All eyes to Scotland and a few eyebrows raised northwards too at news that the country’s food and drink sector has been targeted to grow by a quarter by 2017, from £10bn to £12.5bn. Given the economic outlook, that’s a laudable degree of faith in its food producers, among whom bakers are the biggest in number.

What’s more, last week, the Scottish government pledged £500,000 to back a year-long series of events promoting Scotland as a land of food and drink. "The aim will be putting a better focus on the quality of the offering and to really get consumers more interested in what we’re eating," said Paul McLaughlin, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink.

Scotland is not short of food and drink organisations 167 at the last count but McLaughlin told the Scottish Bakers conference in Dunblane that the strategic body was seeking to work more collaboratively. "It’s about leveraging the resources that we have across those other organisations," he said. "Our membership has grown 70% in the last year, which is good, given the recession and other environmental conditions."

In fact, bakers are its biggest membership base. So how can bakers buy into the positive growth forecast? By a strategy of fostering three key consumer growth markets: sustainability, premium especially healthier-eating products, and marketing provenance. "I realise that may sound a bit corporate and you may think it does not apply to you," he said.

"But if you look at Paterson Arran as an example, you can see how it can impact a bakery. They’ve taken palm oil out of 60% of their products and are working to do more; from a premium point of view, they’ve developed the Café Brontë brand, which has grown fourfold in the last couple of years; they’ve got oat products, which have a positive effect on health and they’ve been working on reducing sat fats; and they’re converting to only using Scottish wheats. That shows that each part of the strategy is absolutely relevant to bakery."

Support activity

The organisation also offers access to workshops, meet the buyer events, IGD retail market data, dinners and events with trading directors from the major multiples. "We have very high success rates in turning initial interest from retailer and foodservice buyers into actual listings. Our bakery members are going to more of these events than anybody else," noted McLaughlin. "Bakery is our biggest sector, so if you feel we need to do more things that are relevant to you, come and talk to us."

Opportunity knocks

"We eat more bakery-type products now than we’ve ever done and there are fewer of us to produce it. Much of this product is not consumed in the home, but in pubs, restaurants and coffee shops. The market is changing quickly. Those people who are prepared to take the risk and back their instincts will survive and grow."
David Powell, former global innovations director, Rich Products

"We invested £2m in a fully automated gluten-free bread line and, in nine months, Genius bread has grown from nothing to be worth £7m. Our strategy is: always to be first to market. We looked at market gaps, saw them and took advantage."
Archy Cunningham, MD, United Central Bakery

"In Scotland we’ve got a tremendous history and reputation for ingredients, products and culture. This allows you to give your product a great story. We’re now selling in China, America, Germany, New Zealand and Australia, because Scotland is seen as a great food producer."
Lewis MacLean, MD, MacLean’s Highland Bakery

"Whoopie pies two mounds of cake stuck together with filling, such as mallow or buttercream, fresh cream or whipped frosting are tipped to be the next big thing. The key thing is they are meant to be fun."
Lisa Boswell, marketing manager artisan, CSM