14 December, 2007
It has been quite a momentous year. Flour and other commodity prices have seen very steep increases. Big names such as Inter Link have been sold to McCambridge while Lightbodys of Hamilton and Finsbury Foods forged a partnership that took many by surprise.
Economy breads and private-label are often hardly worth manufacturing any more but there is a resurgence in demand for good craft breads. The year started with talk of a £1 loaf and now supermarkets such as Sainsbury's are charging £1.69 for 'crusty artisan breads' that are flying off the shelves.Everywhere I go, the conversation turns green (at least it's not blue!) as you all try to pre-empt the coming of the environmental taxman. Joanna Lumley presented our Baking Industry Awards and declared bakers were "so lovely, warm and polite", while the record audience of over 900 seemed to love her right back.Looking ahead, my fears are for anyone who has not passed on the price rises. Margins are survival, profits make you prosper. They enable you to re-invest in equipment, NPD, shop refits, training and other necessities, and when times are tough, to simply stay afloat.The government set up a committee one year ago to look at how it could reduce red tape for small firms and during 12 months of arduous quango meetings, achieved the grand sum of... er, well, absolutely nothing. I expect the committee is now out to Christmas lunch on your taxes. I am making my own contribution to the baking economy and have already bought and demolished a chocolate log, ordered my Christmas cake and consumed at least one mince pie a day since the start of December. They are simply the best invention known to mankind. I hope all your hard work is resulting in excellent sales and your staff are wearing festive hats and smiles. After Christmas, on 2 January, do watch the BBC's Hairy Bikers as they descend on The Village Bakery (Melmerby). I followed a few days later and enjoyed a super session of breadmaking with the soon-to-be-famous Anthony Tiffin, its master breadmaker.All that remains is to thank you for reading British Baker for another year and to say, from all of the BB team: Merry Christmas!