"The biggest challenge in 2007 by far, was prices." Not my words but those of Peter Williams, bakery director of that excellent business Simmons of Hatfield (pg 13). And they are words that continue to be echoed across this issue and the whole industry.
Despite the challenges, Simmons aims to open its 30th shop in March. How come it is among those thriving, not merely surviving? It put its prices up twice last year! And if your company did not, please take stock.
I was rather alarmed last week when Carrs Milling put out a statement saying "further price increases would be dictated by whether bakers were successful in getting further bread price increases". Frankly, there is no choice. If flour and commodities go up, then those who pass on the rises survive, others get taken over or go under.
If you are not your company’s best negotiator, please delegate to someone who is. We all have different talents. You might be a brilliant MD, bakery owner or financial wizard. But if you are not a trained negotiator who can talk to the multiples and bakers about price rises in one breath and new products in the other, backed up with plenty of market information, it will prove nigh impossible to get the increases through. The supermarkets in particular are tough negotiators and trained to drive down prices.
Most high street bakers I have come across have achieved the price rises with no problems. I popped into De Gustibus bakery the other day by London Bridge and there was a notice in the window explaining why prices had risen again. But business is doing very well, just like Simmons.
Our lead story this week on world bread prices, with data provided exclusively to British Baker by the Economist Intelligence Unit, shows that although UK prices are creeping up, helped enormously in my opinion by the popularity of ’artisan’ breads as well as price increases, London is still number 70 in the world and Manchester 93rd.
Travel has introduced us to wraps and rye-based breads, which can only benefit the category. But if you want imaginative sandwich fillings, check out our feature on page 16. And do read the controversial comment on folic acid by the Soil Association (pg 8) and let us have your views.