Bakers were urged to support the work of food and drink skills sector council Improve at the Federation of Bakers’ (FoB) conference. Warburtons’ director Brett Warburton told delegates the organisation had a growing amount of influence, with initiatives including skills academies being developed, which bakers must help mould to their requirements. The FoB and the Flour Advisory Bureau are preparing to launch a new summer campaign to promote the Vitality Eating system, fronted by popular sports presenter Gabby Logan, following a campaign at Christmas. The eating plan advocates a low-fat balanced diet as a healthy alternative to yo-yo and fad dieting.
A RELAXATION of cross-border laws, aimed at creating a free market for the services sector, should not result in an influx of European bakers setting up shop in the UK, experts suggest.The new European Services Directive is set to remove the legal and administrative bar-riers that can prevent businesses from offering their services in another country. However, the National Association of Master Bakers (NA) said it did not believe this would attract large numbers of foreign firms. “It won’t change anything for the bakery sector,” said chief executive David Smith. “We have a number of European companies here already, such as the French Paul chain and Poilâne Parisian bakery in London.”He added that the NA does not expect a rush of UK bakers going abroad either: “The businesses that want to operate in Europe have already gone there – such as Greggs which has opened stores in Belgium,” he said.Companies often have problems providing services in other countries, either due to long and complicated procedures to obtain licences and permits, a lack of information on legal requirements, the need to establish a permanent base in a country or because of discrimination on nationality grounds. However, while countries argued over whether a company offering its services in another country should operate according to the rules and regulations of its home country, the European Parliament has decided that service providers would instead be governed by the rules and regulations of the country in which the service is being provided. The Federation of Small Businesses said this created a more diluted law but a spokesman added: “National governments can use clever ways of coming up with innocuous legislation that can stop foreign competition and, although this directive is a good thing, it could have gone a lot further.” The draft directive covers a vast range of businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, car hire, construction, advertising services and estate agencies. It will go back to Parliament for a second reading before the end of the year, although it will still take two or more years for member states to transpose it into national law.
Greencore was bullish about the success of its convenience foods and ingredients divisions in the group’s latest trading statement.Operating profit for convenience foods is expected to show at least 5% growth – up to E68.6m – despite rising energy costs. The announcement came ahead of its year-end on 29 September and suggested the ingredients, agribusiness and related property division was also expected to deliver profits of at least E25.2m.Despite leaving the sugar processing market in March, Greencore Sugar has traded above expectations which it said compensated for a continued weakness in EU malt markets.
At last, there are signs on the horizon of a few brave bakers who have noticed things are hotting up on the high street! Apart from the giants, such as Greggs and Subway, making their presence felt, retail bakers face the added challenge of the in-store concessions, bake-off and any number of coffee-based offers. But many have their blinkers on, focusing just on their products while neglecting the bigger picture.The shift towards snacking on the move – as opposed to subsistence shopping – is creating a whole new way to slice up the market. Some bakers have successfully kept pace with these challenges by evolving their offer – Reeve The Baker, Thomas the Baker, Oliver Adams, to name but a few. Others have had to make more radical changes. Coughlans, for instance, recently adopted a breezy new name and image – Munch – that re-positions it more as sandwich makers/coffee shop than ’bakers and confectioners’. It was awarded ’2006 Baker Sandwich Maker of The Year’ at the Sammies, largely for its bold new image.== GLUED TO TRADITION ==Many have moved with the times, and some are offering real exotica – ciabatta, foccacia, walnut and walrus, date and dingo (there’s no end to the invention)! But in truth, there are still those that are glued to certain traditions to the point of extinction. Tradition is defined as a “long-established custom or belief, often one that has been handed down from generation to generation” – says it all really! Tradition is fine when devised as part of a positioning statement or as a ploy in creating a look based on heritage (actual or invented) such as in Paul’s or Le Pain Quotidien; but whenever it’s handed down, it usually means tired, weary and long overdue for a major overhaul.== SHAPING FUTURE TRENDS ==Just as Ford has gone from Model ’T’ to Focus ST by continually developing its products to meet the demands of drivers, it has kept pace with market trends to the point where it now actively shapes future trends. Indeed, Mr Ford started out in 1903, making Ford younger than many ’traditional’ bakers!Bakers can remain traditional and be proud of their heritage, but they do need to look to the future – and it’s not just about having a great product. It’s about developing a connection with the customer, with real retailing and marketing and all those alien ’ings’ that some bakers have struggled to adopt. Bakers need to look harder at their products and customers and ask themselves seven key questions:1 Who are our customers?2 What do they need to buy?3 How do we connect with them?4 What could we inspire themto buy?5 Are we adding to their shopping experience?6 Where else are they shopping for similar goods?7 What makes our products sodifferent to anyone else’s?Now ask yourself, should you be a customer-focused business or a product-focused business? The retailers who’ve stepped out of the bakery long enough to take a look around will know how to answer that. Those that bury theirs heads in their ovens will not. nlBob Cardona FRSA is MD of CDA Option One Strategic Retail Design
CompanyThe Byron Bay Cookie Company (Park Royal, London) has announced the launch of its new ’lifestyle’ cookies; a range of healthy alternatives to its classic versions.The new Fruit & Nut Medley cookie has been designed to appeal to people eating on the run. This dairy-free cookie has fruit and nuts inclusions, such as cranberries, currants, pear, pecan nuts, linseeds and sunflower seeds.
Bakers will take centre-stage at Morrisons stores, as the chain embarks on a strategy to reinvent itself as a cut-price Waitrose.Bakery counters will be more visible as part of its Market Street concept – fresh food counters intended to mimic an old-fahioned shopping experience. New packaging will flag up the 1,700 product lines, such as pizzas and sandwiches, made at Morrisons stores, while chief executive Marc Bolland aims to introduce a new slogan, to replace ’More reasons to shop at Morrisons’, in a bid to emphasise its fresh food and good service.He admitted that some shoppers perceived it as merely a low-price store but said the chain’s unique ownership of bakeries, packaging plants and abbattoirs should give it a competitive advantage over bigger rivals. Morrisons plans to open more smaller stores and extend 42 stores this year.
Bakers in the West Midlands can get a competitive edge by using a new free, online market research service called Food Insights.The Heart of England fine foods business website is hosting the service at [http://www.heff.co.uk/] foodinsights, which offers food and drink companies industry reports, analysis and statistics.Funder, West Midlands Food Partnership, urged SME food companies to register. “Having free access to key point summaries of some of the most recent consumer research, across a range of food categories, is a genuine asset,” said manager James Allen.
The number of retail customers writing out cheques for goods has plummeted by almost a half in Britain during the past decade – faster than in any other sector, a report by the UK payments association APACS has revealed.The organisation said that, in 1996, 31% of shoppers had paid by cheque. By 2006, the figure had slumped to 16%, a fall of 48%. The report, The Way We Pay 2007, said: “In the retail sector, the decline has been particularly rapid, with cheques accounting for just 3% of all non-cash transactions.”However, APACS director of communications Sandra Quinn said there will still be an estimated 840 million cheques used in the UK in 2016.
Despite stories of an increasing number of businesses recognising the value of grey hair – aka ’wisdom’ – the mean age in this country’s boardrooms is constantly falling. At this rate, the Justin Kings [CEO, Sainsbury’s] of this world will soon be the norm rather than the exception.Another trend noticed by Oxford-based legal firm Darbys’ ’Employment in Food’ team is an increasing number of senior executives in the bakery sector joining company boards from outside the industry. Consequently, Darbys is receiving more calls from chairmen and non- executive directors seeking guidance on how to introduce new talent into their business with minimum disruption.As the promise of a seat at the board table in return for loyal service has been largely confined to history, there has been a corresponding increase in the need for professional recruitment.The norm is for boards to dele-gate recruitment to head-hunters. While effective delegation maybe the hardest managerial skill to master, instructing personnel should remain cognisant of their own, as well as their head-hunter’s, legal obligations.Tip No. 1:Have a transparent and objective recruitment policy. Identify objective selection criteria and ensure that head-hunters/any agencies used understand them.Tip No. 2:Having agreed with head-hunters the criteria to be applied, create a matrix with scores/weighting to be applied by interviewers.Remember, too, that a head-hunter is an agent of the instructing company. So you may need to consider both the issue of liability for representations made by the head-hunter and their likely standard terms and conditions, which normally require an indemnity from the instructing employer. Ever-more stringent discrimination laws may mean that the employer has a greater exposure legally, but personnel who are thinking of swapping senior executive roles will still tend to look more favourably on perspective employers with best-practice recruitment procedures in operation.If a head-hunter is used for a senior level appointment, the commission is likely to be large. So, commensurately, a head-hunter is unlikely to want to lose such commission. It is worth reviewing their standard terms and conditions and you should seek to negotiate amendments to them – in particular, the removal of any indemnity such as that referred to above.Tip No. 3:Get terms of engagement nego- tiated so that, for example, if an appointed executive s not prove to be up to the work, you are not also saddled with a heavy commission payment. An agent’s fees should be made contingent upon the performance of the personnel whom it essentially has introduced.When the age regulations became law in April 2006, fears of age discrimination claims were spread by many law firms. Yet to date, such fears have largely been without foundation.The reality is, of course, that significant experience is required before individuals are able to carry out the functions necessary to run the complex operation that is a bakery-related business.Tip No. 4:In job adverts, make reference to skills/experience rather than number of years’ service required. Notice periods tend to increase in direct correlation with the seniority of the personnel concerned. Although a long notice period may be a wise provision to have within a service agreement, if the market intelligence held by the executive concerned may quickly pass its sell-by-date. In many sectors, notice periods could be reduced. The cost of replacing the old guard is often unnecessarily high, because long notice payments need to be made to avoid a claim for wrongful dismissal.Tip No. 5:Review and, if appropriate, negotiate proportionate notice periods. Although age discrimination may be the hot topic in the media’s eyes, the starting point for any member of the “old guard” who wishes to bring an employment claim will be to consider making a claim for wrongful dismissal (for his/her notice period) and for unfair dismissal (that one of the five fair reasons for his/her termination has not been sustained).An employer will find it much easier to successfully refute a claim of unfair dismissal if it has applied the company’s disciplinary sanctions ahead of reaching such a decision. Do not be afraid of us ing the dis ciplinary sanctions, in which so much money has been invested – both in their drafting and in the training necessary to ensure that they are effected correctly.Employees are less likely to refute allegations of inadequate performance and the like if they have been put through internal proceedings already.Once an employer has addressed its potential legal exposure to a claim from a departing member of staff, it should think about how best an exit may be presented to such person(s).An increasingly common and valuable way of doing so is to use outplacement counselling. Often, the cost of doing so does not significantly add to any termination payment, but the dignity of the departing person(s) is likely to be maintained if that individual feels that he is being supported by his soon-to-be former employer in moving on to pastures new. Consequently, the likelihood of an employment tribunal claim following his/ her departure will be commensurately less. Information on outplacement support can be found at [http://www.cmc-careers.com].
I have always shared with you my latest ideas to make our fortune. But now I know they have not worked as well as I had hoped. If they had, I would not be writing this and you would not be reading it; we would all be in the south of France in our villas.However, here is a really great idea for those of you successful enough to pay tax at the 40% rate. True, that does not include me, but I live in hope of joining you one day. Our politicians have shown us how to reduce the tax burden to 25% by fiddling expenses, so we can do the same.Whereas they put their wives, mistresses and children on the payroll, all we have to do is put our pets on the company. I am putting Joey, our pet canary, on a £30,000 salary; if the tax man queries it, I shall explain that he sings loud and fast, so our bakers work faster and are happy.This way, we can keep adding pets to the payroll endlessly and pay the 25% rate, rather than the 40% you rich bakers now pay. After all, a pound saved is as good as a pound made.== a use for politicians ==How wonderful that we have found a use for politicians at last. They appear to get away with everything. For example, there is the £250 they claim without receipts every month; that is a lot of money and surely, if it is good enough for them, why not for us?After all, we are all more honest than our politicians, although that is not saying a lot. We could get the National Association of Master Bakers (NA) to judge what is right and wrong with our fiddles, as our politicians feel they have a right to be their own judge and jury and I would rather trust the NA.I am discussing these ideas with my accountant, although it is very difficult to get a definitive answer from him, as every time we get in deep discussion, the guard says visiting time is over.Mind you, I am considering taking my business to one of the blue chip accountancy firms, as I am told they have a lot of powerful contacts and, if you go to prison for tax evasion, they can get you a job in the library.== recession looms ==Back to bakery, because if I don’t, Sylvia will never print this. It certainly looks as if we are in a recession, as our like-for-like sales figures are barely breaking even with last year. I can always find reasons for this and, if short of excuses, one can always blame the weather.While I often blame the government, with its crazy laws, for making life nearly impossible for us, the wealth-creating portion of the economy, deep down, we all know our salvation lies in our own hands.The thing to remember is to keep our nerve and not go down the road of low prices. When times get tough, that is always the first thought of amateurs and it is always wrong; all that happens is they sell a little more for less profit. n