The dairy sector has seen prices of raw ingredients rocket alongside all the other commodities, and the café and bakery retailing sector is no stranger to this. But aside from cost, what issues do bakery retailers and cafés face when it comes to the dairy products they use? Is it important to them to use locally sourced and/or organic products, and do customers care?

Big-name branded café chains are increasingly going for organic milk to differentiate their offering. Formed in 1992, AMT Coffee, which currently has 45 outlets, decided to switch to using 100% organic milk in November 2005, partly on the back of its switch to 100% Fairtrade coffee, but mainly in response to comments via its customer feedback cards, asking why they weren’t doing organic milk. "We also noticed that using different milks was slowing down our speed of service," says Daniel Buckland, buyer for AMT.

Rise in costs

The move to organic has meant the price of the milk has gone up significantly, costing AMT approximately 20% more, but that hasn’t put it off. It was the first national coffee company to make the change to 100% organic milk, and now others are following in its footsteps. "Pret A Manger and Eat are now using organic milk as well," says Buckland. If big names like that are doing so, it won’t be long before the trend increases. AMT also likes to keep its sourcing local, and has been down to the farm in Bedford where most of its milk supply comes from.

The same is increasingly true of smaller operators, such as Bea’s of Bloomsbury in London, which sells artisan cakes and pastries as well as teas and coffees at its bakery café in Theobald’s Road. The business has a very strong environmental policy, sourcing locally as much as is feasible, and only sourcing from suppliers that use sea or road freight. Managing director, founder and head pastry chef Bea Vo says customers are becoming increasingly picky about the details, questioning whether milk used in products is organic. "A lot of people are asking about that now," she says. "My biggest concern is that all the dairy products are locally sourced from the UK."

This is highlighted in the company philosophy, which features prominently on its website, and states a desire to make a difference in the world. However, Vo says, it isn’t always easy keeping track of whether products are of local origin, which is why her dairy produce is supplied by Allan Reeder, a family-run dairy goods firm, which specialises in supplying the restaurant, hotel, bakery and catering trade within the M25 area. The milk used is mostly organic, although she explains they use organic milk in their bakery products, but not in their drinks as she finds it doesn’t foam up properly.

So, with this increasing interest in producing certified organic produce, does this signal a trend for organic milk? From July 1 this year, Arla Foods increased the payment to its organic co-operative members in Denmark and Sweden, in order to attract more organic producers. Arla is currently the world’s largest producer of organic milk and is intent on sourcing more. "We believe that interest in organic production will continue to grow both in Denmark and Sweden and abroad," explains CEO Peder Tuborgh.

Other businesses, such as Bettys Café Tea Rooms, which offers bakery treats across six locations in Yorkshire, serving an array of teas and coffees selected by its sister company, Taylors of Harrogate, alongside milkshakes and ice cream, says that while it offers organic, this doesn’t yet feature highly across its standard product range.

Some of Bettys’ products, - mainly breads, in which it uses organic cheese for example - have been certified organic by the Soil Association, but it doesn’t offer organic milk in its teas and coffees, says Rhoda Bowers, technical manager of Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate Group, as customers haven’t expressed a strong interest in it, or asked about the type of milk used.

As well as being less harmful to the environment, due to the lack of pesticide use, AMT believes organic milk is better for the cows and for us. Despite the fact that not all bakery and café retailers are jumping on the organic milk bandwagon, it is evident that some retailers are finding it can make a small differentiator on the menu.


=== Mariano Semino’s top tips on making a great cappuccino ===

Mariano Semino works at the Ca’puccino branch at Harrods, and has won the Italian championship in cappuccino-making.

l First it is important to make sure the steamer is cleaned properly, so that milk never curdles in it, which will spoil the cappuccino.

l The key to ensuring you are able to taste the milk and the coffee together in the cup is to keep a check on the milk’s temperature.

l Baristas must check the temperature by keeping a hand on the jug during the steaming process, to make sure the temperature doesn’t go over 72?C, as overheated milk instantly loses its protein and taste

l The milk must also be frothed up until it becomes creamy, as opposed to airy and thin. The core ability of the barista lies in allowing no air bubbles to form inside it, so that the milk doesn’t go flat within seconds.


=== Every little bit helps ===

With pressure on companies to reduce packaging and become more eco-friendly, what dairy products can you use in a café environment to make a small contribution to cutting packaging waste?

One dairy innovation, created in response to storage and environmental issues is a new type of single serve milk portion. Dairystix, based in Plymouth, Devon, claims to have manufactured the world’s first ’milk in a stick’ portion for the foodservice market. "They have been developed in response to a perceived need for an alternative to the old plastic jigger pots," says Andrew Gibb, marketing controller at Single Source, which co-owns Dairystix. Many single source products have evolved into single stick portions, and Dairystix has been developed in the same format, using milk from UK farms.

Gibb explains the product produces 50% less waste going to landfill than standard jigger pots, as well as saving on transportation space. "Standard jiggers fit about 120 to a box, whereas Dairystix can be packed about 200 to a box, so its a 40% saving on space," says Gibb.


=== Cravendale’s guide to creating latte art ===

The key to latte art is texturing your foamed milk, says Cravendale, which supplies filtered fresh milk.


l To texture the milk, once the foam has grown and the milk has reached about 40?C, lower the steam wand into position on the jug’s side before tilting the jug to a 40? angle. This causes a whirlpool effect, and will break down any bubbles, creating a thick, smooth foam.

l When the temperature of the milk reaches 60?C, turn off the steam. The temperature will then continue to rise to 65-70?C.

l Next, tap the base of the jug on the counter. This will burst any large surface bubbles.

l Then gently swirl the jug until the microfoam flows and appears thick and shiny, giving it a final swirl before each pour to stop the bubbles from sticking.

Creating a leaf

l Tilt the jug and pour the crema with a wide wiggle starting from the cup centre

l Draw towards yourself with smaller and smaller wiggles

l Pour away from yourself in a straight line, to turn the wiggly shape into a leaf.