Time-saving devices

Brand new at the Iba show in Düsseldorf was a working prototype of the new industrial König automatic divider-rounder.
Developed from the Industrie Rex III, the new model known as the Industrie Rex Hyper, came about after extensive customer surveys throughout Europe. Stewart Morris, director of UK supplier EPP told British Baker: "We studied all the ideas from the surveys and came up with key improvements. Customers wanted more and more time-saving, increased productivity and they wanted machines that were easy to clean to the very highest hygiene levels.
"As a result the new divider-rounder can be dis-assembled (it's normally fixed) for full cleaning in 15 minutes. It can then be jet-washed. This makes it a revolutionary step forward in roll plant design."
Central components of the machine have been combined to produce changeable sub-systems, which can be easily cleaned and serviced at the end of a shift, saving downtime. On the dough side, pressure is simple to adjust for different products and can be recalled via the linkage programme.
König also unveiled an all-purpose final prover. Based on a proven racking and storing system, it allows the individual proving plates to be stored for a specified time, giving maximum flexibility with different products. The system meets the latest hygiene requirements and offers a large proving area but only takes up a small amount of space.

Hovis, health and hitting the headlines

Jon Goldstone, you terrible tease! A long, involved chat with the brand boss, sat in Hovis HQ in Windsor arranged to find out the secrets behind the bread's recent runaway success gave no hint of the epoch-shifting announcement he would make a week later (a day after BB went to press): from January 2010, Hovis would be using 100% British wheat across its entire range.
We caught up with Goldstone on his hands-free kit. "You kept that one quiet!" we exclaimed. "We were going to launch it in December, but we thought now would be a good time" he explains, hinting at an intriguing PR cat-and-mouse game, played out behind the scenes. Hovis was gearing up to announce the news next month, but caught wind that rival Warburtons was about to launch two all-British loaves using UK wheat. The Bolton baker played its card and Hovis' PRs sprung into action to deftly grab the headlines by announcing its full-range UK wheat switch.
"I'm glad it's hit the headlines, because it is a big commitment for us to make. Every single product that has the name Hovis on it will be using 100% British wheat," he says, when asked about stealing Warburtons' thunder. "I think it is one of the most exciting and powerful things that we could have done as a brand."
Undoubtedly. Plant bakers have always blended lower-protein UK wheat with Canadian wheat wheat that could not previously be grown in our dismal climate. But, for five years, Hovis has been trialling a red wheat to match Canadian wheat quality in the UK. This equates to £18m of wheat that will now be bought from the 600 farmers already signed up. What's more, there will be no change to the price of Hovis, despite the higher costs involved. How is that possible?
"There is an on-cost," admits Goldstone. "We've made a commitment not to increase our retail prices next year."
The move marks the culmination of a great year and a return to form for a brand that was in dire straits a year ago. From mid-2006 to October 2008, Hovis was in a worrying decline; Premier Foods was in the process of buying RHM, including Hovis a period during which brand investment slipped. Quality fell and marketing tailed off. At the same time, Warburtons' rise appeared unstoppable.
Hovis was relaunched in September 2008 with new recipes and packaging, updating its pack styling with a nod to its heritage and an award-winning TV and cinema ad campaign. "All of that, together with significant improvements in our relations with the grocery trade, drove a real step-up in volume," says Goldstone. The company has now restored its market share to 2006 levels, around 28%, with a volume growth of 16.4% year on year in a market that declined 2% (October 4, IRI).

Bolt on business

Laura Bolt is on something of a learning curve. Having previously worked as a business writer in Nottingham, before freelancing while living in Switzerland last year, she came to the realisation that her passions lay elsewhere. After much research, she enrolled on a three-month course at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, run by Darina Allan, whom Bolt describes as the Delia Smith of the Irish cookery world, and a 'real food' champion.
"The course was fantastic as it gave me the chance to meet lots of artisan producers and get involved in events such as farmers' markets, which was really inspirational," she explains. "I then set myself a 12-month target to find out how I wanted to work with food. Making my own products and selling them on the market was one of the things on my hit list to try and that seems to be what has taken off."
She set herself up as a caterer in July this year, producing a range of foods, and currently has a stall at the Local to Ludlow market every second Thursday of the month, where she sells solely baked goods, as a way of building her profile. She currently works from her home kitchen and has so far relied on roping in friends and family to help prepare and serve food at events she's catered for. "This is something that will obviously change when the business grows," she says. "It's my hope that event catering will eventually become the main income for the business."
However, her initial aim was simply to create something that, hopefully, people would want to buy. "Although I've done far fewer catering events than farmers' markets, private catering looks to be where the turnover is going to come from in the future." Her next move will be to concentrate on additional promotion of her business, as well as looking at the feasibility and cost of a commercial premises. Bolt says it's early days to know what she'd do differently if setting up her business all over again, but she believes she should have had more confidence in herself and what she was capable of achieving.

High noon for the high street

A stroll down the high street can be a gloomy experience at the moment, with shutters down and 'To Let' signs up. And the list of victims of the recession continues to grow. First Quench put 1,200 Threshers and Wine Rack outlets into administration in October. And baker Ainsleys of Leeds also called in the administrators, leaving further potential holes on the high street.
But all is not what it seems. If you are a high street baker without too much debt, the 'To Let' sign may as well read 'Cut Price Sale'.
A new report from research company Colliers CRE, Shop Vacancies: Filling the Void, gives an optimistic prognosis on the high street, suggesting that its long-term decline may be arrested. Firstly, with supply of units outstripping demand, companies with expansion on the agenda hold all the cards. Rents are down. Colliers has found that average prime rents in Britain fell from £130 per square foot in June 2008 to £115 per square foot in June 2009. That is the biggest decline in the 22 years in which it has been monitoring retail rents and the first fall in 15 years. All regions of Britain saw a decline in rent, it says, with the north east and Yorkshire and the Humber worst-affected.
The report also says that rental values in Britain may not return to the highs of last year until 2015. The basis for that prognosis is that, after the last downturn in the early 1990s, it took seven years for rents to recover.
"The challenging times have provided the opportunity for retailers with a strong customer base and successful business plan to capitalise on their competitors' downfall and expand their market share," said the report. "For acquisitive retailers, now is a good time to expand as the balance of power has shifted away from landlords when it comes to negotiations on leases and rents."
Colliers' report points to a second factor that indicates now is the time to bag your bargain. As the economy went into recession, numerous shopping centre developments were shelved or delayed. Once the economy has recovered, there will be a shortage of new locations available.
This may all be a shot in the arm for the high street, with competition for good-quality retail stock becoming more intense and void units being taken over. Small and badly configured units in tertiary locations are likely to remain difficult to let, however.
The Greggs chain provides an example of how a well-funded business can cherry-pick the best sites with the economy in the doldrums. It is looking at buying 120 top First Quench shops and around 10 of Ainsleys' 32 shops from their respective administrators. "When companies go into administration, we are quick to make contact. We've looked at many companies and have put extra people into our property team to do this," Greggs' chief executive Ken McMeikan told British Baker.

Burford aims to add value

Burford Corporation's stand at Iba was manned by Terry O'Donahue, who numbers Lantmännen Unibake, Allied and British Bakeries among customers, together with Braces and Nicholas & Harris. On the packaging side, O'Donahue was showing the latest range of bag-closing single wire machines and tamper-evident tape closure machines. For the baking process he told British Baker: "We supply machines that add value to products namely depositors for dry toppings such as seeds and grains on breads and buns. We also supply the latest glazing equipment and water splitters as well as dusters and pan-shakers."
Topical for the spring season, the company also specialises in machines for putting the 'X' on hot cross buns.

Comas unveils pie line

Comas showed the latest compact Tartomatic 1000 pie line at Iba. As well as a small footprint, this machine for making traditional pies and tarts can be fitted with additional tooling to make quiches, cheesecake and Scotch pies.
The fully automatic Tartomatic, which measures just over 1m2 produces up to 3,000 pieces an hour depending on product size which varies from 75mm to 300mm in diameter.
The company also showed a new conveyor, the LT 600, made of heavy-duty stainless steel plate. In addition, Comas displayed a co-extruder with conveyor, gauging system, and guillotine for the production of filled smooth mix cookies with two or three flavours.

Space-age technology

Macadams Baking Systems has introduced an "advanced space-age insulating material, created for the space shuttle when it re-enters the earth's atmosphere" to its latest range of ovens.
Called LDB Powersaver, test results, revealed at this year's Iba exhibition, show a single rack oven fitted with the material gives a 20kw per hour saving across an eight-hour baking day.
Other benefits are said to include: quicker oven recovery times after placing products in the baking chamber; improved steam generator recovery times; quicker heat recovery between baking cycles; greater overnight heat retention; and more fuel-efficient products with a reduced carbon emission footprint.

J2 develops EPoS first

J2 Retail Systems, a manufacturer of PC-based touchscreen tills, has launched the first EPoS system to contain Solid State Drives (SSD) Storage as standard.
Its new J2 615 integrated touchscreen computer was designed by the company's in-house research and development team, and uses the new Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor and Intel chipset, which delivers faster performance and increased reliability, according to the firm.
"An SSD works just like a hard disk drive," explained Norm Campbell, J2 Retail Systems' chief technology officer and creator of the J2 615. "Its big advantages are reliability, as there are no moving parts to wear out, and its speed of reading from and writing to disk."
J2 supplies EPoS tills to a number of bakery businesses, including Greggs, Bakers Oven, Simmons, Greenhalgh's, Neil Martin and Thomas of York.

Double D goes hands-free

Double D Food Engineering has developed a solid band continuous oven, which, when integrated with parent company JBT FoodTech's range of Frigoscandia freezers and coolers, allows the entire depositing, baking, cooling and packaging process to take place without any contact from human hands.
The solid stainless steel continuous band can be built to any width, and product can be deposited directly on to the belt. It can be used for a wide range of bakery products, and its different zones can be independently controlled, so that the right amount of heat is delivered for baking.
"The technology is the same as in our Revoband Continuous Cooker for food processing, in that it features fully adjustable zones with both top and bottom impingement," explained Ian Burns, Double D's food processing development engineer. "This allows products to be baked to exact specifications, while giving excellent consistency and appearance."
He added: "The solid band also gives outstanding sole penetration when required, enhancing the quality of the finished product."

A winning combination!

By Max Jenvey of Oxxygen Marketing Partnership, a strategic management agency that focuses on business and brand development within the bakery foodservice and convenience sectors.
During my time with McDonald's, the staff were famous for asking that iconic question: "Do you want fries with that?" So very simple and yet so totally profitable. With the introduction of that phrase sales increased dramatically, as on average between 40-60% of customers said 'yes'. While this was in the early days before combo deals, it clearly demonstrates two key sales strategies suggestive selling and combining associated items.
With their Food-to-Go Report 2009, our colleagues at him! confirm that 49% almost half of customers do not remember the exact price they have paid for their sausage roll, sandwich or burger as soon as they leave a food outlet. Furthermore, a staggering 80% don't even have a specific budget in mind when they come in. So, every other customer could end up spending more in your bakery or café if you encourage them to do so with suggestive selling.
Independent businesses need to translate the opportunities demonstrated by the high street chains into their operations. Three elements are key: your products, your promotion and, most importantly, how you train your staff.
Bakeries and cafés can easily combine sweet pastries and hot beverages. The killer question for customers purchasing a coffee is: "Would you like something to dunk with that?" and point at a selection of doughnuts, muffins and cookies which are strategically merchandised near the counter. Up-selling is great, but making it specific and giving the customer the perfect solution is the easiest way to increase your sales.
Regular staff training is a critical success factor to support them in breaking out of their regular sales routine. For starters, set aside regular times during the week or month where you focus on building your business. Incentivise them on top of their salary. Agree shift targets, measurements and even a little competition: the person who increases their sales for the day, week or month wins a shopping voucher. Remember, make it specific, realistic and measurable and, most importantly, fun.
We recently launched a sales incentive campaign with a national convenience store, focusing on coffee. It's early days, but since the launch three weeks ago, we've seen sales increases of 150% year-on-year.
Why not try this out as an experiment and let us know how it worked for you we really want to know. You can contact us on:

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