It will come as no surprise to bakers to know that the busiest time at this week’s Food & Bake exhibition at the NEC (March 19-22) was between the hours of 10.30am to 1.30pm; it is an early trade by profession. As I write, the show is still taking place. Whether it was ‘a good pr exercise’ for exhibitors or ‘good leads or orders’ ensued, is something we shall evaluate shortly.

Food & Bake comprised mainly ingredient suppliers and machinery and equipment firms. Bakers with finished goods tended to exhibit more in Convenience Retailing Show or Food & Drink exhibition, which took place simultaneously in other halls.

This has the benefit of attracting visitors from the other shows to Foood & Bake but the negative of exhibitors having to choose in which of the three shows to participate.

There just might be an argument for widening the remit of the show and running it in alternate years to the other shows.

As well as the exhibition there was the Golden Jubilee British Society of Baking conference (pg 8-9). It was simply great, thanks largely to the marvellous networking skills, attention to detail and huge personal effort of Jean Grieves. One morning was dedicated to high-powered industry speakers and the next to simply superb craftsmen. We will be looking at a selection of their talks over the coming weeks.

One of the topics of converation at the show was of course the future of the Harvestime plant bakery at Walsall. There is the continuing dichotomy of ‘overcapacity in the industry’ and the desire to save over 300 jobs if possible and see marvellous characters like Jonathan Price back at the helm of what he knows best. But Maple Leaf has a good track record in this country and in Canada too.

And salt has yet again hit the headlines. If the evidence of too much salt in our diets is incontrovertible, the FSA needs to stick to its guns. Sainsbury’s has already set a lead over the issue, achieving many of the former 2010 FSA targets in its bread. Now those targets seem to have changed yet again after lobbying by the Federation of Bakers and others.

The most important message we and the FSA need to be able to give out to the public about bread is that five slices a day are GOOD for you!