High wastage levels have been reported at some plant bakeries, due to the new UK wheat harvest.
The Home Grown Cereals Authority said last week that hagberg falling numbers (starch integrity) and protein content on the new harvest was poor, and now plant bakers have reported problem loaves, particularly with wholemeal and additive-free breads.
Industry sources say that some plant bakers are seeing wastage levels from 5% to over 20%.
British Bakeries milling and baking technical director Paul Molyneux said: "There has been increased waste in our bakeries due to this very troublesome crop." Joe Street, MD of Banbury’s Fine Lady Bakeries added: "This crop is more difficult than any other I have experienced. It is hard to keep loaf shape, and problems show up particularly in bread with incorporations."
Cheshire’s Roberts Bakery technical manager Alison Ordonez said there were widespread problems, particularly among plant bakers that relied on Group 1 English wheat. She said: "We have had to review formulations as we switch to the new flour. It’s not the protein level that is a problem, the dough lacks body and there is little oven spring."
Improver manufacturers say they are visiting customers to find a solution. Paul Morrow, MD of British Bakels commented: "Our technical staff have been working flat out, to overcome the problem of collapsing loaves, causing them an average of 5% wastage. Bakers are experiencing side-walling of bread made with the new flour [sides are concave]. We may yet see this with rolls [dough blisters]."
Derek Kemp, head of the bread focus division at supplier BakeMark UK commented: "Our technical staff are all visiting clients to help sort out the problems, which mainly lie with brown and wholemeal bread. We are looking at reformulating our improver."
Sara Autton, technical specialist at ingredients distributor Fermex, said the firm was reviewing its improver formulation. Bakers may also have to change processes.
Wheat specification was also likely to be a challenge on products that require strong cake flours, such as for Christmas cakes, croissants and crackers, she said.
Gary Sharkey, head of wheat procurement at miller Rank Hovis said quality issues with wheat grown in the UK meant most millers were sourcing from abroad. "Importing wheat is also favourable because it is almost the same price as UK wheat. This year’s wheat seems worse compared to 2006’s near vintage harvest."
Paul Matthews, joint-MD of miller FWP Matthews, said: "The quality of the English wheat in our area, the Cotswolds, is poor. We’ve had to import wheat from Canada to blend with English wheat. For bakers, the transitional period will be troublesome."