Gordon Polson, chief executive of the Federation of Bakers, on the ways bakers are changing their systems to maximise capacity

We are working closely together with our members, along with the wider industry, to ensure that there is a continuous supply of quality bread and baked goods to meet consumer demand during this unprecedented time.

In order to meet current demand, bakers are working to maximum capacity.

In many cases, demand has exceeded 50%, requiring bakers to make changes to their systems to maximise production and delivery capabilities. For example, reducing the number of SKUs has already been implemented in some cases and may become a more frequent response.

While the health crisis continues, the Federation of Bakers and our members will continue to monitor the situation closely and, if required, will make further changes in order to maintain an adequate supply of bread and baked goods.

In contrast to other food manufacturers, bakers are responsible for delivering product direct to retailers’ stores.

This situation throws up its own challenges, which we are highlighting to the government, particularly if the modelled 20% absenteeism rate turns out to be correct.

We need flexibility to maintain business continuity, which is why we welcome government initiatives including recognising food production employees as key workers and relaxing drivers’ hours, as this not only helps with our deliveries but with the equally important regular delivery of flour and ingredients to bakeries. We are also closely monitoring the whole supply chain, to ensure that the supply of both ingredients and packaging continues, without disruption.

The safety and wellbeing of our bakery employees and drivers is always our top priority, which is why, in line with government instructions, our members are ensuring that as many employees as practical work from home.

We are all working together to ensure our workforces are following social distancing guidelines and, as always, food handling and personal safety procedures, and are supplied with the necessary sanitisers and PPE supplies for them to do so.

Bread plays an important part in the healthy balanced diet of the nation – no more so than at a time like this. We will continue to provide the nation’s favourite staple food product during this critical time.