Winner: Colin Lomax

Rank Hovis

This year’s winner of the British Baker Special Award for Services to the Industry is known to many because he has given time, talents and support to every sector of bakery. Colin Lomax of Rank Hovis is renowned for encouraging students, helping craft, plant and in-store bakers, giving demonstrations and giving up his own time to develop and inform others.

Even when he relaxes, he is seemingly ’on duty’. Last year he and his wife Carol celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary with a special holiday in Turkey. While browsing in a baker’s shop, as one does, he saw a maize loaf. So on his return, he developed a mix for the bread. He says enthusiastically: "The loaf cuts well, eats well and will be launched in Morrisons shortly!"

That same sort of interest and passion was present right at the start of his career too. Colin was ribbed at school for choosing cookery over woodwork. He left school at 15 and went to work for one of the best bakeries in the north west Greenhalgh’s. Here, as a trainee baker and confectioner, he says that owner Alan Smart and others taught him to do things right first time.

After four years, he moved to Hampsons Bakery, then owned by Warburtons, in the days when it had retail shops. During the next four years, he ran the bakery, savouries and confectionery departments, while continuing his studies at Bolton Tech. He gained six bakery qualifications, including City and Guilds and a full technology certificate, including microbiology, cake decoration, art and design.

In 1974, Colin joined Rank Hovis. He began as a technical representative in the north west and then Scotland. He also moved into plant bakeries, as well as craft. From 1976-78, he was involved in making bread for the Hovis TV advertisements, while also working on improving products and developing recipes.

"I was learning all the time going to good bakeries, meeting great people," says Colin. He remembers visits to "wonderful bakers such as Ainsleys of Leeds and Woodheads of Scarborough, among others".

Increasingly, Colin was called on to judge bakery competitions and Hovis ran its own until 1990. Then they stopped. But nine years ago, he reintroduced them for students and his efforts were worth it. He says: "For 2009, with the help of some excellent college tutors, we received a record 400 Hovis and Granary entries at the annual bakery students conference in Torquay!"

Colin’s cajoling, his enthusiasm for his craft and a strong desire to impart his knowledge to the next generation played a major part. And he will always make time to give advice and make suggestions.

His vast knowledge, combined with his gift for public speaking and a sharp sense of humour, have contributed to many invitations that have come his way. But Colin sees serving the industry in this way as a privilege. He has been chairman of the British Society of Baking, president of the National Federation of Bakery Students, he sits on the committee of bursary-awarding Baking Excellence and started the Hovis Scholarship six years ago to fund learning nurturing some brilliant students along the way.

Colin, who is from Bolton, but now lives in Andover, Hants, also serves on the committee, setting up the new National Skills Academy for Bakery, which is developing a skills course for the future of baking.

As technical sales manager, Colin gives many demonstrations to supermarkets and companies and runs hands-on workshops for those who need to learn the basics of how to make a good loaf even though they may be accountants or company directors in a bakery environment. Last year, he was invited to give a keynote talk to the Worshipful Co of Bakers. But he can just as easily be found addressing Women’s Institute meetings around the country.

He is most renowned for his nationwide responsibility for troubleshooting, improving production and process control and this has made him an excellent judge. He has presided over competitions for the National Association of Master Bakers, the prestigious Richemont Club and many others. He was also chosen to do the craft baking training module for online training programme the Bakery School.

Soon, Colin will be back on TV, talking about bread in a new programme for the BBC. He says: "I have a passion for Rank Hovis and our products and am really proud of our industry. There are some superb bakers around and this industry offers great opportunities for those with skills. We must get that feeling of pride across to bakers of the future."

And there is no-one more inspirational than Colin Lomax. When interviewed for this award under the guise of an article on NPD it was hard to overcome his modesty. But Colin is funny, entertaining and hugely knowledgeable. And a very worthy winner of the British Baker Award for Special Achievement and services to the industry.

Sylvia Macdonald