Ones to watch

14 January, 2011
What are the trends set to colour the UK baking industry in 2011? Andrew Williams gets out the crystal ball... and encourage others to do the same
Page 20 

Twin-sumers", "Urbanomics", "Tweetonomics" if you've ever surveyed the reams of guff out there soothsaying the trends for the year ahead, then you will be forgiven for wishing painful death-by-cake-pop-stick-stabbing to the first marketing executive you come across. So it is in a spirit of great hypocrisy that we offer our own considered tips to look out for in 2011 (please don't hate us).

Apps and online

Expect big brands to go into digital marketing in a big way in 2011. Domino's pizza which last year started to compete with the bakery trade by offering subs sandwiches made £1m in sales through its app in the last three months of 2010. And that's just for iPhone (it's about to launch an app for Android phones).

Nearly a quarter of people under the age of 40 have an iPhone. November saw the first ordering app launched by an indie café in the Midlands. App development has been prohibitively expensive, but expect more low-cost app solutions in 2011, such as Blue Shoe for food outlets and the no-cost AppMakr.

While ordering may not be for everybody, there are other ways to engage your brand through social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. To put their influence into context, it took radio 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million; TV 13 years; internet four years; and Facebook just two years. The speed of change is incredible, which poses a marketing challenge and opportunity to anyone building a bakery brand. Those that have thus far avoided incorporating Foursquare and Twitter into their marketing of special offers and deals, need to think about doing so.

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Enzymes

You either love 'em or hate 'em. Nevertheless, they're widely used in bread baking. Work is being undertaken in the industry around lipases (enzymes) in cakes to modify the fats in the recipe; the modification of the fat means the fat then behaves as an emulsifier. This allows the removal of certain emulsifier E-numbers from the label, and has the added effect of improving the volume in cakes, says Charles Spiers of Campden BRI.

Of course, the backdrop to that is the possible threat the European Commission may eventually force enzymes to be declared on labels, if a clear link between enzymes and allergies can be made. The industry insists enzymes are deactivated during baking. The Real Bread Campaign wants them labelled. Expect more debate around the topic.

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Acrylamide

Rings a bell, doesn't it? A hornets' nest was kicked in the mid-Noughties when the carcinogen acrylamide was discovered in baked, roasted and fried cereal and potato foods cooked at temperatures over 120C. As a chemical, acrylamide is used to grout tunnels and dams. Yum. In food, it's formed in cereal and potato-based products, which are high in asparagine, as part of the Maillard reaction during baking or frying.

The issue has not gone away. Monitoring is continuing in lots of countries and there will be a lot more information gathered in 2011. There's no legislation yet. But acrylamide is already posing challenges in California, where all harmful substances, including acrylamide, have to be listed on foods sold. Meanwhile, Germany has been one of the most active countries in reducing acrylamide levels, prompted by action from consumer groups. EFSA will carry out an exposure assessment this year to help the European Commission determine whether or not voluntary measures taken by the food industry to reduce acrylamide levels have been successful.

Somewhat ironically, the dark crusty breads favoured by The Real Bread Campaign are likely to have higher levels. Doubly ironic, wholemeal has more asparagine than white flour. The solution? Irony squared, it's enzymes. Coming onto the market from the likes of DSM Food Specialities are enzymes that purportedly reduce acrylamide formation in baked goods.

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Omega 3

If we're talking retro-trend revivals, what about Omega 3? Omega 3-enriched breads have come and gone, but there is growing evidence around the dangers of low dietary intake. Britain's diet in particular is well below the recommended intake of EPA/DHA Omega fatty acids, which has implications for cognitive function.

"If you look at the threats to the health of the population of this country, the risk is actually not heart disease, it's going to be mental degenerative diseases, particularly in older people," says Dr Rob Winwood of Martek Biosciences. "There will be roughly three times the number of people in cognitive decline in just 20 years' time." A 2009 US study attributed 84,000 deaths a year directly to low EPA/DHA levels. That's as high as having high trans fats. Signs are that Europe is warming to Omega 3 health claims, so it's very much wait and see, especially as claims are now being made for veggie, GM-free, algae-derived bakeable DHA alternatives to traditional fish and ALA seed sources.

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Cake Pops

If you want to put your money on a product breaking through in 2011, it has got to be cake pops. A decorated cake on a stick, the specialist cake community has already adopted it into their ranges inspired by the creative possibilities. Already in trend barometers like Selfridges, they will be in Fortnum & Mason from February. A book from one of the leading exponents, London's Pop Bakery, is expected in March.

Last year's prediction of a boom in gourmet doughnuts failed to ignite but they are once again being tipped as a product to watch in premium bakery circles.

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Paul Ettinger, business development director, Caffè Nero

"The growth of the coffee shop market continued in 2010, despite my fears six months ago. There doesn't seem to have been much of a slowdown at all. Our prediction that [branded coffee shops] are a recession-proof business has been proven.

"Value for money is going to be a bigger and bigger issue in the coming year. It's not about cutting sizes or all those other tricks that might have been tried to maintain margins. We relaunched a panini using a proper Italian ciabatta with a 24-hour sourdough recipe, which shows we can get higher prices for a genuinely premium product."

"The VAT rise pales into insignificance next to the ingredient price rises we're faced with," adds Neville Moon, head of food and beverage. "The challenge is for the suppliers to supply more effectively, to buy on contract rather than spot-buying and to be efficient in the way they handle ingredients on-site and in products.

"This year, I'd definitely like to see suppliers not just holding their hands up and accepting increases on ingredients, but thinking a bit more outside the box, while making sure alternatives to ingre-dients are not lower quality, which doesn't wash when you look at the end result."

Richard Bertinet, baker, author, teacher and BBC Radio 4 food champion of the year

"There was a big revival for bread in 2010. The baker is rising again there are so many of them coming up now.

"For the small baker, the big challenge is still how to justify why their product is better than the plant bakery and why they have to charge a bit more for it. If you do not know anything about bread, why would you pay £5 for a 2kg loaf of sourdough when you could pay 47p for an 800g loaf? However, we need that product on the shelf because not everyone can afford expensive bread. There is space for both there's no point fighting, we need to come together to make it work.

"But bakers need to be truthful about what's in their bread. The small baker needs to make customers understand the value of basic good bread in 2011.

"Bakers are now like chefs in the 1980s, when a few rose to the top and it became fashionable. Becoming a baker is now fashionable. There are people raising the profile on TV. There is a huge demand and my bread classes are booked up until April; I can't believe it. People want to change their jobs and open bakeries."

Mike Holling, head of retail operations at 52-shop Birds of Derby and chairman of the NAMB

"I think it will take at least 12 weeks before we'll get a handle on how the year will progress it's going to be very challenging. Recovery is still fragile but you've got to be out there competing and keeping a positive mood. You've got to look for incremental revenue streams within your business for example, online services and buffet ordering, which Birds has introduced during 2010. This part of the year is very good for craft bakers we have Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Easter and Father's Day and we've got a royal wedding as well. Everybody should be looking to see what they can do for that event. I can already see the Royal wedding cupcakes!

"In every area of the business there are pressures fuel and commodity prices, legislation, VAT At present, we have held off on the VAT increase, but we will review this on a regular basis. The severe weather in the lead-up to Christmas caused major disruption to a lot of businesses, including Birds . I'm always concerned when I see the erosion of the high street, and downward results from the likes of HMV and Next are very concerning. What we require is a vibrant high street with a good customer footfall. If there's a crumb of comfort, it's the deregulation of bread weights for unwrapped bread. I would like to see a more common-sense approach by the coalition government to legislation like this in 2011."

Kim Brown, category manager for bakery, Sainsbury's

"I hope other retailers will provide training and development opportunities for the next generation of bakers. Last May, I was very proud to help launch Sainsbury's Bakery College near Wellingborough a first for the industry. Less than a year after opening, we are already seeing the benefits of the College. Customers are enjoying better products, and colleagues that have studied there have improved morale and retention rates."

Mark Fairweather, CEO, Allied Bakeries

"Consumption-led strategies, through our category understanding, drive the success of the business. At a time when families are taking better care of their pennies, we need to remind shoppers that the category provides good value, our products are wholesome, and are a good source of carbohydrates in a balanced diet."


Gordon Polson, director, Federation of Bakers

"This year I hope that the industry can encourage consumers to re-evaluate bread. For too long, myths have perpetuated about bread, especially in the media, and it's high time it was acknowledged as the healthy, affordable staple food that it is. We need to help people realise that all bread is good for you. Frequently we see bread accused of being 'fattening', 'high in calories' or 'guilty of causing food allergies'. This misleads people and encourages them away from a valuable carbo-hydrate, which is an important part of a healthy diet. We need to try and encourage people to get back to enjoying bread and all its nutritional benefits.
"Following the Food Standards Agency's nutrition remit being absorbed into the Department of Health (DoH), the Federation is looking forward to working with the DoH on its Responsibility Deal, which will be launched in February. Salt continues to be a key area of consideration and our members will continue to reduce salt in bread where feasible."


Alan Clarke, chief executive, Scottish Bakers

"The end of 2010 has brought a number of challenges to bakers in Scotland, notably the snow and the subsequent disruption to transport, making it difficult for suppliers and customers. But 2011 will bring many other challenges: production costs remain a worry, with the increases in flour, sugar and other ingredients; changes to employment legislation around pensions and the retirement age will increase staff costs; and, in the current economic climate, customers are seeking quality and value for money, which could simply be translated as price!
"In Scotland, in particular, bakers are under pressure to react to the changing needs of the marketplace and are having to deal with new routes to market. This presents many challenges to craft bakers who want to preserve the quality of their craft and products. Therefore it is essential that Scottish customers understand the real benefits of supporting their local bakers, to get the quality and value for money that they expect. This is a key objective for Scottish Bakers during 2011 to assist in providing the mechanism for this to happen."


Mark Sugden, market strategy and planning director, United Biscuits

"In 2008 consumer confidence was hit. It improved slightly, but what we're seeing coming through is the reality hitting consumers again. While there is unlikely to be a double-dip economic recession, from a social and personal perspective, people are worrying, especially with 600,000 people in the public sector losing their jobs in 2011. We're hugely conscious and aware that the consumers buying our products are going to be facing some tough times this year.
"Commodity prices affect us heavily, but it's not just commodities it's input costs as well, such as energy and transport. If you look at how much your consumer is spending, your average consumer makes sure that they're not going to get hit by the high inflation coming through. They change their behaviours as a whole. During the last period of high food and drink inflation, consumers made a choice to trade down. The good news for us is that that world has started to change. People are trading up in products. Premium-end snacking and healthier products are doing really well. Yes, a lot is on promotion (from a quarter to a third of all products in the last five years). But there are a lot of positive intents and behaviours coming through."


Big in 2011

lCommodity inflation
lVAT rise
lHigh unemployment
lAbolition of unwrapped bread weights
lRevisiting salt, calories and sat fatreformulation in the Department of Health
lBakery products offering one of your five-a-day, following signals from government that composite foods will be included
lA new alternative to the Chorleywood Bread Process (see next issue)


Cakes and snacking growth continues

The main trend currently evident within the market is that of the movement towards smaller cakes and cake bars.
Wrapped small cakes, in particular, now account for approaching 50% of all value sales, with their portability for consumption outside of the home and recent innovations helping the development of this market.
Unwrapped cakes are also proving popular with consumers, with a return to indulgence and added value helping in the rejuvenation of this market. Source: Mintel

l additional reporting by Georgi Gyton





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