viewpoint
Published:  18 May, 2007

Bread sales are buoyant, according to the latest figures from TNS (pg 4). The main reason appears to be that premium breads, including brown and seeded, are proving popular and adding value to the sector.

Health and nutrition are concerns that are here to stay, but so are climate change (carbon footprint), ethical trading (poverty) and sustainability ('we've only got one planet'). In fact, over the next few years I foresee an unprecented emphasis on everything from food miles to recyclable packaging, from Fairtrade to sustainable sources.

All these could become labelling requirements by the multiples. They want to be seen to lead the field in climate change, sustainability and other ethical issues, believing it will make the consumer feel OK about purchasing. In rea-lity, it is also a way for the supermarkets and other stores to say: "We are ethical - shop here and feel good about it."

I'm sorry if that sounds a bit cynical. What they are doing is good. And we really do need to recycle more and pay a fair price for a fair product. But what worries me is labelling. For goodness' sake, let's have single industry standards or single industry symbols - not one symbol for this supermaket and another symbol for that. The Traffic Lights versus Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) symbol war has been chaotic. It has been unfair on bakers and food manufacturers and muliplying that several times over would lead to more chaos.

Sometimes, ethical policies clash. Is it better to use energy to grow fruits for tarts or torten under artificial heat and light in a greenhouse, locally, that can be delivered in cardboard and require virtually no food miles? Or is it better to grow them overseas, in natural sunlight and pay a Fairtrade price for them? That decision alone might involve symbols ranging from food miles, to carbon footprint and Fairtrade. And how important will recyclable packaging become? Will we see all bread packaged in recyclable plastic next?

Finally, as we hear that Bakery NVQs are to disappear (pgs 6 and 20) and be replaced by modules under the heading of Food Manufacturing, may I urge you to read and heed Chris North's comments about how to attract more youngsters to bakery (pg 13). He has vision indeed!




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