Jo Fairley is co-owner of Judges organic bakery and grocery in Hastings and co-founded Green & Black’s chocolate firm with hubby Craig Sams

As yet, not that much bread is sold over the internet - although Ocado was recently so successful with the launch of fresh bread that, within weeks, it was trumpeting that it had doubled the size of the range.

But what we have found at Judges Bakery - even though we don’t mail-order our bread - is that an internet presence is crucial. Today, it is a vital ’shop window’ for bakeries - especially as so many ’bread-heads’ spend time on the internet, trawling for information about ’real bread’, or ’slow bread’. Both searches have brought bread-lovers to our doors from far away, and the same is almost certainly true for other artisan bakeries up and down the country.

Plus, having an e-mail database is the quickest way - and far more targeted than any form of advertising - to update your customers with news about products. It’s also useful for rallying the troops! We’ve used the internet to encourage our customers, both close and further afield, to vote for us in various competitions, as well as to draw them to the store for promotions etc.

Winning any kind of contest gives the possibility of a real PR boost for a bakery - and with smaller bakeries fighting the might of the multiple retailers, who have squillions to throw at ad campaigns, every little triumph is worth trumpeting.

Having a website, for instance, enabled our little bakery to scoop the coveted ’Sweetest Thing’ accolade for ’Best Bite’, awarded by [] - which, for those of you who don’t know, is a website that gives the lowdown on all that’s hip ’n’ happening, e-mailed to subscribers in daily, bite-sized nuggets.

Subscribers to the website were invited to vote for their favourites. Judges Bakery’s organic pink meringue pigs were pictured alongside a rave about our bread, with a link to our website. Without a web presence, we wouldn’t have been listed. When we were shortlisted for the award, we e-mailed everyone we could think of to get them to support us. They did their bit, and we duly walked off with an (appropriately pink) rosette, for first place.

Even if you’re not using the web for that sort of campaign, more and more it’s how customers find out about products. It’s sad but true that we now probably spend far more time each day surfing the internet, rather than mosey-ing down our local high street and ’window-shopping’ there. What’s more, it’s not a trend that’s likely to reverse any time soon - if ever.

So... are your loaves visible in cyberspace, where you can tell their story? In 2009, they need to be. Or just sit back and watch Ocado grab those sales.