A straw poll of exhibitors’ views at this year’s Food & Bake yielded a mixed response, ranging from the exasperated (“Realistically, I think this show is dead”) to the ecstatic (“It is the best show I’ve had in 20 years”).
With the number of exhibitors weighted towards equipment companies, some ingredients suppliers grumbled over the paucity of food stands on show, others thought that morning quality of attendance was ’fantastic’. Machinery suppliers meanwhile gleefully racked up the sales leads.
Although 70% of exhibitors have rebooked for 2008, according to the show’s organiser, a view commonly expressed was a feeling that the Food & Bake format needed refreshing.
Stephen Steadman, who heads up Escher Mixers in the UK, said his stand had received a great deal of interest. “It has been very much a purchasing show, where people have come to buy a machine and to do a deal,” he said.
But at the same time he believed the lack of “live theatre” and food exhibitors dissuaded many craft bakers from attending. “I would also question whether four days is the right length for a show of this size,” he added. “It needs a new identity and a new lease of life.”
The cost of exhibiting for smaller businesses had proved prohibitive for many companies, he thought. “The costs have spiralled over the last four to six years and it’s certainly not encouraging the smaller companies to exhibit either their products or their machinery,” he said.
On the other hand, Aga Foodservice, which brought its bakery equipment companies under one umbrella, had a “hugely successful” exhibition and “the best show I’ve had in 20 years”, said Mono’s sales director Martin Jones.
Another Aga company at the show was Williams Refrigeration, which supplies equipment to craft bakers, sandwich shops, supermarkets and foodservice outlets.
It said HACCP food safety regulations, introduced in January this year, have played a key factor in the development of its equipment launched at the show.
New products included a refrigerated air well with a blown air curtain for keeping ingredients fresh for longer.
Marketing manager Nicola Franklin said that energy efficiency was also playing an increasing role in bakers’ choice of equipment.
“Understanding energy conservation is much more focused in Europe than in some other markets, which is wonderful as we make highly efficient systems in terms of energy,” concurred Amanda Hick, marketing director of Auto-Bake, which designs and manufactures Serpentine baking systems in Australia and has been exporting to the UK for five years.
“Serpentine ovens are much more efficient than tunnel ovens, which are wasteful of heat,” she continued. “Bakers are facing a lot of cost pressures and they are looking for a sophisticated response to that, so we are reflecting true concerns in the market.”
Birmingham-based Auto-Bake says it has 20 installations in medium to large bakeries and is looking to install three to four large industrial lines a year.
Andy James, marketing manager for malt supplier Muntons, said it was promoting awareness of the uses of malt in breads and confectionery.
“It can add life and variety to bakery products,” he said. “It gives the consumer more choice and there are health benefits as well.”
Muntons supplies liquid malt extracts, which can be used in doughs as a flavour enhancer, malt flours, textured products such as kibbled malted wheat, whole malt flakes, as well as dried products for flavouring. “Breads with interesting bits seem to be gaining in popularity with consumers – we have those interesting bits,” said Mr James.
Commenting on this year’s Food & Bake, sales and marketing director Andrew Suett added that the quality of attendees to the show was good, but a dedicated ingredients and retail bakery products area was lacking.
“What we are missing in the UK is a general food industry exhibition whereby you get the ingredients and finished products together,” he said. “Big players like Nestlé won’t bother coming to Food & Bake at the moment because it is so specific to baking.”
Colin Hunter, MD of Harrogate-based ingredients supplier Food Design, similarly bemoaned the dwindling number of ingredients and baked product exhibitors at Food & Bake. “Realistically, I think this show is dead,” he said. “If you’re coming for equipment manufacturers then you’re not interested in us.”
Meanwhile, he revealed that a new £500,000 investment would see the company double capacity by September, up to 1,600 tonnes, with that rising to 3,000 tonnes next year as the company racks up 25-30% growth.
Australian firm Buderim Ginger echoed Food Design’s view. “Some of our biggest customers have no intention of turning up,” said general manager Paul Bialkowski. “Bakers are looking for inspiration and in previous years we would be approached by a lot of NPD people. But there are fewer ingredients companies here and I find that disappointing.”
The company has also introduced macadamia nuts into its range this year. “It’s a new ingredient for the baking industry – it has a crunchiness that other nuts don’t have, and could enable the baker to innovate.”
Community Foods was showcasing innovative products such as raisins in sour cherry, blueberry and raspberry flavours. “We’re here because we’re not very well known in the baking world,” said Paul Smith, a trader with the first-time exhibitor, which stocks a broad range of ingredients including fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and pulses – 40% of which are organic.
“If you make blueberry muffins and you don’t want to pay, for example, £8,000 per tonne for dried blueberries, you might include a mix of the blueberry-infused raisins, which we sell for between £2-3,000.”
HIGHLIGHTS FROM FOOD & DRINK EXPO
A number of finished bakery product manufacturers chose to exhibit at Food and Drink Expo instead of Food & Bake.
Among them was the family-run craft bakery Greenhalgh’s, which has 42 retail shops in the north west of England. Wholesale sales manager Gary Thew revealed that Greenhalgh’s was planning to open another three or four more shops over the coming year.
Its presence at Food & Drink aimed to increase wholesale turnover, meet potential customers and showcase its range of products, he said. “Food & Drink is much busier than Food & Bake, which we did six years ago, and was very quiet,” he said. “We exhibited at Food & Drink two years ago and it was very busy so we decided to do the same again this year.”
The firm has a growing national wholesale operation, export business and supplies the major retailers. Its new range of slices and thaw-and-serve Danish pastries were drawing big interest, added Mr Thew.
Two-year-old Pieminister has one Bristol shop and a stall in Borough Market, London, as well as selling nationally to delis, farm shops, pubs, and food halls such as Harvey Nichols. It won best savoury bakery product for its Porky Pie at the Food & Drink Expo Ideas to Dine For competition.
The winning pie used free-range pork, organic vegetables and Thatchers Cider from the West Country. “I think the judges liked the fact that we used all local, seasonal ingredients, and it tastes good,” said sales manager Chris Busk.
The company sells eight products in its core range plus seasonal specials. It now also offers mash, gravy and peas to complement the pies in its outlets and through its wholesale customers. Mr Busk said Pieminister plans to open more branded outlets in the future.
“We are not Mr Kippling – there is something different about our products,” said director Jeremy Woods of Stiletto Foods, whose main brand is Mrs Crimble’s.
There is a big market for tasty, wholesome products at an affordable price, he added. Its range of wheat-free and dairy-free biscuits, coconut macaroons, wheat-free and egg-free cakes, and products suitable for vegans are catching on, with 10 products launched last year, said Mr Woods.
The majority of its business is through farm shops, delicatessens, village shops and convenience outlets, though the brand is now being stocked by the major multiples, he said.
“We are product developers as well as a brand owner,” explained Mr Woods. “We are a relatively small operation but we’re growing very rapidly because we make good products, present them well and have a genuine point of difference.”
BARTON & WHITE ARTISAN BAKERS AND PATISSIERS
“We are building our customer base,” said Ken Sparks, sales manager. “We have found there to be a tremendous amount of interest in us, because we make unusual, speciality bread.”
The 18-month old Leicestershire-based bakery employs 10 people and supplies restaurant chains and large event organisers. All breads are delivered ambient, while its chilled cakes and desserts are also supplied frozen.
He added that the event had proved invaluable for exposing the fledgling firm to new areas of the marketplace. “We have found different parts of the market that we were either looking for or didn’t know existed, such as the various distribution systems that are available to us,” he said.
EDWARD MOON PROPER PIES
Another firm hoping to expand its distribution was Edward Moon Proper Pies. Andrew Berisford in sales and marketing said it would also be “marketing quite heavily” its pork pies, which won four Golds and three Silvers at the Prize Pies Challenge competition held at Foodex Meatex.
The company started in 1989 hand-making pies and supplies nationwide predominantly to pub and restaurant groups. “We have been successfully introduced to a number of wholesalers – the key thing is to establish distribution,” said Mr Berisford.