Despite the economic downturn, there has been an increase in the number of bakery manufacture businesses, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

A total of 1,915 businesses registered as producers of bread, fresh pastry and cakes in March 2009, compared to 1,815 the previous year. Out of those, 85 (4.4%) turned over more than £5m, while 610 saw sales of between £100,000 and £249,000.

Meanwhile, the statistics released on September 30 show that there was a net loss of 215 bakery retail businesses over the year to March 2009, with smaller businesses hardest hit. There were 3,140 VAT-registered bakery retail businesses in March 2009, compared to 3,355 in March 2008, amounting to a 6.4% drop in the number of retail bakery businesses last year.

Some 405 of the businesses registering as bakery retailers were less than two years old while 50% or 1,575 were more than 10 years old.

The businesses generally fell into the £100,000 and £249,000 turnover bracket, with 1,210 (38.5%) having a turnover in that range. Only 30 had a turnover of over £5m.

The majority of the businesses, some 1,710 or 54.4%, employed fewer than five people. Eighty of the 3,140 (or 2.5%) registered employed more than 50 people.

Scottish Association of Master Bakers chief executive Kirk Hunter commented: "There is a degree of rationalisation and consolidation going on during these difficult economic times. Planning law on out-of-town developments is certainly undermining high street bakers, although we hope there will be a change of government policy."

Difficulty in passing the family business on to the next generation was also a factor, he added.

The data is based on firms that turn over more than £68,000, which must register for VAT.