The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has this month criticised the government’s decision to increase fuel duty by 2p per litre.FTA director of external affairs Geoff Dossetter told British Baker: “Significant increases in fuel prices are bad news for bakery and ingredient distributors.”Almost everything the nation consumes every day of the year is the product of a lorry journey and the government will now increase the cost of all of those journeys.”As of 1 October, fuel duty on diesel increased to 50.35p per litre, the highest rate in Europe, where the average level is 22.7p per litre, the FTA said.The cost of oil itself on the world market is now over $79 (£39) per barrel and has increased by almost 14% over the last month. The current price of a litre of bulk diesel is 79.68p per litre excluding VAT, which is only just below the record levels seen in May 2006.World prices remain extremely volatile. The 2p-per-litre rise in fuel duty will increase the annual operating costs of one 44-tonne articulated lorry by £870 to £35,600, said the FTA.Significantly, the 2p-per-litre fuel duty increase takes the pump price of diesel to over £1 per litre – no doubt to be quickly followed by petrol, said the FTA.”It is very disappointing that at a time of such turbulence in world oil prices, the government has chosen to impose a further increase in costs for industry,” added Dossetter. “Even at this late stage, the government should recognise the extent of the problem and reconsider imposing this unnecessary increase in fuel duty.”
A newly launched seaweed and black pepper oatcake is going down well in the Highlands – and beyond.The oatcake is the brainchild of Lewis MacLean, a former Scotch Pie world champion, who runs MacLean’s Highland Bakery in Forres, which supplies a range of oatcakes to Harvey Nichols, House of Bruar and Baxters.”We’re just a small biscuit producer,” said MacLean, “so we’re always looking for something different. Seaweed has been described as ’the Scottish superfood’, so I thought we’d give it a go.”The new oatcake is high in iodine and calcium, is low in calories and fat and also contains Omega 3 and soluble fibre. It was launched at the Scottish Food Fair in Glasgow and was well received, said MacLean.”The feedback from our own customers and those at the show was positive. They were very keen to taste it. I fully expect us to be making it in a year’s time. It’ll be a good seller.”
Costa Coffee has opened its first store in Beijing, to coincide with the start of the 2008 Olympic games.The Costa store, located in the Shang Di Shopping Mall, will bethe first opened under a joint venture between Costa’s parent company Whitbread plc and the Beijing Hualian Group.The JV intends to open 300 Costa coffee shops in Beijing and surrounding provinces in north-east China over the next few years.Shang Di Mall is based in the Haidian District of Beijing, the centre of the IT industry. The agreement is Costa’s second JV in China – it already operates 25 stores in Shangai with Yueda Group.Costa’s managing director John Derkach said:”This is another major milestone for Costa. Our strategy hasalways been to develop several different markets in China, tofully capitalise on the vast opportunity presented by China’scontinued economic growth and aspiring young consumers. “Today’s opening in China’s capital city further enhances Costa’s status as a major international brand.”Director of joint Ventures, Paul Smith, added: “Costa has been trading in Shanghai for 18 months and is already a favourite among Chinese customers. “The stores in Shanghai are delivering strong sales growth and we have high expectations of our joint venture partnership in Beijing”.
Following a busy and stressful week, there are some jobs you think, you’d love to do – something untaxing that involves getting away from the rat race. Shooting to the top of that aspirational list is ’spokesperson for Starbucks’. When BB tried to check up on reports that the firm had posted its first loss for 15 years, Starbucks’ press officer was not budging from her seat on the fence. “I can’t be quoted as either confirming or denying it,” she said. Nice work if you can get it.
How do you grow in a recession? That was one of the interesting topics discussed at the recent British Confectioners’ Association meeting in Gloucester.Most of the 60 members are retail bakers as well as confectioners and the word ’grow’ is certainly a different angle to ’cope’ – a word we hear far more often at the moment. All the members run retail shops and some provide wholesale locally and even nationally.Russell Jenkins of Llanelli-based Jenkins Bakery, which has 24 shops, revealed that he is a strong advocate of using mystery shoppers to keep standards up in shops and increase takings. The structured programme involves three visits a year to the 24 shops. The visits take into account: window displays, clean counters, in-shop displays and uniforms. In addition, shop staff have to make eye contact, smile, offer additional products and point out any special offers.Since its inception, average scores have risen from 85% to 91% across the chain and customer spend has increased 18% from £2.14 to £2.52. A £25 bonus is given to staff if the shop scores 90% or over. Every shop manager receives a full report and action points. The forms are also used for formal appraisals and shop audits. Each visit costs £41 and is described as ’well worth it’. Bakers were also advised to offer a ’bread of the week’ and ’sandwich of the week’ – neither reduced.The next speaker at the meeting – Robert Ditty of Ditty’s Home Bakery in Northern Ireland – talked about the value of communicating really well with staff, and the importance of detailed attention to the product, which had helped him secure a national order with Waitrose. With regard to his retail business, he said: “Look at what you serve and how you serve it. Shoppers will pay more for quality food in a recession. But they look for total cost, not cost per item.”The third speaker, Robin Jones of The Village Bakery (Coedpoeth), who runs a retail and wholesale business, suggested: “Consolidate. You cannot grow if your foundations are not good. Are you trying to grow bottom line or turnover? The bottom line must come first and turnover will follow.”Also, try to reduce credit terms from 28 days to seven. Customers who really value you will do their best to help.”Other ideas included improving provenance by sourcing locally – an initiative that had helped him pick up an order from Marks & Spencer. “Make environmental awareness a ’plus’ point of your business. And hire a local PR agency to keep your name out there,” he said. But he also advised: “Resist pressure on margins,” giving an example of how he recently walked away from a £2m contract.Members also heard from Commercial Utility Brokers (CUB) of March, near Peterborough. They gave examples of how they had saved bakers significant costs on their utility bills – including energy, water, drainage and mobile communications. CUB is happy to quote and Louis Fairfax can be contacted on 01354 606845.Host for the meeting in Gloucester was Neville Morse, MD of Janes Pantry, with 10 shops around Gloucester. Two of the well-stocked shops with cafés were visited. Three speakers from Janes outlined how the business had grown from a straightforward retail and small wholesale business to now also running nine Jiffy vans, making buffets (27 buffets on the day of the meeting, with 35 planned for the next day) and also running a chocolate shop.BCA members then spoke about how successful van operations had been for them. In five years, BCA members had gone from running nine vans to 78. Some ran them from their main bakery, others stocked them from the shops.The meeting concluded with an early morning visit to Janes Pantry’s bakery to see the manufacturing of goods and the loading of the Jiffy vans, with drivers keeping 10% of sales.
Warburtons overcame soaring energy and ingredients costs last year, to achieve a 20% rise in turnover for its full year to 27 September 2008, with distribution stated as the key driver of growth.Its accounts, newly-filed at Companies House, revealed turnover stood at £498m, compared to £414m for the comparable period in 2007. This is despite a 41% hike in raw material and consumable costs. Profit before tax stood at £31.8m – up £5.5m on the previous period.The firm said its results for 2008 were in line with expec-tations and that the board views the outcome as “satisfactory”, in light of the economic climate.Chairman Jonathan Warburton said the firm “will continue to grow share in the bread market by investing in the brand and business to ensure future success”.
A recently opened Dorchester bakery was forced to sell bread by candlelight after the energy supplier to the shop’s previous tenant cut off the shop’s electricity.Owner Clive Cobb, told British Baker that npower had turned off the electricity at The Town Mill Bakery’s shop in Tudor Arcade, South Street, on Tuesday 15 December, as the previous tenant had an unpaid bill outstanding, before reinstating it on Friday 18 December. “Npower asked us to take out a contract with them and pay a £4,000 deposit,” said Cobb. “And along with all the local coverage including the BBC news, they then came and switched us back on again.”The majority of the organic bakery’s products are baked at Town Mill’s Exeter bakery in Topsham, so the shop was still able to sell fresh bread. “We didn’t have any tills and everyone had to dress up, as it was really cold,” explained Cobb. “We may not yet have power here in Dorchester…but we do have candles, fresh bread and scrummy cakes!,” read a post on its Twitter site on the morning of 18 December. The shop opened in the second week of November 2009, and a contract had been taken out with a different energy supplier. Cobb said that as npower had addressed its correspondence to the previous tenants, he had no idea what the situation was until a representative from npower walked through the door with a summons.“We’re waiting for compensation now, which npower has said it is going to give us,” said Cobb, who estimates the shop lost approximately £3,200 in takings for the time it had no electricity. “Our sales weren’t dramatically down. Where we’d normally take around £1,000 a day, we took around £400, so it wasn’t a complete disaster,” said Cobb. “And we got more publicity from being closed than we would have done from being open.”Town Mill Bakery is based in Lyme Regis, Dorset and has shops in Sherbourne and Dorchester. In September 2009, it moved it bread production to Topsham, in Devon and its Lyme Regis site was transformed into a restaurant and the hub of its cake-baking business.
“In the four weeks of the World Cup, blokes tend to get a bit obsessed with football to the extent that they don’t look after their partners. The idea is that in the week before the World Cup, we’re saying ’ladies, make sure you get your oats’. What we mean innocently by that is you get to eat oat bread during the course of that week…”marketing director Jon Goldstone on Hovis’ ’Get your oats’ campaign, to be targeted at sexually frustrated women in the build-up to the World Cup”I thought it was petty and ridiculous. I realise they have rules to stick to, but it was so silly, I felt stupid. The staff made me feel like I had committed a crime, yet all I was doing was eating one of their biscuits. The way they made such a big song and dance about it, you would have thought they had captured a shoplifter”86-year-old widow Thelma Williams falls foul of M&S’s VAT police after chomping a 39p biscuit purchased in the food hall in one of its cafés in Blackburn
As you can see (left and on page 15) we are now in full swing preparing for National Craft Bakers’ Week. We have engaged an extremely competent marketing company to help you gain extra sales and encourage new customers into your shop.When you register for your free pack, it will have tips on getting your company into the local press and local radio. The National Association of Master Bakers will be sending releases to the national press and national television channels, pushing the week on your behalf. The week is designed to raise the profile of craft bakers and we all know the value and superb quality of products that you produce more customers need to know too.If you decorate your window or even your staff please send us your photographs and there will be a prize for the best shop, with the photographs going into our trade magazine.Why not try new product tastings ask your suppliers what deals they are doing for this week as they are eager to be involved.Last year, one member used the days of the week for “specials” Meat Pie Mondays, Two-for-the-price-of-one Tuesdays, Fruity Fridays and so on so get imaginative!Free point-of-sale material will be available and Dame Kelly Holmes, twice Olympic Gold Medallist will be championing your cause. The rest is up to you!Gill
A City analyst has urged Whitbread to realise the true value of Costa Coffee, as speculation continues as to whether it should demerge from the group.Simon French of Panmure Gordon explained the coffee chain, now the biggest operator in Britain with a 40% share of the market, is not “accurately captured” in the Whitbread group.French said: “Whitbread has helped Costa to grow considerably since acquiring the business back in 1995 for £20m. However, the group is primarily a hotels business. So it could prosper without its parent company, particularly abroad in regions such as China, where it is doing particularly well. “I can see Costa remaining within Whitbread for the next 18 to 24 months, but the question needs to be asked as to whether it is better served on its own after that period.”He added that Costa Coffee, which could be worth around £700m as a standalone business, needs to be careful when it comes to brand saturation, following Whitbread’s move to buy out the Coffee Nation vending machine company for £60m last year. Since relaunching the self-service coffee machines under the name Costa Express, the group has has seen an 20% increase in sales.“With the Costa brand now appearing everywhere, it could suffer in the same way as Starbucks has. So the Whitbread group needs to assess this carefully and decide what this could mean in terms of Costa Coffee’s future,” added French.Costa Coffee reported positive like-for-like sales back in December, showing an 3.8% increase in the 13 weeks to 1 December 2011, and total sales up in the same period by more than a quarter (25.2%).