Jonathan Warburton, chairman, Warburtons
"I believe the category still has lots of opportunity to encourage consumers to expand their repertoire, particularly at the moment when staying in and eating at home is becoming increasingly common. If we work closely in partnership with our customers, we can achieve this. Innovation is key within any category to ensure that the product offering remains relevant to consumers and bakery is no exception. As a business, we are more determined than ever to help drive growth in the category and succeed in these difficult times."
Mike Benton, marketing controller,McVitie’s Cake Company
"As the recession continues into 2010, promotions will continue to play an important part in the market for branded cakes.
"Consumers will be looking for brands they trust and value products that provide more for their money and, as consumer confidence in the category slowly returns, there will be a bigger appetite for innovation. This will add excitement to the category, reflecting consumers’ willingness to experiment with new products and flavours.
"Health and nutritional improvements and reformulations will play a key part, as comfort eating declines and people look for healthier alternatives. In keeping with this trend, out-of-home consumption is likely to continue to decline, as fewer people choose to have lunchboxes and vending machines are removed from schools in a bid to tackle the growing problem of obesity.
"It is also expected that there will be a massive growth in the importance of new consumer communication channels, as people become more interested in alternative forms of consumer engagement, such as digital media campaigns and advertising.
"The government health agenda will put added pressure on the market, with companies under continuous pressure to produce healthier products that will aid in combating obesity in the UK. Retailers will also be faced with the challenge of maximising profitability from shop space, as consumers continue to demand value from products.
"It would bring a great big smile to my face if we could see the cake market return to volume growth in 2010. Nothing would make me sigh; I’m an eternal optimist."
Ken McMeikan, chief executive officer, Greggs
"The biggest hope I have is that there aren’t going to be significant job losses. One thing I’ve noticed in 2009, which impacts on confidence more than anything, is when people are uncertain about their own future and their incomes. People are still very uncertain about that, particularly when they know that whoever is in government will have to face the UK’s debt challenge and make some tough decisions that could involve job losses. If people have money and there’s still confidence to spend or to start spending, then we all have a chance of having a reasonably good year.
"As for the baking industry, I would hope that we continue to work well with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on issues such as salt and fat reduction. These are important targets we face as an industry and we are making good progress and doing a lot of work towards them. But we have to have a very healthy and constructive partnership with the FSA, because we don’t want to have customers impacted adversely by the consequences of what we’re doing, due to changes in the taste and quality of the products we’re delivering.
"We make great-tasting products that our customers love and we are working towards FSA guidelines and targets. But I think we need a commonsense approach. Our hope is to have a constructive working relationship with the FSA, so that we continue the dialogue and they work closely with us to understand the efforts we’re making to reduce salt, as well as the consequences of what we’re doing.
"I also hope that we don’t lose any more small independent bakeries. That’s not good for the baking industry and, over the past three to four months, we’ve started to see some of the smaller chains of bakeries and independent bakers going into administration. The one that surprised me was Ainsleys, given its size.
"We tend to see more reports of retail sales through the supermarkets, so you don’t get the full picture of the high street and the effect the recession is having. It’s good to have competition and the baking industry needs independent bakers; they create a lot of innovative and specialist products, challenging all of us to match or do better than them. And the human side of smaller chains or independent bakers going into administration is that people have lost their jobs.
"For Greggs, my hope is that it remains a strong and growing business, because that allows us to continue to create jobs. We employ over 19,000 people, so securing their employment is important and good for the economy as a whole."
Simon Cannell, head of La Boulangerie, Brakes
"With regards to salt, my concern boils down to the fact that, as a nation, we’ve been consistently eating less bread over the years and what is this being replaced with? Everyone recognises that bread and other starchy foods should represent a significant portion of a healthy diet. If we turn customers off bread, will this be replaced by less healthy alternatives. Bread has always played a vital role in diets across the globe, but more and more people I speak to in the UK say that they don’t eat bread any more due to diets etc.
"For 2010, I’d like to see a healthier view towards bread in the UK. Sometimes, all of the good work that is done in salt reduction can lead to the only thing consumers hearing is that bread is full of salt and bad for you. We need a balanced view and we need to promote the benefits of bread in a healthy diet much more effectively."
Nicky Cracknell, national account controller, Bakehouse
"2009 has been a tough year for the economy and the foodservice industry has felt the impact. In 2010, consumers are looking for a good deal, but not at the expense of quality. With this in mind, there is a lot of NPD activity around products that offer the best combination of innovation and value. We believe that any issue of cost will come full circle, as people want to indulge in little daily luxuries, such as a fresh morning pastry on the way into work. We are seeing a real rise in interest in new savoury options within the bakery sector. There is a demand for innovation at the savoury end of the scale. Consumers want something different to eat on-the-go or as an alternative lunchtime option or accompaniment.
"For coffee shops, price is a real driver at present, with an increased focus on savoury items and this is also true for quick-service shops and service stations, which are looking to extend their savoury offer and provide a choice of comfort foods. Operators will be looking at getting their core ranges correct, before considering extensions to the offering. It is a careful balancing act between not offering too much choice, so as not to confuse customers, but having enough to inspire them and secure repeat purchases. The important thing is to demonstrate that you are trying new things."
Jefta Kon Lakovic, chief executive, Arnaouti Pitta Bakery, Hoddesdon, Herts
"In 2010 I believe we are going to see the growth of more flour-based baked snacks, such as crisps, hoops and other extruded goods, because they will be perceived as healthier. Obesity is becoming a major problem, so lower fat levels will be good and cost content will be lower.
"A new niche drinks market will emerge, with more drinks from the Orient using natural juices and spring water. They will be all-natural with little or no added sugars.
"This Easter, I think the economy will give a false sign of uplift, around election time, but then it will dip again. Hopefully we will see a resurgence beginning in the autumn, motoring on through Christmas and gaining momentum in 2011. The British export market in food will contribute to this and the whole economy will start to resume growth of between 2-6%. This may happen earlier (as in France, Germany and others), but the UK. economy is no longer manufacturing-dominant. In my view, this is a serious disadvantage."
Paul Ettinger, a founder of Caffè Nero
"Predicting the big food trends is not easy, but I see artisan bakeries growing, and smaller food portions arriving. Challenges will include a flat economy, volatile ingredient prices, currency issues, inflation and more competition."
Duncan Macfarlane, sales director, Scobie & McIntosh bakery equipment
"Alistair Darling needs to move on or get the sack! The pound needs to recover more. The banks need a push to start filtering more money through to businesses and there needs to be more grants available. They should treat the whole of the UK as equal not just take specific areas where some can get grants of 47% towards new equipment and others, such as Aberdeen, getting virtually nothing. Where is the fairness in that?"
John Smith, MD of craft baker New Pitsligo, nr Aberdeen
"We have two shops and a wholesale business, comprising around 60% to local shops and convenience stores. I want to see cheaper distribution costs and diesel come down.
"[Scotland’s First Minister] Alex Salmond promised to reduce business rates and he’s done that. We now pay virtually none, saving us around £450 a month. It’s good to see a politician supporting small businesses and keeping his promises! It has made craft bakeries compete much better throughout Scotland."
Keith Stalker, MD, EPP machinery
"Not being able to get funds from banks is holding good businesses back. We see customers who want to expand SMEs and, while the very big ones are OK, as are the major retailers, the SMEs are not getting access to the money they need.
"So the banks need to lend more and the pound needs to get stronger. We need to see the UK start to climb out of the recession and hear people talking more positively about things and for that to happen, more lending needs to take place."
Neville Moon, head of food and beverage, Caffè Nero
"I would say ’excess’ will be a watchpoint as we exit the recession. For example, large portion sizes, or products laden with fat or sugar, will make people feel they are not being good to themselves. ’Healthy’ will take on a greater role, particularly in snacking, as well as healthier alternatives to pastry and muffins. I also predict a greater interest in artisan products particularly for better bread."
Kirk Hunter, CEO, Scottish Association of Master Bakers
"I’d like to see us move strongly out of recession. To do that, we need to restore consumer confidence, so government must come clean on the right strategy. We need to get through the election because, at the moment, we are in a phoney war situation, which is not good for business.
"We can anticipate public expenditure cutbacks, which are bound to have an effect on bakers, but overall I’m optimistic that 2010 will see the beginning of a recovery and a return to prosperity."
"I hope this is a year we see the economy start to recover and customers being more confident."
Scott Clarke, bakery category director, Tesco
Simon Solway, MD, Unifine Food & Drink Ingredients
"Last year was about looking at the bottom line and reducing costs; 2010 will be about building on that platform. Once the country thaws which is the big issue of the moment we’re really seeing more positivity in the market.
"Consequently, we’re looking forward to the Baking Industry Exhibition [at the NEC from 21 to 24 March] this year, where there will be a lot of new launches; this gives us confidence. If we look at our customers, we’re recording more launches compared to this time last year. If we looked at 2009, the first six months were very tough and things got a lot better in the last six months, and that has carried on already into January.
"In November, British Baker wrote that Danish pastry sales were up 10% year-on-year second behind muffins. This is fantastic news yes, people are being careful about what they buy, but they want something that tastes good and satisfies all their senses. We would encourage customers to look to the Continent, where there are some great new products being launched. We would also like to see the UK export more cake there’s still so much imported cake into the UK. The exchange rate is something producers can really benefit from."
Andy Pollard, sales and marketing director, Cereform
"I want to see the Euro exchange rate improve and raw material prices become more consistent, so we are able to give longer-term commitment on cost to manufacturers and they, in turn, can do the same for their customers.
"I’d also like to see a continuing resurgence of brands, which puts value back into the baked goods sector. Also, I’d like consumers to understand and appreciate the baking industry as a provider of healthy staple products, as well as indulgent ones.
"I have no agenda regarding the GM issue. However if, in the future, consumers and the retailers want the food industry to continue to provide products at ever-reducing prices while maintaining quality, it must be a consideration."