W e kick off our first issue of the year with a look at Britain’s Top 50 Retailers by number of outlets (pg 14). I could have guessed the Top 10 and wobbled towards the Top 20, but there would have been more than a few hazy moments predicting the Top 50. One or two are struggling, but many are a real credit to the craft industry and we include comments from several key players.

It’s no surprise that Greggs is No 1. Everyone knows what Ian Gregg and Sir Mike Darrington have achieved. But there are others, including family-headed companies such as Ainsleys of Leeds, Waterfields of Leigh and Coughlans of Croydon, who have read British Baker over the years and seen the demise of so many similar-size, medium to large firms. Yet they not only survive but remain really optimistic.

Craft bakers are still battling massive competition from supermarkets, convenience stores, coffee shops and cafés: just look at the Top 10! But they are also still expanding and still developing new products and new formats. It is a huge testament to their will and their skill.

Birds of Derby is purely retail, while others, such as Greenhalgh’s, supply a great deal of wholesale to top supermarkets. There is no single formula for success; it is investment and good management every single time! Of course, what marks out the craft aspect is fresh, fresh, fresh! But that brings its own challenges - not only in production but in managing waste.

Elsewhere in this issue, though they do not make the Top 50, let’s bear in mind the smaller retailers, such as Alan Stuart of Stuarts of Buckhaven who, in our Friday Essay (pg 13), demonstrates how important it is to manage the takeover of the next generation. Don’t miss Future Baking Trends (pg 20) with some startling ideas. And, with health very much on the agenda, we look at the increasing use of spelt flour (pg 23). Finally, we start a new year with a new Masterclass, by award-winning patissier Ernst Bachmann (pg 26). Also new for 2007 is our first article on a top hotel pastry chef (pg 29) - do let me know if you welcome it, or not.

Once again, many congratulations to bakers in our Top 50 Retailers. May the whole industry share in your pride.