Nick Harris

Managing director,BFP Wholesale

The New Year is the time to reflect on the last 12 months and look forward to the coming year. Who would have predicted that, despite all of the economic uncertainties, key bakery commodities such as fats, oils and sugar would remain as highly priced as they have done? Stocks of raw materials are at normal levels, if not slightly higher, and economic activity is slow, so surely prices should fall. Yet this was certainly not the case in 2011 and it is difficult to see any significant easing. Many commentators warned in 2007/8 that high food prices were here to stay and it certainly seems to be that way for the first part of 2012 and possibly beyond.

In addition to increased raw material prices, high street and retail bakeries are suffering from a significant reduction in footfall passing their units. For some, this appears to be a challenge too far, while others are constantly looking at their offering and how this is being presented to their customers, attracting a higher proportion of those passing their doors into their shop.

In times of slow economic growth, people often revert to "comfort food" and what better than a tasty freshly baked cupcake, doughnut, muffin, chocolate cake or bread offered with a freshly made hot beverage of choice? And where better to enjoy these products than the local store that makes them fresh every day, be that your bakery, coffee shop or cupcake outlet?

This year sees two exciting events the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee. Both will offer opportunities to local businesses that react to the demand they create. The independent sector is ideally placed to benefit from this demand and I wish everyone in the baking industry a successful and prosperous New Year.