When I came into the baking industry in 1959, one of the things that struck me immediately was the great friendliness, camaraderie and willingness to help one another in this industry.
We all readily recognise the significance and importance of investing in new equipment, new product development and a new range of products to boost sales or keep up with current market trends, or in the recruitment of additional staff and the training of personnel. But do we ever stop to think about the importance of investing time and money in the ongoing activities of our trade associations?
Whether you are an allied trader, a craft baker or an industrial baker, it must be reassuring that you are not alone out there in the jungle of legislation and regulation, as a trade association is working hard on your behalf. But as well as your membership, they need your input.
Like so many trade associations, it is the technical committee that has so much to do - bringing technical and legislative issues to the attention of members and fighting the association’s cause wherever necessary. Nowadays, in a commercial world that is tightly and increasingly regulated, that technical expertise is so important.
There appears to be a never- ending list of technical and legislative matters coming out of Europe, such as GM and novel foods, traceability, dust and allergens, food additives and food enzymes, trans fats, acrylamide - which is always just under the surface - nutrition and health claims and labelling.
These issues are no different to those affecting other national and European associations, most of which have technical committees dealing with them in-depth. But why do we have so many individual organisations, all requiring fees to run them and members’ key personnel to attend them?
Isn’t it time that we were able to come closer together - for example in an enlarged and stronger United Kingdom Baking Industry Consultative Committee (UKBICC) - to deal with all the technical issues of our industry and have one much larger organisation within the UK and Europe representing all sides of baking? And eventually, perhaps, have another on a global scale?
One key topic is how to promote the positive image of eating bread, an important product of our industry that is all-too-often maligned by the media whenever there is nothing major on the national or world political scene. The International Union of Bakers and Bakers-Confectioners (UIB) has a World Day of Bread on 16 October each year. In the UK, we are not involved in this and many would say that a single day is not much good in our marketplace, where some com- panies already have their own week promoting bread. Countries such as Sweden and France also have their own bread promotion activities. But why not a world bread promotion?
In April this year, in the Kremlin Palace, Moscow, a World Bread Forum, put together by Yuri Katsnelson and the Russian Guild of Bakers and Confectioners was actively supported by a grouping of Federations, including FEDIMA and UIB. This is a good example of one small trade association working together with others on a European, indeed global, basis for the benefit of the wider industry.
How can we, as an industry, work closer as trade associations or form larger groupings to get the benefit of each others’ technical and legal brains? Economy of scale? Strength in numbers? Lou-der voices? There must be some real benefits to be drawn from closer co-operation. After all, we are all in this together. n
l John Gillespie was speaking at the BSB Spring Conference