In these days of economic uncertainty, fuelled by the credit crunch, falling equity markets and commodity market speculation, it is increasingly important that we all (suppliers, wholesalers, and bakers) work together throughout the supply chain and focus on the consumer.
"Always remember that you are manufacturers without machines, working for retailers without shops." These words, from former chairman of Marks & Spencer Sir Marcus Sieff, still resonate in my ears, although to be honest, as a young management trainee at M&S, I really didn’t get it.
However, 25 years later, that phrase reflects the way in which our industry needs to work together to meet the sometimes conflicting challenges of consumer demands and the spectre of rampant food and fuel inflation. It is incumbent upon us all to respond to cost pressures in this turbulent market, to continue to innovate to deliver what the shoppers want, to develop our people to ensure the skills remain fresh and our people enthused.
Consumers tell us they want local, quality and fresh - and the craft sector is perfectly placed to satisfy this. Bakers often proudly boast to me that nothing in their shops is older than 12 hours - yet how often do we communicate this to consumers? Yet the freshest, highest-quality and most innovative products are no good if we don’t tell our shoppers.
The retail end of our businesses is where the money is really taken. As a wholesaler we are as dependent upon this single point as our suppliers - so maybe Marcus Sieff was right after all!