“It’s time to invest in products, people and business,” said John Gall, president of the Scottish bakers. These three things seemed to remain the theme of the Scottish Bakers Conference for 2015.
The bakers, their products and their businesses took centre stage at the two-day event, along with a clutch of presentations by figures such as host Mich Turner, TV chef and baker Peter Sidwell, Martin Lightbody of Lightbody Ventures and Lord Digby Jones, ex-Director General of the CBI and a former Minister of State for Trade and Investment.
The event was a celebration of business, but also a celebration of the Scottish Bakers as an organisation, as Alan Clarke revealed it had made over £1.6m in turnover, with most of the money coming from training apprentices in Scotland and England. Clarke also said that SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon had agreed to speak at the conference next year as it celebrated the 125th anniversary.
With her talk titled- confessions of a cake lady, Mich Turner MBE and owner of the Little Venice Cake Company beguiled the audience with the sort of stories Heat magazine would go wild for. Full of anecdotes and tales about her life baking cakes to the stars, Turner explained her ordeals of trying to ensure wedding cakes didn’t fall onto sprung dance floors, and the trials and tribulations of getting a cake on a plane.
Sidwell, who is currently working with the NHS to develop healthy options for its Aroma café, based his talk around products for healthy living. Referring to the health trend, he said: “You can either treat it as a threat or you can treat it as an opportunity.”
He suggested that bakers base their healthy options around new products, and did not place ‘healthier’ alternatives, like a low-fat brownie, next to the real deal.
Lightbody Ventures makes licenced celebration cakes for supermarkets, as well as branded cakes for names like Thorntons. Like any good business, there will have been complications along the way, so Lightbody shared the mistakes he has made through the years- one of them being pop band cakes. He used the more recent example of Zayn Malik leaving One Direction (1D), and proceeded to throw some left over 1D stock at the audience in a crazed and hilarious rage.
He also explained how he invested in a line to create 2000 millionaire shortbread squares a minute, and spent weeks working out why it wouldn’t work, before fixing it with a plastic box and a hairbrush.
Lord Digby Jones
Jones’ talk was met a standing ovation from the Scottish Baker crowd, after he talked about how important businesses were to the economy. A party-neutral man from Birmingham, he prides himself on being employed to the role of Minister of Trade and Investment because he is ‘different’. In an fascinating and insightful talk, Jones opened his speech with the line: “You people are the most important people in the country”, explaining that without businesses, taxes would not be paid, thus neither would the wages of the public sector.