It’s not a good start to the New Year if you are one of the 400 people who face the uncertainty of losing your job at the Harvestime (2005) plant bakery, Walsall, as the saga lurches from one crisis to the next.

By contrast this week, it is time to congratulate Patrick Bird, Mike Holling and everyone at Birds of Derby on opening their 50th shop. Birds concentrates solely on retailing quality goods. A member of the British Confectioners Association, the company is renowned for its breads, takeaway, and cakes, especially cream cakes.

It also knows about marketing, window displays, and chocolate products, and places a real emphasis on ‘fresh’.

It is marvellous to hear of an independent family-owned craft bakery doing so well in traditional and new formats. Many congratulations to all the staff!

Industry-wise, it is interesting to read what several key players think 2006 will bring. From the insights of one of Britain’s wisest plant bakers, David Roberts, to ingredients manufacturer Ronnie Leggett of Macphie, and others; their future predictions make interesting reading.

I agree with Ronnie Leggett, that craft bakers have the talent and opportunity to create a real point of difference, and the craft associations must fight really hard for their members on the high street. Local authorities MUST be tackled hard about ridiculous parking restrictions for customers and for deliveries. At the moment, it amounts to blatant discrimination against small shops.

One of the most futuristic comments comes from Tony Reed of Tesco. It is tucked away at the end of his paragraph, where he says: “Everybody... will have to think about whether their supply chains are as slick as they ought to be. With haulage and energy getting more expensive, you really have to look again at your operating model.”

He has up to four large trucks delivering bread to each of his stores daily, from different suppliers, none full. Consolidating those deliveries is a challenge he will ask them to consider next.

Tony has already persuaded all his plant bread suppliers to begin a change-over to Tesco special delivery trays, which go from vehicle to shopfloor display.

I suspect discussions on consolidated deliveries will start moving up the Federation of Baker’s agenda jolly soon.