The issue of bread weights labelling was in the spotlight again this week, following a European Council ruling that national restrictions on the size of pre-packaged goods should be abolished.The news is the latest development in the long-running European debate over the EU Nominal Quantities Directive (British Baker, January 6, pg 3). The issue will now be sent back to the European Parliament for further debate and could be approved by Euro MPs early next year.Federation of Bakers’ director Gordon Polson said: “It will be several months before a decision will be made. There will be some political horse-trading first. Nothing much has changed; the European Council has always favoured deregulation.”At the moment, packaged bread over 300g in weight has to be sold in set sizes in the UK: 400g, 800g and 1,200g. The European Com-mission voted in December 2005 to exclude bread and other staples from the derivative.
A thousand people, including Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal leader Sir Menzies Campbell, packed out a Westminster rally last week in support of a bill designed to save Britain’s high streets.The Sustainable Communities Bill is a private member’s bill, tabled by Conservative MP Nick Hurd, which aims to give more power to communities so they can make decisions about local issues, such as helping local bakery shops, post offices and pubs. Local Government Minister Phil Woolas said at the rally that he would not try to block the bill when it is debated for a final time in the House of Commons in May.A spokesman for LocalWorks, the lobby group behind the campaign, said there is still a danger that the government would ’talk out’ the bill by not tabling enough time for it to be discussed, despite cross-party support of over 400 MPs, as well as the backing of dozens of industry associations.Speaking at the rally, David Cameron urged individuals to use local services and shops. He said: “Local councils should be able to spend according to local priorities, not those set by Whitehall. Local people shouldn’t just control services by local government. They should have a say over all the government spend in their area. Money is crucial, but this is not just about who spends our cash. It’s about a revolution in responsibility. It’s about local people working together.”Shocking declineAccording to the BBC, Sir Menzies said: “The shocking decline of local communities – ghost town Britain – is going on everywhere. I share people’s anger at seeing local services and facilities like post offices, bank branches and local businesses disappear. People feel powerless to stop this. We don’t want Whitehall to control our lives. The Sustainable Communities Bill will give people real power over policies affecting their own areas.”A Department of Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “We support the aspirations of the bill, and recognise its underlying concerns and ambitions. We are committed to promoting sustainable local communities and we have already delivered an ambitious programme of measures to do so.”The Local Works campaign started in 2002, following the publication of two reports by the New Economics Foundation, entitled Ghost Town Britain and Clone Town Britain. These looked into the declining number of independent shops on the high street and the impact this is having on local communities.The Local Works spokesman told British Baker that the bill needs as much support as possible to get it through its final reading. “It is currently at committee stage after two successful readings, but the only reason it has got this far is because of the huge support it has received,” he said. “I urge your readers to go to our website, [http://www.localworks.org], and sign up in support.”If the bill is passed in May, it will become law by the summer and the government will have to make provision for its implementation before the year is out, he said. n
Research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health last week suggested that 3,200 lives per year could be saved if the government imposed a ’fat tax’.It called for VAT at 17.5% to be levied on certain foods. The report, backed up by research at Oxford and Nottingham Universities, included baked goods such as cakes and biscuits.The suggestion, which received wide media coverage on TV news bulletins and in the national press, was rebutted by many, including Maura Gillespie, head of policy and public affairs at the British Heart Foundation. She said that rather than concentrating on foods high in sugar, fat or salt, the government should focus its attention on encouraging the consumption of healthier foods.Gillespie added: “We also want manufacturers and retailers who have not already adopted the traffic light scheme to put colour-coded nutritional information on all their products.”Richard Dodd, spokesman for the British Retail Consortium, which represents the major supermarkets, said: “There is no such thing as unhealthy food but there can be an unhealthy diet.”Gill Brooks-Lonican, chief executive of the National Association of Master Bakers, said: “Cakes and biscuits are a treat and often contain ingredients that are good for you in moderation.”
At the same time that the national press is filled with horror stories about additives, the baking industry is having to turn to improvers to help prevent loaves collapsing after the new harvest (pg 4).Wastage this year seems particularly bad. Nature has played such strange tricks with the wet weather that consistency – demanded by most supermarkets and their customers – has gone to pot.Waitrose customers may well be happy to put up with a superb-tasting wonky apple from a British orchard, but I bet you that the very same customer would pass up an oddly-shaped loaf for a perfect one.And this industry cannot afford high wastage on top of all the other costs at the moment – it needs maximum efficiency. That means consistent loaves, delivered at the right time, in the right quantity.Customers cannot be kept waiting, whether that ’customer’ is a supermarket or a high-street shopper queueing in a craft bakery. Any talk about wet weather or low hagberg falling number is of little interest to them when bread is due on the shelf.And, of course, it would happen this week, just as the national newspapers are turning on additives. I know that many of you, as ingredient suppliers or bakers, are either going for or have achieved, clean label.But among the products singled out by one Sunday paper, beneath the large headline; “Why not just ban additives?” were malt loaves, naan bread, caramel shortcake, chocolate chip cookies, Danish pastries and apple turnovers, which the writer accused of being “deliberately packaged to look as if they were fresh from the oven”. I thought that was effective merchandising!The article went on to assert that banning E numbers was easily possible and had already taken place in the USA, Japan, Austria, Norway and Finland, where they have been replaced by natural alternatives.There is also a battle between long-life goods demanded by UK consumers and short-term fresh products – I opt for fresh every time, but I recognise that my neighbours want long life because it suits their lifestyles. That’s choice!
Half of bakers have put their prices up and plan further rises, due to rising costs, according to results from the latest British Baker poll on [http://www.bakeryinfo.co.uk].The feedback suggests that a further 17% of respondants are planning price rises while 13% have put their prices up already and therefore believe a further rise is not required.Only 11% report that they have no need to put prices up, with the remaining 9% saying that they would like to put their prices up, but believe that customers will not accept price rises.The poll will remain live on the bakeryinfo website until November 1, so please log on, click to add your feedback.
“Google is white bread for the mind… it’s filling, but it doesn’t necessarily offer nutritional content”– And we thought white bread was a good thing! Professor of media studies Tara Brabazon, at University of Brighton, frowns upon students using Google for research instead of the library
The quality of UK wheat has been praised by millers from Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Tunisia at a recent Home-Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) bread baking workshop but there are concerns over levels of supply.Emma Finn, HGCA arable business supply chain manager, said there were specific worries over the availability of soft wheat, branded ’uks’ for the export market.She warned: “The importance of uks is underlined in this year of low supplies. The UK has few competitors for this product so our customers rely on us. Typically millers in Spain and Portugal are using 20% uks in their grists so a consistent supply of uks varieties is needed to sustain this market.”Miguel Angel Martin Conessa, a miller from Spain, said he had successfully used a blend of 65% uks and 35% ukp bread wheat to reduce costs.Said Badri, of the Tunisian Millers Association, said he had used 80% uks and 20% ukp in flat breads and baguettes.
We have our labour troubles with bakers in this country, but they never become very acute. Parisian bakers, on the other hand, enjoy a reputation for being exceedingly restive and they threaten a strike every three months. It is not long since we chronicled the agitation in Paris against the labour bureau. This time the grievance is in connection with a weekly holiday. Nothing would strike terror into the hearts of a large bread-consuming population more than the certainty that they might wake some morning and find the whole town breadless. This is the desire which the Parisian bakers nourish, but they are unable to carry it into effect, owing to the resources which the government enjoy in having the military bakers ready to take their place.
The in-store bakery (ISB) provides true theatre in supermarkets, encouraging retailers to maximise innovation and introduce increasingly exciting product lines. An integral part of the supermarket offering, the ISB enables consumers to indulge, experiment and enjoy the freshest of craft bakery products in-store.Celebrating the 25th anniversary of its brand this year, Délifrance says it is delighted to once again sponsor the In-Store Bakery of the Year category at the Baking Industry Awards. The award invites entry from all ISB managers who can demonstrate a well-tailored product range, good availability and ideas for maximising sales and promoting growth. In addition, judges will be looking for outstanding customer service, good team spirit and excellent management of resources or skills development.”By entering, ISB teams are contributing further to raising the profile of their expertise, their craft and their value in retail,” says Ian Dobbie, MD of Délifrance UK. “In-store bakery is a vital part of the supermarket experience and, through the Baking Industry Awards, we can strengthen the reputation and inspire appreciation of this jewel in the supermarket’s crown, while developing the possibilities ahead for offering choice, innovation and theatre to the consumer.”Délifrance grows and harvests its own wheat and has a portfolio of products that includes speciality breads, Viennoiserie, filled pastries and frozen branded breads and mini pastries. “Délifrance is today, more than ever before, the natural partner for retail ISB,” says Dobbie. “In an industry that is developing at an incredible pace, it is vital that those in-store champions, the very people in ISB who not only represent but deliver excellence, innovation, quality and expertise, are recognised and acknowledged by their peers.”
Scientists are currently developing varieties of wheat resistant to a virulent fungus, which has spread from Africa to Iran. The UG99, which began in Uganda in 1999, is a strain of black rust, which can affect 80-90% of wheat crops in these countries.Wafa Khoury, a plant pathologist at the Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome, said the fungus was affecting crops which were once resistant. “We hope to replace affected varieties of wheat with resistant ones,” she said.Alex Waugh, director general of the National Association of British and Irish Millers, said the disease would not have any immediate impact on the UK.