Like the first daffodils of spring, Easter is a time when the creative skills of Slattery’s in Manchester really bloom. The chocolatier and his team are small and flexible enough to develop new products almost overnight and it’s this approach that has led to innovative takes on old favourites like the Ladies’ Egg pictured here. This approach has led to the development of what is perhaps a unique business. It includes a retail shop that offers sumptuous chocolate cakes, fancies, figures and desserts, alongside a brisk breakfast, lunch and teatime trade. There is also a dining room seating 100, with space for 40 on the terrace outside. Not to mention a conference centre and a school. But how does this chocolate aficionado approach the all-important Easter trade?“We start planning six weeks prior, so this year we will be concentrating on Easter pretty much as soon as March starts,” he says. “But everyone is encouraged to come up with ideas so the development process is more or less constant.” Because the business is self-contained and staff can react quickly to new ideas, products can literally emerge overnight to appear in the shop the following day. The Easter display is therefore something of a moveable feast, as customer reactions dictate the successes and failures of fledgling products.“We use large tables inside the shop for displays,” says John. “Chocolate is sensitive to light and heat so we don’t use the windows so much.” Customers also enjoy watching an uninterrupted view of products being hand-finished in the workroom beyond the counter. One of the first things that John considers for his displays is colour. “I like to keep packaging quite plain,” he says, “so the quality and often simplicity of the product comes through. We use a lot of boxes, rather than bags, for packing chocolates to protect them. But we often use a clear acetate box and add interest with boldly coloured ribbon. “There is also a packing material called Razzle, which comes in a range of colours, and can smarten up an otherwise plain box. Once you’ve decided on a good, strong colour theme, I think you should stick with it and let the products speak for themselves.”Imaginative productsAnd the products themselves sound wonderful. From the traditional Easter eggs, individual cakes and fancies, to one of John’s favourites – chocolate lollipops. “They’re so easy,” he comments, “very simple to make and decorate and they go like hot cakes! “We also make chocolate bars, which can be piped straight into presentation boxes and which, with the addition of simple sugar decorations, look really special. People often think a solid block of chocolate is better value than a hollow Easter egg.” John adds that expensive equipment is not necessary to make these items, all that’s required is a little practice and a steady hand.Although people like to see traditional products at Easter, John likes to give a little extra. “Our Ladies’ Eggs last year used different coloured sugarwork to decorate the eggs with high heeled shoes and handbags and they proved really popular.”I ask John if the bakery is flat out, scratch baking everything to his high standards. “I’m no purist,” he laughs. “I’m happy to look at other people’s products. We use pre-mixes for some of our cakes – Dawn Foods’ Devil’s Food Cake is one of the best around. Why make extra work for yourself?
Sausage and frozen food company Glendale Foods has announced plans for the Great British Pudding Company – the Northampton-based savoury and sweet puddings business it acquired in August.It plans to step up pudding production and diversify into the chip shop and foodservice sectors, and by trading in European ex-pat markets.Glendale MD Paul Burkitt told British Baker that the puddings would remain “top-end quality”, with smaller portion savoury puddings targeted at the bakery and fish and chip shop.Capitalising upon its marketing of frozen sausages to the Spanish catering trade, the company will also explore export sales opportunities for puddings, he said.
Muffin Break, an Australian coffee shop franchise, has announced plans to expand in the UK. Situated in shopping centre locations, the business currently has 29 outlets and plans to open at least three more by the end of the year. It has been operating in the UK for the last six years and has just celebrated in 20th anniversary in Australia.UK operations manager Michael Johnson told British Baker that, until now, the target for new store openings in the UK has been around five per year. “In the coming years we hope to achieve around 10 per year. We’re quite conservative about our growth, as we want to make sure we get the right locations and be sure our franchisees are going to do well,” he said. “There could even be the potential to get to 200 stores in the next 10-20 years, depending on how well the business goes.”The firm has brought several staff over from Australia and has hired an operations consultant for its UK franchise model.The outlets sell baked goods including cakes, slices, cookies, quiches, sandwiches, and muffins; including gluten-free and low-fat ranges, all of which are made fresh everyday. Johnson said the quality of its coffee was a big part of the business, while it differentiated itself from the major high street coffee chains with its fresh bakery offering.Muffin Break outlets are currently located in shopping centres, but Johnson said it wouldn’t rule out other options, such as high street locations, in the future.Muffin Break has around 180 outlets in Australia, 38 in New Zealand and three in Dubai.
Premier Foods is to study why shoppers are binning so much bread.The Hovis manufacturer will team up with Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to research consumer behaviour and attitudes around buying, storage and usage habits. Findings will be used to develop a targeted approach to help reduce bread waste.Neil Macfarlane, head of insight at Premier Foods, said: “We will gain a better understanding as to why UK consu-mers waste so much ’good food’ and then apply the learnings taken from this research to inform new ways of engaging consumers to encourage a reduction in food waste.”According to a WRAP study, bakery goods accounted for 14.1% of the £10bn cost to UK households of food wastage a total of 782,000 tonnes of wasted bakery products, of which 400,000 tonnes is bread.”Reasons thought to be contributing to consumer bread waste are pack sizes being too large, the product staling or going mouldy as a result of incorrect storage and not being confident around free-zing bread,” said a spokeswoman for WRAP. It follows news that sliced bread is the second most common product binned by Scottish households, according to WRAP Scotland, which said 20% of bread bought by consumers was wasted.l In other news, Hovis has added a new Soft White Farmhouse loaf to its range, which it said is a domed, more traditional version of its Soft White variant. The packaging will feature the Soft White logo as well as a ’new’ flash on-pack. Hovis will be rolling out a £4.5m campaign to support its Soft White range including the new Farmhouse loaf.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has kicked-off a massive campaign to educate consumers about the ‘hidden salt’ in foods such as bread, sandwiches and pizza. The campaign, which goes live this week, features television advertising focused on pizza and sandwiches, and radio and print advertising on bread. It urges consumers to pay closer attention to the salt levels of foods they buy and to choose foods that are lower in salt.The thrust of the campaign is based on survey results that reveal 77% of consumers are unaware that bread and breakfast cereals are among the top salt-contributing foods in people’s diet, according the FSA. “We’re not suggesting people stop eating or even cut down on bread or breakfast cereals, as they are an important part of a healthy diet. But we are saying take a look at the labels to find one that is lower in salt,” commented Rosemary Hignett, head of nutrition at the Food Standards Agency.The FSA also commented that “supermarket own-label versions of some foods, including bread, are often lower in salt than the branded versions”.The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has voiced its support for food manufacturers who have reformulated recipes to lower salt. “Our members are totally committed to helping consumers eat more healthily – and reformulation is just one of the ways in which we will continue to make a real difference,” said director of communications, Julian Hunt.To read the full story and the industry’s reaction to this campaign, read the next issue of British Baker, out 9 October.
Cae Groes Bakery in North Wales hopes to double its turn-over as business with super-market chain Aldi takes off.The bakery, which makes bread, morning goods and cakes, has been supplying Aldi for 18 months and won a new contract to supply cakes to the supermarket in autumn 2009. It now supplies Welsh cakes, Victoria sponges, chocolate indulgence cakes and a range of sliced cakes to 47 Aldi stores.The bakery has met rising demand with help from an £80,000 asset-based lending (ABL) facility from Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance. This enabled the company to start production for the new contract within one week.
With both the budget and the end of the tax year just around the corner Simon Young, director of Montpelier Chartered Accountants, outlines his tips on minimising your Corporate and Personal tax burden.1. Cash in some of your capital gains if you made any this year obvious, but often left until the last minute.2. Don’t buy equipment for the sake of it, but if you do need new kit, buy it in your current financial year.3. Offsetting losses against capital gains can be beneficial but very complex. Take professional advice.4. Pension allowances are to shrink drastically next tax year, so put as much as you can afford (up to £255,000) into your fund before 5 April.5. Ensure you are claiming your maximum allowances against tax: business mileage; use of home as office etc.6. Consider incorporating your business if you pay income tax at the higher rate of 40% or 50%, there may be considerable tax saving to be made on incorporation.7. You may be able to reduce your tax bill by changing your staff remuneration strategy so check this before the start of the new tax year.8. Make the most of government-approved incentives for subsidised or tax-free perks, such as mobile phones, meals and childcare voucher schemes.9. Don’t rush to sell your business. Yes, taxes are currently favourable, but they’re likely to remain so: wait for the right time to sell.10. You have until 5 April to put money into an ISA; £5,100 can be put into cash ISA with a further £5,100 into stocks and shares ISA. Returns are free of tax inside the ISA wrapper.l These are only a guide. For more information see www.montpelierchartered.com. You should not take any action or refrain from taking action without first taking suitably qualified professional advice on your specific circumstances.
PaulCatterallBakery technology manager, Campden BRIAs we all know, this year sees the 50th anniversary of the Chorleywood Bread Process, and this has again opened the debate within the industry about what is the best method of bread-making. Some say it is long fermentation, traditional methods, and others say no-time dough methods are fine. Surely there is room for all types of breads? They all have their place.I’ve been in the industry for 40 years and, more than anything, I notice the evolution of the industry and an increased consumer choice. This is what we should be shouting about. If you want sourdough bread, then it is available, if you want a cheap sliced loaf, no problem.Modern methods are not necessarily bad, traditional methods are not necessarily good. What’s new today will be traditional tomorrow. But it is not an option to ’stand still’. We all have to embrace new ideas and technologies, whether we like it or not, even the traditionalists use modern wheat varieties, spiral mixers and travelling ’stone’ soled ovens.What we as an industry should be doing is combining our forces against the common foe those who say, for whatever reason, bread is bad. For example, there has been a lot in the media recently about bake-off breads being inferior. Why? It gives consumers more choice and tempts them to buy more bread. But like all methods, it must be done properly. Product quality, as perceived by the consumer, is the most important factor; to do this, we need to understand the science and technology of the methods used, which inevitably leads to new ideas.So let the consumer choose what they want and let’s have less of the “my bread is better than yours”! All bread is good.
The Kerry Group is to expand its sweet ingredients and flavours business in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), with the proposed acquisition of SuCrest.The group has entered into an agreement to buy the German firm, which has production and development facilities in Hochheim, Germany and Vitebsk, Belarus, as well as a sales office in Moscow. SuCrest produces sweet ingredients, such as caramel pieces, ’brittle and crunch’ toppings, creams, pastes and glazes, which it supplies to many industries, including bakery.Kerry said the combination of its existing ingredients portfolio with the SuCrest business would “broaden Kerry’s technology, customer and geographic base in EMEA markets”.
A Reading bakery has potentially had up to £25,500 wiped from its yearly profits as a result of a collaboration with a discount voucher website.Need a Cake, run by Rachel Brown, has made a loss on 102,000 cupcakes made as part of a Groupon voucher deal, which saw 8,500 users signing up to the offer of 12 custom-made cupcakes for £6.50. The 75% discount on its normal retailing price of £26 meant that for every batch of cupcakes made, the bakery ended up losing between £2.50 and £3.Brown had to fork out an extra £12,500 to hire 25 agency staff to help her eight current employees cope with the high demand, whilst funding additional distribution.Steve Consalvez, business partner and spokesperson for Need a Cake, said: “The business has been going for 25 years and following the Groupon discount offer, the company has realised it isn’t the way to go forward as it has wiped out profits for this year. However, it will be continuing to build on its successes in 2012.”The Berkshire-based business supplies to major international food outlets and produces birthday, wedding and Christening cakes, in addition to cupcakes and cake hampers. Heather Dickinson, a Groupon spokeswoman, said there was no limit to the number of vouchers that could be sold, adding: “We approach each business with a tailored, individual approach based on the prior history of similar deals.”US-based Groupon is a ‘deal-a-day’ website offering coupons to subscribers, giving discount deals on anything from restaurant meals to spa treatments and only available if a minimum number of people sign up.