Hot chocolate loaded with mini marshmallows and gingerbread heart-shaped biscuits

Source: Getty Images

As 2023 draws to a close, I wanted to reflect on the past year and the challenges it has presented.

Bakeries of all shapes and sizes – from plant bakers supplying the nation with its daily bread to family-run craft bakeries – have been well and truly tested. Inflation and recruitment remain top of the agenda and the phrase ‘cost of living crisis’ has become a staple of our vocabulary. I am eternally in awe of the resilience and innovation shown by this community in the face of adversity.

I’d also like to offer a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported and interacted with British Baker throughout the year, whether that’s attending one of our fabulous events, reading our content, or inviting a member of the team to your site. We really appreciate it.

Amy North at BIA 2023

While I’m casting my eyes back over 2023, I wanted to share a few of my personal highlights.

  • Meeting so many inspirational people as part of the Baking Industry Awards judging. From industry veterans to the next generation of entrepreneurs, the passion flowed in abundance. It was an absolute honour to celebrate their wonderful achievements at the awards as well. It is always such an emotional evening when you see how much winning a Baking Industry Award means to people.
  • Having a go at decorating cakes at BBF’s factory in Hull and Baker & Baker’s gluten-free facility in Ashington. Let’s just say I’ll be sticking to the day job.
  • Eating chicken bakes by candlelight with Grace Dent for the Channel 5 documentary Greggs: Secrets of their Best Bakes. It was a somewhat surreal but delightful experience to film this and adding yet another title to my name – the Baroness of Bakes. Conveniently, the documentary has now been added to Netflix with the reworked title ‘Greggs: what’s really in it?
  • Launching The Artisan Collective. This intimate event was something completely new and unique to the things we’d done before at British Baker, and I was thrilled with the reception it received. A day of learning, networking, and sumptuous handcrafted baked goods was enjoyed by all in attendance.
  • Completing my apprenticeship in effective leadership with a distinction. It forced me to challenge my thinking, address my reaction to things, and become slightly more comfortable with difficult conversations. It also taught me valuable skills in communication, project management, and developing a team, all of which are (hopefully) in effect at British Baker.
  • Eating all the bread at Britain’s Best Loaf. The winning matcha & white chocolate brioche was unlike anything I (or indeed many of the judges) had eaten before. I sampled many other delicious loaves that day, which is testament to the quality of bread in the UK.
  • Taking a moment to pause on Project Pause. Although not directly work related, it was a wonderful chance to rejuvenate and come back to work with a fresh perspective. It also taught me to push myself and embrace opportunities (such as wild swimming in not one, but two, beautiful Welsh waterfalls).

Amy North at M&S Christmas

  • Attending some of the supermarkets’ Christmas events over the summer. Apart from sampling many of the delicious baked goods on offer, they’re a wonderful opportunity to meet the people behind the products and learn about what inspires them.
  • Publishing the new look Top Bakery Trends report. The number of views it has had in just three weeks has surpassed our expectations. We’ll be bringing you more in-depth trends content throughout the year, so stay tuned.

Of course, this isn’t a definitive list. It negates to mention many of the wonderful people I have spoken to over the past year, many of whom have left me feeling inspired as their passion for bakery shone through. I can’t wait to do it all again in 2024.

As always, please do reach out if you’d like to share some news or feedback with myself and the team – we’re always looking for new ideas and to improve our coverage. My diary is also open for invitations to doughnut factories, craft bakeries, major manufacturing sites, and more.

For now, have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!