that now would be a good time for someone who has lost their job to use their redundancy package to become a franchisee. “They might feel more confident joining a proven, established business, rather than setting out on their own,” he said.The Franchisee Association has picked up more than 300 members in the past two months and although recently there has been a downturn in the number of people taking out a licence, Hart says the number of visitors to the website seeking advice has increased. “They are looking for support during this difficult time,” he said.It is free to join the Franchisee Association and membership gives access to business advice and support in the day-to-day running of franchised operations. Members are also given the opportunity to search for resale franchises or advertise their own franchise territory for sale.last_img read more

Bakers avoid the worst of Irish contamination

first_imgBritish bakers and manufactu-rers have largely been unaffected by the Irish pork contamination issue, but a number of pork products have been recalled as a precautionary measure.Frank Hayes, from Kerry Foods in Ireland said: “Our production in Ireland is very much centred around the Irish market, so by and large the UK market was unaffected.” Kerry’s Dennys brand sausage rolls were on the product recall list for Sainsbury’s, but a number of the products on the list are only available in stores in Ireland. Asda also issued a recall list, which included Mini Melton Mowbray pork pies, though a spokesperson for Walkers Charnwood (part of Samworth Brothers) which produce the pies confirmed that the pork used “is sourced from mainland UK, so we are unaffected”.A spokesperson for the National Association of Master Bakers told British Baker: “The situation is a concern in the run-up to Christmas. We advise any members who are worried to go back down the distribution chain and identify where they sourced their pork, in the hope that, when that source gets the all-clear from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), they can use the pork confidently in their production.”A spokesperson for Tesco said the supermarket had already removed a small number of lines from sale in its British stores and is continuing to review its full product range.A number of firms, including Pukka Pies, Dickinson & Morris, Ginsters and Pork Farms, have confirmed they have been unaffected. A spokesperson from Goodfellas said that its Goodfellas Friday Fever Meateor pizza had been “withdrawn from all major supermarkets in the UK and Ireland as a precaution”.The full list of meat processors in the Republic of Ireland and affected meat companies in England can be viewed on the FSA’s website [http://www.food.gov.uk].last_img read more

baker of the year

first_imgMatching the high standards set by least year’s entrants to the Baker of the Year category will be tough, but sponsor Vandemoortele is sure that the industry’s top bakers will rise to the challenge.”We had such a great response last year with an amazing number of entries. The standard of entries was so high, that we found it very hard to narrow it down to a shortlist of six and then three finalists,” says Stephen Bickmore, UK commercial manager of Vandemoortele’s Lipids Division.”We are really keen to get a similar level of entries this year, both in terms of numbers and quality. In these difficult times, it’s even more important to celebrate the skill, commitment and enthusiasm of bakers.”Judges are searching for a baker that can show dedication and passion for quality finished products and the willingness to meet the challenges of the current business climate. Entrants can be from small or large companies and it is important to note that they do not have to be customers of Vandemoortele.”Baker of the Year is not just about the business and the company. It is predominantly about the person. They must be hands-on and have an influence on the quality of the products being produced,” says Bickmore.”We are looking for someone who still uses their baking skills, as well as influencing the running of the business. It’s a big ask, but one that many bakers manage with great success.”Judges will be looking at a range of criteria, such as quality control, consideration for the environment and how the entrants address health issues, but above all, they must show that they are making consistently high-quality products.”To be Baker of the Year is a real accolade. Even reaching the finals is an immense achievement for any baker, because the standards in this country’s baking industry are very high,” says Bickmore.Vandemoortele has been involved with the Baking Industry Awards since 1987 and is proud of its commitment to maintaining and developing the highest standards by recognising the skill, expertise and passion of bakers, he adds. “We would urge anyone who is proud of their achievements to take part in these awards.”—-=== Piero Scacco, chairman of Montana Bakery in Slough, last year’s winner ===”It was absolutely the ultimate accolade for me personally – I’ve been making bread in Britain since 1958 so it was lovely to be recognised in this way. The award is also an important tribute to all the staff at Montana. Our success is very much a team effort. I couldn’t have won without them.”I would highly recommend others in the baking industry to enter these awards. We will definitely be entering in a few different categories this year.Winning at the Baking Industry Awards helps raise your profile. When we exhibit at IFE09, we will be using the Baker of the Year success to promote the company. It’s also going on all our letterheads and on the website.”last_img read more