It has been a very busy week in the industry: Warburton’s opening a new bakery, and the continuing situation at Harvestime; Greggs’ results; the Competition Commission Review; Sonneveld breaking into the improvers market.
I suspect that those of you who bump into colleagues at Food & Bake this week, March 19-22, or at the BSB conference this Monday and Tuesday morning, will have plenty to talk about.
I hope, too, that many of you who are craft bakers will note that, this week, we preview The Craft Bakery Award. Sponsored by Rank Hovis, it is a marvellous category in which to become a finalist. The sponsor is on the look-out for new entrants and first-timers as well as those who have not won before, so if you are a good craft baker, please do enter.
But what of the other big stories? Warburtons’ new Wakefield bakery, which opened this week, is state-of-the-art and the visitor centre will certainly ensure that schoolchildren, and many more, grow to appreciate both the brand and the employment opportunities locally.
Of course you don’t need to be really big to promote yourself locally. Being small also works very well. Schools, WIs, church groups… all are on the look-out for speakers and I cannot think of a better way to inspire others than to show them celebration cakes, fresh breads and to talk to them about your trade as passionately as you do to me.
There is a certain irony, though, in Warburtons’ continued expansion on the one hand and over-capacity in the plant sector on the other. But it is a mighty brand and a company with a marvellous track record.
Its refusal, over the years, to become involved in making low-cost economy bread and its canny concentration on one core business – plant baking – means it also has the profits to support the brand, so it is unlikely ever to be the loser.
Elsewhere, profits at Greggs have continued to rise – but at a much slower pace than previous years. Five factors have been highlighted: a massive rise in energy costs; knock-on effects from the minimum wage; the need for more healthy options in the range; more rivals on the high street; and less buoyant consumer spending. Under those circumstances, any rise must surely be considered an achievement.