Here British Baker looks at the work of Scotland Food & Drink and the top tips of Tom O’Toole.

SFDF: the Scottish food success story

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, also spoke at the Scottish Bakers conference and outlined the work being done to promote the country’s products abroad.

He said he wanted bakery to understand the “important role” it was playing in the Scottish food and drink story.

Withers said the organisation had set a new target for food and drink sales in Scotland – after hitting a previous one six years earlier. The SFDF now aims to have a turnover of £16.5bn by 2017 and bakery was worth £1.1bn of that total.

Outlining the seriousness with which Scotland sees its food success he said the country had a “food story” that could rival any in the world.

Tom O’Toole: raising the bar

Australian baker Tom O’Toole was the keynote speaker at the Scottish Bakers conference and told delegates how he had expanded his rural bakery chain during his career.

O’Toole had some top tips, which included:

  • Set goals
  • Write things down (O’Toole said he never achieved anything until he wrote down his goals)
  • Work has got to be fun (his staff are regularly challenged to bring in new ideas)
  • If you wouldn’t buy it, don’t sell it
  • Keep it simple

O’Toole told delegates: “I’m only a simple baker.” But of course he then proceeded to tell everyone in a really humorous, and effective way how he was anything but simple. For reference, O’Toole has one bakery unit that takes AU$3m a year.

And the winner is…

Craft bakery and family-owned business Ashers of Nairn was named the Scottish Baker of the Year 2014.

“We are extremely pleased to be recognised as Scotland’s best baker,” said joint managing director George Asher.

“The company is one of the leading retail bakers in the north of Scotland and we are proud to be a long-established family concern, we take our business very seriously. We use traditional methods and craftsmen’s skills and the brand is steeped in valuable heritage. But we could not have come this far in the competition without our dedicated and skilled team and without the votes of all of our customers. Thank you.”

New president: John Gall

Speaking at his installation, the new president of Scottish Bakers John Gall, managing director of Brownings the Bakers, who replaced Gordon McGhee, said: "I would like to thank Gordon for his valedictory address and I know he will be a tough act to follow.  With his leadership and working relationship with the Board, Alan & the team at Bakers House, the Association has gone from strength to strength."

He added that during the next two years the Association would engage in a number of activities including:

  • The development of the James Allan Bakery Academy
  • Building on it strategic relationships with government and other key stakeholders in Scotland to raise issues on behalf of our members.
  • Establish a number of Special Interest Groups including the Scottish Bakers Export Group, The Edinburgh Bakers Group and the Past Presidents Forum.
  • Continue to run the World Championship Scotch pie Competition and the Scottish Baker of the Year Awards and further develop our communications including our Scottish Baker newsletter, website and social media.
  • Ensure that our membership fees provide real value for money and will continue to build on our range of services including Scottish Baker Utilities, our Employment Law & Health & Safety Advice helpline and fuel card etc.