November

Northern Foods’ major plant investment leads to job losses

Northern Foods has announced it is to plough £26.5 million into its Fox’s Biscuits brand in an investment that could see new automated technology replace hundreds of jobs.

In order to “ensure it has the most appropriate biscuit facilities to remain competitive”, Northern Foods will introduce automated technology at its Batley, Kirkam and Uttoexter sites, resulting in a reduction of approximately 220 employees. According to the firm these will be “mainly through voluntary redundancy”.

In a statement of its half year results, it said key investments over the next 18 months would include a new Creams line at Kirkham, new automation for its Melts line at Batley and a new wrapping system at Uttoxeter. However, it said its overall objective was to “transition” from three sites to two.

“Once this current investment is completed in the first quarter of our 2011/12 financial year, further phases of investment will be benchmarked against those investment opportunities available to Northern Foods at the time,” read the statement.

Like-for-like sales for the 26 weeks ended 26 September 2009 grew 2.9%, with strong growth in its Chilled and Bakery divisions. Total sales hit £466.9m (H1 2008/09: £468.6m).

Within Chilled, its sandwich sales were driven by the early summer weather, its new discount range for Tesco, and other customers plus additional sandwich volumes supplied into Marks & Spencer.

Divisional revenue within Bakery rose 3.9% with profits up 26.2% to £8.2m (H1 2008/09: £6.5m). A planned £2m spend on a marketing campaign for its Matthew Walker pudding brand will be launched ahead of the Christmas period.

High-carb low-fat diets could improve mood

A high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet could improve your psychological state, according to research recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal. The study also revealed no difference in weight loss when compared with a high fat, low carb diet, similar to the Atkins diet.

The study was carried out on 106 overweight and obese participants with the aim of investigating the long-term effect on psychological function of very low-carb diets, often used to promote weight loss.

The participant group had a mean age of 50 years old, and a mean body mass index (weight in kilograms divided by height in metres, squared) of 33.7.

They were randomly assigned to either an energy restricted (approximately 1,433-1,672 calorie), planned isocaloric, very low-carbohydrate, high fat diet (LC), or alternatively to a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet (LF), for one year. Changes in body weight, psychological mood and well-being and cognitive functioning were then analysed.

The results showed the overall mean weight loss was 13.7kg, with no significant difference apparent between the two groups. It also revealed that there were greater improvements in psychological mood states for people on the LF diet, compared to the LC diet. Working memory improved although speed of processing remained unchanged.

The study found that there were rapid improvements after both energy-restricted LC and LF diets in the first eight weeks of the year, with those on the LF diet achieving a better outcome overall.

However, the study concluded that: “there was no evidence that the dietary macronutrient composition of LC and LF diets affected cognitive functioning over the long term”.

To see the study click here.

Ainsleys forced to call in administrators

Craft bakery chain Ainsleys of Leeds has been forced to call in administrators after attempts to find a buyer for the struggling business failed.

The 29-shop family bakery firm employs 263 full and part-time staff, and approximately 30 temporary agency workers across its shops, the bakery in Sheepscar, Leeds and its van sales operation.

Joint administrator Joe McLean, a partner at Grant Thornton in Leeds, told British Baker that the business had been trading in difficult circumstances for some time with declining retail sales and increased competition in the marketplace.

He said that despite the efforts of the directors to change its offering and restructure to adapt to changing market conditions the company found itself unable to continue.

“It had been looking for interested parties over the last months to try and find a buyer,” said MacLean. “Ultimately the prospective purchasers who they were engaged with weren’t able to proceed, so they were left with no option but to call in the administrators (on Friday 6 November).”

In a statement released by Grant Thornton, McLean added: “The administrators intend to continue trading the business and will be making contact with those same parties and others in an effort to find a purchaser for all or part of the operation.”

General manager James Ainsley said that, along with the Ainsley family and company directors, he wished to acknowledge the support, hard work and loyalty of the staff over the years, “particularly through the recent challenging times”.

Established in 1938, Ainsleys produces a range of breads, cakes, sandwiches and savouries.

Wheat quality up but questions raised over supplies

The improved quality of harvested wheat crops this year could have implications for UK supply and demand balance with potentially less availability for millers, according to the HGCA’s latest cereals report.

In the final Cereal Quality Survey of 2009, the HGCA revealed that British wheat and barley crops have been better quality this year. However, this compares to a poor season in 2008. The results should also be placed in the context of large carryover stocks, of unclear quality, totalling around three million tonnes, according to the HGCA.

Michael Archer, HGCA senior cereals and oilseeds analyst explained: “Although quality has improved it must be remembered this is in comparison to a very poor season in 2008. Longer term averages suggest 2009 quality is only a little above normal.”

He told British Baker that the implications around supply and demand will mainly surround the availability of wheat and barley to millers, maltsters and exporters.

“There are a lot of questions on exactly what the impact will be, however we are potentially looking at a higher proportion of the crop meeting the quality requirements of millers, for example,” said Archer.

“However even though it is a higher quality crop, there is also less of it. How much millers will use will depend on how much of the new crop they can get their hands on, how much they stored from last year and also how much they import.”

The final results for wheat have shown a lower moisture content, higher Hagberg Falling Number, higher specific weight and higher protein compared to 2008. The barley results revealed a lower moisture content, higher nitrogen content and higher specific weight.

The survey was based on 61,000 samples of wheat and 30,000 samples of barley collected from laboratories around Great Britain.

Wheat quality up, but questions raised over supplies

The improved quality of harvested wheat crops this year could have implications for UK supply and demand balance, with potentially less availability for millers, according to the HGCA’s latest cereals report.

Ainsleys is forced to call in administrators

Ainsleys of Leeds has been forced to call in the administrators after attempts to find a buyer for the struggling business failed.

The 29-shop family bakery firm employs 263 full and part-time staff, and approximately 30 temporary agency workers, across its shops, the bakery in Sheepscar, Leeds, and its van sales operation.

In the BB archives

A Welsh correspondent has sent us a menu in which the dishes are described in Welsh. We have many good friends in the Principality, but they have to condescend to write in English when they communicate with us. Passing the City Temple the other day, we observed an announcement in strange characters, but fortunately, the purposes of the meeting to which it referred was distinct enough to convey that it was a gathering of Welshmen in London. An announcement in a language of which one does not know a single word is like being before a locked door, to which one does not and never can possess a key. Even in the ordinary affairs of life, as represented by a dinner menu, our ignorance is appalling. Just fancy if any hospitable Welshman offered you a little Aderyn Dof Hynod a Mangig Manochyn, you would not know whether to use a spoon or fork.

Mouthing off

"We didn't have any privileges. I remember living on baked beans, eggs and bread if it wasn't out of date"
Food waste shocker! Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Cole on growing up, but betraying a slavish adherence to use-by dates
"A complaint has been made to the police and we will be taking a look at CCTV footage of the incident before we can comment further"
Who ate all the pies? The football fans who broke into the catering booth and cleared the shelves at Burnley FC during last week's fixture with Manchester United. A police spokesman said an investigation was under way, but without apportioning blame, we thought Man U fans only ate prawn sandwiches...?
"Just Made (never from a factory). A fresh Pret sandwich doesn't need a 'use by' date. We make our food in every Pret kitchen using amazing ingredients. The best, natural stuff you'd want to use at home"
Pret A Manger's on-pack claim for its chicken sandwiches is hauled up by The Daily Mail for using frozen chicken imported 6,000 miles from Brazil and then processed
"The chocolate HobNob and custard cream of late night telly"
More controversial biscuit-related copy, as late-night political TV presenter Andrew Neil introduces co-hosts Diane Abbott and Michael Portillo with this ill-advised epithet
"We gained healthy eating status in 2006 and, as such, we ask you NOT to send in sweets or cakes to celebrate your child's birthday with their class. This will ensure equality of opportunity for all pupils"
Diane John, headteacher of Wood End Primary School in Harpenden, Herts, in a PC letter to parents

Suits you, sir

Not content with throwing televisions out of the window, rock stars are turning their destructive tendencies to bread, it would seem.
Speaking on last Thursday's Never Mind the Buzzcocks, musician and record producer-of-the-moment Calvin Harris described how, when working in a bakery when he was younger, he and colleagues used to hollow out loaves of bread at the end of the day and put them on their arms, legs and feet and wander about in something akin to a suit of bread body armour. Well, that's one way of ticking the 'health and safety' box.

Tiramisu titan

What is it with the glut of cakey world record attempts right now? Is it some kind of ironic comment on the Western obesity epidemic, or a reaction to greater government interference in the sweet treats we eat? The latest giant pudding, a Tiramisu, has officially been given the 'world's biggest' mantle by Guinness World Records (or so the BBC claims it wasn't on the Guinness website). The dessert, made at a food fair in Lyon, weighed 1,076kg, used 4,000 eggs, 300kg of mascarpone, 180kg of biscuits blah blah blah. Whatever happened to the phrase, less is more?

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