A new year and, by the time you read this, the likelihood is that Harvestime (2005) Walsall plant bakery will be under new ownership.

At the time of going to press, favourite bidders to buy the Walsall site appear to be British desserts manufacturer Country Style Foods, though Australian pie manufacturer Ian Allen is still hovering. If either is successful, it will be their first venture into UK plant bread baking.

The supermarkets would like the deal concluded, so that over-capacity and, therefore, strong competition remains in the plant baking sector. Everyone else has very mixed feelings.

Further afield, UK prescribed bread weights have so far been allowed to remain by EU legislators.

The mainly craft-dominated Europe finds our large plant bread market something of an anomaly, alongside our set bread weights.

Indeed craft bakers of France, Italy, Poland and elsewhere can produce breads of many multitudes of weights. They believe it benefits the market but the descision is a big relief to most UK craft and plant bakers who are reluctant to change the status quo.

If you run a craft bakery, do look at the example of Mark Biggs who works in a one-shop thriving family bakery. Earlier this year, during Doughnut Week, the sole shop raised over £2,600 for the Children’s Trust and, at Christmas, raised another £1,000 for the charity through a raffle.

The baker has received excellent local publicity as a result, plus increased customer loyalty. It is a charitable end to the year and a great example to all of us. We constantly hear how we have all become too materialistic in recent years, but I believe we also give more to charity. If it benefits your business, I hope you will put supporting Doughnut Week in May 2006 at the top of your agenda. More news about it soon.

Finally, I know each of you will join with us in sending heartfelt condolences to Bakels’ sales director Keith Houliston and his family over the tragic loss of his son on Christmas Day.

Keith’s hard work, his sunny nature, his dedication to the industry, his support of so many bakery events, often with his wife Elaine, have made them one of the most popular industry couples. May all our thoughts and prayers be with them at such a difficult time.