Ann and Steve Wells and Brian Clarke judging baker of the year

Source: Brook Food

The Baking Industry Awards 2020 are nearly upon us!

Things are a little different this year as the event and judging process had to evolve amidst the pandemic. Keen to celebrate the achievements and highlights of those in bakery, whose dedication has shone through in a year strewn with bad news, we forged onwards, and the coveted awards will take place, via an online ceremony, on Wednesday 20 January at 18:30.

In the pre-Covid era, many categories required face-to-face visits with judges and sponsors travelling up and down the UK to meet the best and the brightest the industry has to offer.

So, what do you do in the middle of a pandemic which has forced the nation into lockdown?

“We had to ensure we maintained the integrity of the Baking Industry Awards,” explains British Baker editor Amy North. “Often referred to as the Oscars of the baking industry, these awards set a very high standard so we couldn’t let our processes slip because of the pandemic – we still had to find the very best people, products and businesses in the sector.”

Zooming into the future

Technology played a significant part in this. As workers and families across the globe embraced the likes of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, so did the BIA judges.

Ann Wells, commercial director at Brook Food Processing Equipment which sponsors the Baker of the Year category, was unsure about how the judging could be completed as parts of the UK went into full lockdown, particularly as it’s a category judged with “integrity and passion”.

“Our judging process consists of much more than a quick look over entry forms, and we take the whole process very seriously,” she explains.

“Since we started sponsoring this prestigious award in 2014, we have visited bakers up and down the UK, each year travelling around 1,200 miles to see entrants at their bakeries.”

Instead, Brook Food opted for video calls along with samples of the bakers’ standout products being shipped to Somerset.

“We spent three full days judging and all of our shortlisted entrants sent in their samples for us to try while chatting with them. As you can imagine there was a lot of planning involved to ensure the right samples arrived at the right time, ensuring everything was delivered fresh,” Wells adds.

Here’s a snippet from the Baker of the Year interviews:

Supermarket sweep

One category ‘still open for business’ was Supermarket Bakery Business of the Year, sponsored by Lantmännen Unibake. With much of the north of England in lockdown when the judging was taking place, the team couldn’t travel quite as far as they usually would.

The in-person meetings with supermarket bakery teams were replaced with Zoom calls but with supermarkets still open to the public our intrepid judges visited stores from each of the entrants and were pleased with what they found.

“Our judges were impressed with the dedication and hard work of those working in in-store bakeries, not only in getting essential items on shelves but the passion and care they displayed while doing so,” adds British Baker editor Amy North.

Tune in to the Baking Industry Awards 2020 via at 18:30 on Wednesday 20 January. Here we’ll celebrate the finalists and winners across the below 13 categories:

  • Baker of the Year, sponsored by Brook Food
  • Bakery Exporter of the Year, sponsored by St Pierre Groupe
  • Bakery Innovation Award, sponsored by Stork
  • Bakery Manufacturer of the Year, sponsored by Reiser
  • Celebration Cake Business of the Year, sponsored by Renshaw
  • Free-from Bakery Product of the Year, sponsored by Ingredion
  • Out of Home Business of the Year, sponsored by Rich Products
  • Speciality Bread Product of the Year, sponsored by Bakels
  • Supermarket Bakery Business of the Year, sponsored by Lantmännen Unibake
  • The Craft Bakery Business Award, sponsored by Dawn Foods
  • The Customer Focus Award, sponsored by Lumina Intelligence
  • The Rising Star Award, sponsored by Rondo
  • Outstanding Contribution to the Baking Industry, sponsored by Délifrance