Flour prices seem set to rise - again! A formal announcement is due in the next few weeks but British Baker has gained advance knowledge that another price increase is imminent (pg 4).

Before you feel like shouting "unjustified", most bakers I have spoken to say the corresponding bread price rises earlier this summer have gone through. So they should. Consumers still pay less for good bread in this country than almost anywhere else in Europe. And it is worth noting that according to a new report from Warburtons (pg 6), sales of bread have risen 9.4% this year with brown, grains and seeded bread putting on the most sales.

Allied Bakeries, "disappointing year" (pg 12) with Kingsmill and own label is tempered by the realistic assessment that things will probably not improve until after 2007, which leaves time for good planning rather than knee-jerk reaction.

Certainly Britain’s second biggest retail chain Three Cooks needs to re-visit its whole formula of leasehold shops, which sell bought-in goods. Its strange quote last week that firms that ’both baked and ran shops were not viable’ has proved totally inappropriate. I wish it luck with its recovery plans (pg 4). I also suggest it looks at models that have both baked and run shops very successfully indeed! Yes, trading has been tough, even impossible for many. But there are hordes of examples of those who do it really well.

Coffee shops, in my opinion, are now a bigger threat to craft bakers than fast food joints like McDonalds. Though where they may win on ambience a lot of them fall down on service. With this "feelings" orientated generation, it should provide an opportunity for craft sales staff to interact more, albeit briefly with customers, and be a vital part of training. When you buy something in Marks & Spencer now, they actually congratulate you on your own choice of purchase. That’s customer service!

Elsewhere this week we look at flavours. Unifine offers everything from natural flavours and fruits to a tiramisu flavour made from 210 ingredients! And do read why student baker Lisa Glenton chose bakery as a profession. She loves it! If only more people out there got the message.