This week, I would particularly like to draw your attention to the Friday Essay by Rob Devlin (pg 13) entitled: Make Bakery Attractive! You cannot move an inch in this industry without someone saying: "What are we going to do about the lack of next generation bakers?"
Everyone, craft bakers, wholesale bakers, supermarket bakers, recruitment agencies are all talking about the problem. Most tellingly, a recent survey by Improve, the government’s skill sector council, showed that awareness of bakery as a career in schools and colleges is virtually nil.
So exactly what should we, as an industry, do about it? Rob Devlin is quite clear on the matter, and quite right, when he suggests that bakery bodies need to work together, lobby government more effectively, start a schools and media campaign and embark on several other initiatives. After all, he is at the coalface of bakery recruitment every single day.
So far, Improve has failed to make the case for bakery as a career, as have the craft bakery organisations, student organisation and the bursary-awarding organisation Baking Excellence, which has difficulty finding the students to actually give them a bursary! BCA members are positively inspirational, but if you don’t lobby, you are not listened to.
A concerted industry effort is needed to bring the merits - the sheer enjoyment of bakery and confectionery as a career - to the attention of students and government, starting now!
Elsewhere this week, our News Analysis on organic (pg 14) shows why organic flour prices are going through the roof and the issues faced by the whole chain, from farmer to high street retailer. Demand for organic bread is rising. It is a destination product, a lifestyle choice, and punters will pay an extra 10p or more for it. I hope retailers of organic breads and cakes are charging accordingly.
On the news front, I cannot close without mention of the turbulent times at Northern Foods and Bonne Bouche Frozen (pg 4) and, last week, Oakdale. Several mainly own-label producers are having their worst times since the 1980s. Who would have thought that even highly successful Inter Link Foods would wobble (pg 6)? It’s all about efficiency, cost-cutting and, above all, price pressures - a clear sign of the times.