Many years ago I decided to go to a Manchester National Association of Master Bakers (NAMB) branch meeting at the Hotel Piccadilly.
The meeting was due to start at 7pm. Being young, enthusiastic and incredibly naïve, I was there at 6.50pm just to make sure.
The meeting room was empty so I thought I had gone to the wrong venue – shortly after a couple of bakers turned up who I recognised so I stayed. Everybody else turned up at 8pm. I brazenly asked where everybody had been as the meeting should have started an hour ago.
"In the bar," came the chairman’s reply. It was more of a social club than trade association meeting, so after they decided where the barbecue was being held that year, I left and never went back.
Why you may now ask, have I put myself forward to be President of the Craft Bakers’ Association in 2014–2015?
We are such a diverse industry made up of many varied individuals, crafts people, entrepreneurs and gurus of talent - talent that is in their fingertips! There are artistic creators who can entice your eyes into buying and creators of worth who can make more money than they initially started with.
Whether niche or mainstream, we all share the same dream. We are craft bread bakers, confectioners and savoury producers, who are trying to make a good living in today’s modern, economic and political environment which isn’t easy.
We are assessed, inspected, documented and re-visited by both customer and government officials alike to ever-increasing and tightened specifications, brought on by a less tolerant and egotistical general public. With the plethora of regulations, for example new labelling regulations, due to be finally adopted this year, and the new salt regulations around the corner, we need representation at government level.
The only way government will sit up and listen is when we all come together under one banner and say, "Just hold on a minute, this is affecting us and you have not asked for our opinion." Government will go to the loudest voice that they can hear and, if they can’t hear us in all the chatter, we won’t have a voice.
Anthony Kindred of Kindred’s Bakery in London is our current president and along with Karen Dear, our operations manager, they are making great strides in rejuvenating our membership and association under the guidance of Mike Holling. Anthony is approaching similar and likeminded associations, such as the Federation of Bakers and the British Sandwich Association, to create links to work more closely with one another. We all have one thing in common, we either make or use bread, or both, to sell to the general public and that power of opinion will be listened too.
Whether you are a single shop bakery business or a multi-site business, your needs will vary greatly. Smaller businesses with less resources for personnel or knowledge of employment law or governmental regulatory controls may need more advice. Whereas larger businesses may need to lobby the right minister to get their points made.
We all remember the pasty tax of last year - a perfect example of everybody coming together and making our point. And not to put to finer point on it – we won, and the government backed down.
Our annual conference is now more business-like with trade specialists giving papers on a myriad of topics from marketing to advances in ingredient technology, which enhance our businesses. It is held on a weekend, so that your time out of business isn’t compromised, and there is a gala dinner to celebrate our honoured trade and much respected guests.
Next year’s conference in May will be held in London, where Anthony passes the baton of the presidency to me. I am sure after all his hard work for the association (as well as running his own very successful business in London) he will be ready for a good holiday.
As for me, there’s still enough work left to carry on from both Anthony’s and Chris Freeman’s presidencies. The Manchester Piccadilly Hotel meeting still haunts me, so even more focus will be brought to bear on business and being fit for purpose for the years ahead. I am sure under the new leadership of Karen Dear and Mike Holling the Association is in very good hands.
You need and you deserve a strong Craft Bakers’ Association that looks after your interests, while you concentrate on your business. Life is hard enough without having to keep looking over your shoulder every day.
And all you have to do is simple - join us and bring your skills and passion for the business with you so that we can ensure there is a business for tomorrow.
Just ring Michelle on 01920 468061 – and she will do the rest.