Last week saw the Federation of Bakers’ annual conference and, once again, it proved to be poignant and thought-provoking (see pg 8). John Cridland from the CBI set the scene with an open and honest report on the recession, predicting that recovery will not start until the spring of 2010, but will be sluggish, with economic growth expected to be at around 0.1% for next year. That said, the food industry is worth £74bn and employs around 400,000, making it the biggest manufacturing sector in the UK - a statistic we should all be proud of.

Scott Clarke, category director from Tesco, provided valuable insight into the retail sector and confirmed commitment to the bakery sector and its importance in delighting customers through range and choice at fixture. He also called for plant bakers to do more to persuade consumers to eat more bread products, as they represent great value for money.

The challenge of the recession was not the only key theme at the conference. Dr Susan Jebb gave a considered report on the diet and health agenda, and how bread manufacturers have a role to play. She urged members to look at reducing calorie content in manufactured products and made a plea for portion control to tackle rising obesity in the UK.

A lively panel session called for celebrity chefs to take more responsibility for promoting healthy diets as well as tackling salt targets in bread production. There was recognition for the progress already made and a debate as to whether more functional products could be introduced by the industry.