Bakels (Bicester, Oxon) supplies a range of products for every stage of hot cross bun production, including mixes, glazes and the crosses themselves.With the addition of bun spice, Baktem Blue paste can be used to change a plain, fruited bun into a hot cross bun. It is designed to suit the ‘no time dough’ method and is said to produce soft, short-eating buns with good volume and keeping qualities. Available in 12.5kg cartons it has a maximum 20% usage level.A strong white cross can be achieved with Bakels Crossing Mix, which requires cold water and whisking.
nd fun. But unlike the thousands of other businesses, which make that claim, you actually believe her – around about the time that she gets onto the subject of ducks.The head of the multi-award winning company may have been pretty busy last year, selling her company, expanding her factory and keeping up a hectic diary of networking engagements. But she still set aside time to organise a charity duck race, on the May Day Bank holiday in her rural Lancashire village, near Clitheroe, raising £9,500 for the upkeep of the local church.Around 40 companies and 200 villagers from near and far sponsored rubber ducks in all shapes and sizes in the race, which Colley dutifully labelled and catalogued. The ducks were then floated down the village stream on May Day drawing an audience of 3,000 people. And Farmhouse Fare’s finance director Tim Bullough, put on his wading boots, and beat out any ducks which got stuck.Colley insists that everything Farmhouse Fare has achieved – including listings at the major supermarkets, an £8m turnover and a reputation for the highest-quality puddings, is down to a similar blend of quirkiness, hard work and common sense. She comments: “I get away with being different. When I first went to see supermarket buyers, I didn’t know the jargon. A lot of people get caught up in jargon. I don’t do PowerPoint presentations; I go and see them, explain what we do and what fantastic products we have and they taste them. I always prepare to make sure everything is immaculate. All the supermarket buyers work so hard, so to approach a supermarket with a dream will not work, you have got to do all the preparation before you go in.”Colley’s clever marketing strategy has also propelled the company to buyers’ attentions over the last few years. She has put herself and the fledgling company up for any number of awards – and won. Last year these included the 2006 National Business Awards, the Institute of Directors’ young director of the year and, back in the early days, the 2005 Bakery Supplier of the Year (sponsored by Sainsbury’s) at the 2005 Baking Industry Awards, organised by British Baker.Colley says she sees herself as a “brand ambassador” for Farmhouse Fare. She comments: “Getting the brand out there helps, it makes you more recognisable. I am quite happy to be the brand ambassador for Farmhouse Fare – it’s what I believe in. It’s a very special company. When I talk about it is when I come alive. When I started the business, I used to network constantly and people would wonder why I spent so much time doing it. Now, I’ve come full circle and they say, ’My goodness, you’re right’.”Thanks to its creaking trophy cabinets, Farmhouse Fare’s success story is often held up as an example of how to do business. It all started during the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth disease, which hit Colley’s existing outside catering business. So she decided to make a full-time business based on her super-luxury puddings.First, she approached Booths Supermarkets and gained a listing, with Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda, Selfridges and Tesco subsequently signing up.After initially operating from the barn at the farm where she grew up, she moved the business a couple of miles down the road to new premises which were gradually expanded from 8,000 sq ft to 20,000sq ft site.”The factory grew out of a kitchen,” says Colley. “When you understand what you are making you know the flow and where things need to go; it’s common sense.”The company’s turnover is running at £8m and last year’s pre-tax profit was £900,000. An extension to the production site, with offices and a test kitchen, was added late last year, boosting the premises to 33,000sq ft. But as the £1.8m extension was in the throes of completion, Farmhouse Fare was sold to Daniels Chilled Foods, the company behind the New Covent Garden Soup brand, for £10m.Colley explains: “Daniels approached me out of the blue. What they believe in, I also believe in and I realised that we needed support from a larger company to continue to grow. Daniels are brand builders; they understand the premium market, they have knowledge of the chilled market and they have dedicated NPD facilities. They can give me support. Everything about it is a plus point. To belong to a larger organisation is very beneficial.”The company plans to double turnover in the next three years. But it will stay a lean operation. Colley says: “We don’t have lots of management hierarchy. The board is me, finance director Tim and general manager Allison. It’s great, we can make decisions quickly. For example, when I decided to do some organic products I said, ’Here’s what I want to do’. It took just two months, to obtain organic certification.”The own-label and branded sides of the business – the latter accounts for around 60% of sales at the moment – will both grow equally. The extended production site now has more than enough space to cope with the next five years’ growth. Colley says: “We spent £1.8m getting this site to how we want it – just on the building. I put a lot of money behind it because I believed in it so much. We have spent the last four years of growing out of space and, this time, we have done it all.”Expansion into the export market is also on the cards. Colley says: “We want to grow the brand. It has a heritage and provenance. If the opportunity came, we would go around the world – wherever the brand fits.”So as Farmhouse Fare enters the next stage of its development, what would Colley’s advice be for other bakers planning to start up a bakery business? “You must know the market, make a fantastic product, believe in it and be passionate about what you do,” she says. “If possible, make your product niche and, if you are going to make it, make it the best out there. Plan ahead, talk to people and learn to listen to them. You also have to have good people around you. Plus, get your margins and costings right, because if you don’t, you are never going to grow.”This is a particularly important point for Colley, who is determined never to undersell her puddings. “You might be flattered by the interest that buyers have in you when you go out with a new product,” she says, “but you can end up compromising yourself on a downward spiral. You can’t survive like that; you need to concentrate on margins continuously.”Colley says she enjoys giving fellow businesspeople the benefit of her experience at Farmhouse Fare. “I asked for a lot of help at the beginning and I found people are really helpful. I love meeting people, so I enjoy my work.”But she admits that the growth of the business has had a massive impact on her personal life. Although married with three children, she still finds time to be president of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and a director on the Northwest Fine Foods Board.To Colley, however, the sacrifices are worthwhile. “I don’t think of it as a balance. All I do is my best, and it can be difficult. Friday night to Sunday night is time for family and friends, but during the week it’s work. I try to get home at a reasonable time at night. My husband helps me at work and at home. He’s been brilliant. It takes a bigger man than most to stand back and let your wife get on with it.”On the business side, she says she has learned when to ask for help. “You can’t be everything all of the time, you have to admit to that. I’m hopeless with computers, so I’ve got someone who’s very good with them and the same is true of accounts. I know my weaknesses and I’ll admit freely to them. If I need to know it, I’ll learn it, but if it’s something I don’t need to know, I get others to do it.””I have been called a control freak in the past,” she adds. “Now I let people do things themselves, That’s the hardest thing I’ve had to learn.” n
The recent closure of a sandwich business, due to listeria, highlights for us all the added risks chilled food operations all have to contend with these days, over and above the complexities of running any business.Like other bacteria, listeria is not something you can see or touch, yet the potential consequences to health, your business and the industry should be a concern for us all. Chilled foods are, by their nature, high-risk and the manual processes involved in putting them together just add to this… and then we add shelf-life.The message to all of us from this particular incident is that you can never do enough when it comes to both cleanliness and the sourcing of ingredients from safe and reputable suppliers. The particular business involved in this case was considered by most people who audited it, including the health service, to be a clean operation. There are many worse out there.More worrying still is the fact that, having closed voluntarily, there seems to be no clarity among the various authorities about what a business has to do before it can re-open. The correspondence between parties suggests that no protocol has ever been set out for reopening a factory after such an incident, particularly if it closes voluntarily. It seems that if you do the right thing, you can find yourself in deeper trouble than if you wait to get caught. What nonsense!While the British Sandwich Association is seeking some answers from all those involved, this incident just underlines the increasing complexities now involved in running a sandwich business.
“It was a real honour for me and Ed Turnbull (co-manager) to win the award last year. I recently took on a new role in Asda as fresh food team leader at the Benton store, but I know Ed and the team are still riding the wave of winning last year. Consumers expect a high quality in-store bakery and as the only genuine craft within retail, winning the award celebrated our expertise and kept the focus on ISB. The award definitely raised Asda’s profile in the local community and it was a great reward to all the team. We had a wonderful night out at the ceremony. We put up a big banner outside the store telling all our customers about the win.”
Esquires Coffee Houses is to expand its Irish franchisee network by opening three new cafes in Dublin, Cork and Naas in County Kildare by the end of 2008.Irish Master Franchisee Tony McVerry said: “Esquires is now well positioned in Ireland to maximise growth opportunities by targeting traditional high street locations, shopping centres and business parks.”Founded in Canada in the 1990s, Esquires took that country’s “suburban coffee house” concept and grew into an international franchise business. It has 20 stores in the UK, with more to open in the coming months, and a presence in North America and New Zealand as well as Ireland. Managing Director Peter Kirton said the company’s emphasis is on “the quality of our stores rather than the sheer number we have”. He added: “We pride ourselves on our commitment to community spirit, and we look to recruit franchisees with local knowledge and the ability to apply the Esquires values with their individual areas in mind.” In 2007 it started to offer Fairtrade coffee as standard, with further products available in its growing Fairtrade range.
The West Cornwall Pasty Co has launched a new limited-edition Christmas pasty for the festive season. The Turkey & Cranberry Cornish pasty is being launched in all of its 60 UK outlets and will be available over Christmas and the New Year period. The firm also intends to launch a number of new pasties at the start of 2009.David Howarth, commercial director for West Cornwall Pasty Co. said: “We are constantly striving to improve our product offering and this new Turkey and Cranberry Cornish Pasty is a festive twist on the traditional Cornish classic.”
Greggs’ like-for-like group sales rose 5.3% over the Christmas period according to a trading update released today.Sales growth for the four weeks to 3 January 2009 was higher than in previous months. In the 28 weeks to 27 December 2008, the bakery chain’s like-for-like sales increased by 3.9% and it saw a total sales increase of 6.6%.Chief executive Ken McMeikan said he was pleased with Greggs’ Christmas trading performance, “and that we were building on strong like-for-like sales in the same period last year”. He claimed that these results reflected customers’ loyalty to the chain. “I expect to report 2008 results in line with expectations, when we make our preliminary announcement on Tuesday, 10 March 2009,” he added. “The trading outlook for 2009 is demanding and customers will continue to feel the impact of the economic downturn. Costs will remain high into the first half, despite the recent easing of prices for fuel and a number of key commodities. “As a cash-generative business with no debt, we remain well-placed to weather the recession and benefit from opportunities for future growth.” For the fiscal year to date, Greggs’ sales have increased by 7.1% and like-for-like growth by 4.4%.
20 January, 1933:A “mean trick”The risks that bakers constantly face were demonstrated at the Feltham Police Court on Friday. A baker had obliged a woman defendant by supplying her with a Christmas pudding. On the day following Boxing Day, the woman called upon the baker and complained that a stone from her pudding got into her throat, causing pain, and that her husband called in the family doctor, who recovered the stone by means of forceps. Certain suggestions were made that the baker should compensate the woman and, ultimately, the baker paid £2. In point of fact, a doctor never visited the house in connection with the matter. “A very mean trick to play on a tradesman,” said the chairman, with which remark our readers will find themselves in cordial agreement. The man and his wife were bound over for six months and ordered to pay costs.
Julian Carter, Hambleton Bakery, RutlandTell us a bit about the business.I head up a team of seven bakers and two cake-makers. We’re a sister company to Hambleton Hall hotel and have three shops: one at the main bakery in Exon, as well as in Oakham and Stamford. We’re supporters of the Real Bread Campaign, so are strong believers in using local ingredients, long ferments and not using additives in our breads. A lot of our flour comes from small local millers, such as Whissendine Windmill. We make a wide range of traditional artisan breads in our wood-burning oven such as sourdough, honey and nut bread and the Hambleton Local loaf, made by fermenting local beer. We’ve also just launched a range of traditional cakes. Altogether we produce around 40 products.What’s a typical day like?Every day is different. The past few weeks, I’ve been getting the cake business up and running, working from 12pm to 8pm making products such as egg custards, Bakewell tarts, summer puddings and treacle tarts. We’ve launched the range to keep things fresh in the shops, but also to make better use of the bakery. Bread baking begins at anywhere between 12am and 3am and goes through the night in preparation for morning deliveries, so it made sense to develop new products that could be made during the day.What’s your background?I come from a long line of bakers. My family bought the licence for making Bath Oliver biscuits in Bristol back in 1820 and my father ran a bakery in Liverpool for many years, but the business closed down in the 1980s when supermarkets started introducing bread at 20p a loaf and cheap mass-produced cakes became popular. I had worked in the bakery as I was growing up, but decided to change direction and joined the RAF, retraining as a chef. I worked there for 12 years, ending up as part of the team that cooked for the Prime Minister John Major at Chequers and 10 Downing Street. We also got to cook for visiting politicians like Bill Clinton, Jacques Chirac and Boris Yeltsin. We then moved to Rutland, where I got a job as sous-chef at Hambleton Hall hotel’s restaurant. I ended up making all the bread and pastries. One thing led to another and we opened a bakery.How do you find baking with a wood-burning oven?I was terrified to use it, but wood-fired ovens are actually pretty easy to bake with. We burn three-foot ash and beech logs, sourced from the local estates. Fuel only costs about £14 a day. Each morning you have to stoke up the oven, but the temperature never really drops by much, because we are baking seven days a week. The oven has a rotating platform, which makes loading easy, and it’s excellent for breads like sourdoughs and bloomers. For really crusty products, like rolls, we still use a Tom Chandley steam oven.
lYeastWe look at how liquid yeasts can transform the way you use one of the key ingredients in your bakery, plus other innovationslBake-off: sweet pastriesWhether it’s par-baked or unproven, the quality of bake-off items is getting ever better, but is the demand for innovation being met?lSecurityAll too often, retail bakers wait for an incident before taking steps to improve security, but would early action save tears in the long run?