Wholesaler Bako is cashing in on increased consumer demand for premium products with the launch of a Bako Finest range of foods and ingredients.The company said it was targeting the indulgent, health-aware and quality-conscious market with the range. Individual ingredients can be used to enhance a baker’s own recipes, while prepared foods can add extra value and luxury to existing menus.The first products in the range are Cornish pasties and pork pie crowns. The Cornish pasties are made using hand-prepared meat and vegetables. The pork pie crowns are made with hand-raised pastry.Bako plans to add Finest Cherries and Finest Chicken Meat next, with Finest Dried Fruit added in the new year.
I come from Sri Lanka where I worked as an assistant hotel manager, but I’ve always liked cooking, particularly cake-making and decorating, as my mother was very good at it and used to teach me. When I moved to the UK, I decided to start my own business as I saw there were a lot of opportunities in this country.I started Prestige Creations, which I now run with my husband, Rohan, from our home in Swiss Cottage in London and we’re doing well, making and decorating celebration cakes. That was four years ago, but I recently decided to have a look around at the competition and realised that I needed more knowledge. That’s when I decided I could improve sales and grow the business by learning some more skills, so I started off by doing a five-day course at the International School of Sugarcraft, which was very useful.I’m now doing a one-year, part-time advanced sugarcraft course at Brooklands College, where I go one day a week, from 9.30am-1.30pm. It’s pretty tough finding the time to do it, as I’ve also got two children (aged six and 10), but I’m really enjoying it and learning a lot.I’m constantly picking up new techniques; every day you learn something different, such as sugarpaste work, royal icing techniques, collage and bas relief. We’ve also been studying quilling, which is traditionally a paper craft but is being applied to cake decoration; it’s quite difficult and I can’t say that I’ve particularly enjoyed doing it!We work on dummy cakes, which I’ve kept and will have to display as part of our final assessment, while we also have an exam in June, which tests us on the theory we’ve learnt; 75% of the course is practical and 25% is theory. We are set projects throughout the year too and I have to do reading and research at the library.As soon as I learn the techniques, I use them on my own cakes and I think that has helped me sell more. People like the fact that my handmade cakes are fresh – much fresher than those you buy in the supermarkets, which can be frozen – and the fact that I can give them ideas, discuss what they want and come up with a bespoke cake. I particularly enjoy making children’s birthday cakes with cartoon characters, and I get ideas for them from books and magazines.I also enter competitions in my spare time and have had quite a few successes around the country. I’ve won two gold medals in the Squires Kitchen International School of Sugarcraft competition and, last month, I won three gold medals at the Wessex Salon Culinaire hotel and catering competition in Bournemouth, one of which was for my quilling technique on a fan, and another for making sugarcraft flowers – I had to make a rosebud, rose and three leaves in 20 minutes, which was quite a lot of pressure. I’m going to Cork in Ireland next month for another competition. I like entering them and, of course, winning is very rewarding.I’d really recommend studying sugarcraft to anyone thinking about it, even though it can be time-consuming. I think that if you have the drive to do something, you’ll be able to do it. The cake-making business is really competitive but I want to expand my company in future and set up a website and I’m confident that, after the course, I’llbe able to do that. n
n A man has denied murdering a fellow bakery worker in the car park at Fine Lady Bakeries, Banbury. Shahid Rehman, 29, of Grimsbury Green, Banbury, is accused of the murder of Imran Shah, 23. Mr Shah died from multiple wounds on Monday, 27 November, 2006. Rehman’s trial will begin at Oxford Crown Court on September 24.n Coffee chain Coffee Republic has signed a franchise agreement which will see the brand launched in Romania. The company has signed an agreement with Krruss Holdings to develop its coffee and deli bar concept in the country.n Cash & carry giant Booker and hi-tech wholesaler Blueheath are to merge. The new business, to be listed on the AIM market, will be called Booker Group and will be lead by current Booker chief executive Charles Wilson.n HTG Trading has sold its manufacturing business to Hubbard Products, a subsidiary of Zanotti SpA. HTG Trading’s distribution activities, Hubbard Ice Systems and Taylor Freezer, are unaffected by this change.n Foster Refrigerator has sold its 10,000th hydrocarbon cabinet. Hydrocarbon refrigerants can reduce both energy consumption and carbon emissions by 15%.n Baking equipment supplier Interbake (Bury) has been appointed UK and Irish agent for mixing systems specialist the Tonelli Group.n On 11 May British Baker wrote that Bell Perkins Industrial Easirobe enrober was made in Leeds. It is actually supplied by Brook Food Processing Equipment, based in Minehead, Somerset.
The Artisan Food Centre, based at the Dorset Smokery & Charcuterie, Hurn, Dorset, also the home of craft bakery, Quinney’s, ran a competition to flush out old bread recipes.Supported by Christchurch Food & Wine Festival, Big Barn and Breakfast & Brunch, the competition ran for three months, from 4 February, 2007 to 4 May, 2007. Judging took place during the week commencing 6 May, with the winner being announced on the first day of the Christchurch Festival, following a demonstration in breadmaking by Boyd Shaw, master craft baker, Quinney’s Bakery, and a masterclass by Jean-Christophe Novelli, who later said the Wimborne loaf would make French toast “to die for”.Nigel Allan, winner of the competition, is a retired dental surgeon from Wimborne, Dorset – hence the Wimborne loaf. He received the prize of two vouchers, presented by Shaw, each for a one-day hands-on workshop at the Artisan Food Centre. The judges found the loaf “amazing”. It had a good crust and crumb, with a most unusual flavour. It was delicious, quite original and put a totally different facet on bread.The recipe Allan entered was for one loaf, but has been adapted here by Shaw to give a scaled-up version.Makes 12 loaves at 400g3kg Strong white organic flour60g Salt120g Fresh yeast90g Mustard powder90g Chilli powder90g White granulated sugar300g Grated mature Cheddar300g Lightly salted butter (to be blended with the warm milk)120g Molasses1650g Full-fat milk (warmed through)80g Sesame seeds80g Poppy seeds10 Rashers Parma ham, finely choppedIf needed add water for a “bun dough” consistency Mixing time:2 minutes slow6 minutes fast Prove time: 1½-2 hoursBaking temperature: 200?CBaking time: 30-40 minutesShelf-life: 2-3 days
Craft bakers around the country are gearing up for National Doughnut Week from 10-17 May with a host of ideas to help raise funds for the event’s chosen charity, The Children’s Trust.Townsend Bakery in Liverpool has developed a limited edition star-shaped doughnut for the week, while Corner Bakery in Preston has persuaded one member of staff to dress up as a giant doughnut. The store also expects an appearance from a Preston North End footballer, who will take part in a doughnut-eating competition.BakeMark UK, which is supporting the event, hopes to raise £50,000 for The Children’s Trust. Last year, over 600 people took part, raising almost £40,000.
A traditional Northumberland bakery has enjoyed its best year of trading in its 18-year history. Haltwhistle-based Border Homebake, which specialises in traditional tray bakes, was launched by Justine Carruthers in a disused dairy building, and now employs 12 staff, turning over £200,000 a year. The business delivers to independent stores and cafes, mainly in the North East, Cumbria, and Yorkshire, and recently began supplying 12 Morrisons stores across the North East.Carruthers is confident that she will win a contract with another supermarket chain this year. She said: “The recession has helped as maybe everyone has decided to cheer themselves up by eating cakes. We are working flat out to keep up with the demand.”The company has started individually wrapping some products in response to customer demand, and it now brands all products under the Tray Bakes name. “This has proved really successful as I think that people know more about us now,” she added.Tray Bakes’ best-sellers include honeycomb crunch, a sweet meal honeycombed biscuit with a drizzle of white chocolate-flavoured coating, as well as luxury caramel shortcake and caramel crispie.
Tickets for the Baking Industry Awards 2010 have now sold out, as the industry prepares for the event of this year this September.TV presenter and producer Esther Rantzen CBE will host the circus-themed black-tie event at the Park Lane Hilton, London, which takes place on Wednesday 8 September.The Awards will be attended by key players in the industry and it is a great opportunity to network. The evening begins with a drinks reception, followed by a three-course meal, entertainment – including performances from Cirque Bijou – and the announcement of the Award winners.For further details of the Awards evening, go to www.bakeryawards.co.uk.
The Bpex Foodservice Pork Product of the Year competition for 2011 is now accepting entries for its Pork and Pasty category, supported by British Baker.Entries, of both fresh and frozen products, are welcomed from any bakers of pork and pastry products for the foodservice sector.The closing date for paper entries is 26 January, after which samples will be required for formal judging. Category winners and the 2011 champion will be announced at an awards lunch on 24 March in London. For details go to http://www.porkforcaterers.com/.
To grow or not to grow, that is the question. And while investment remains a problem for many, one rapidly growing company convinced its lenders on performance.Giles Foods has doubled the size of its bakery and invested £3.5m in new plant and equipment. “And that’s just the first phase,” says David Marx, sales and marketing director, talking about investment at the Milton Keynes Pain Artisan bakery.Giles supplies all the country’s leading supermarkets, as well foodservice via wholesale distributors, cash and carry outlets, quick-service restaurants and major pub chains. Its speciality breads and rolls are produced at Milton Keynes. Danish pastries and confectionery are produced at its Warminster, Wilts bakery. They include sweet tarts, which are enjoying equally sweet suc-cess. But that, in turn, means more invest-ment, so phase two is in the planning stage.The results of phase one can be seen in Giles’ new 45,000sqft area. Sensibly, it is highly automated as is now the pattern at bread plants throughout Europe.The new machinery includes a technologically advanced three-deck Mecatherm tunnel oven supplied by EPP the first of its kind to be installed in the UK along with new provers, spiral and blast freezers.And, according to Marx, there will be no let-up in the pace of investment, which has already seen the bakery double in size. In addition to the 45,000sq ft of space already developed, a new adjoining cold store and upgraded loading and distribution facilities are scheduled to come on-stream in spring 2011.Marx says: “The business has made a quantum leap. We make everything from sourdoughs to garlic breads, dough balls and focaccias. As well as doubling our capacity, we’ve achieved a massive increase in product quality, because one of the attributes of the new oven is that, among other things, it allows us to control the thickness of the crust.”For example, sandwich manufacturers are now coming to us and asking if we can produce a ciabatta-style product with a thinner top crust and a heavier sole crust, and we are able to say ’No problem’.”We’ve also been able to cut our input costs, reduce our carbon footprint and have achieved enormous efficiencies right across the business, including keeping labour costs under firm control.”Marx reveals that all these efficiencies mean Giles Foods has been able to minimise the impact of the recent increase in raw material prices. Says Marx: “There has never been anything like it in flour, commodities, energy, transport. However, the efficiency savings mean we’ve been able to suck in the majority of the rises, meaning the increase in our prices is, to the delight of customers, below the industry average.”He adds: “This investment is for the long term and not a piecemeal exercise. With it, we believe we have moved from becoming a secondary supplier of speciality breads to many of our large retail and foodservice customers to being their number one supplier.”He adds that the company will shortly embark on a massive new product development programme with reformulated and new frozen and chilled products scheduled to hit the market in spring and summer this year.
Although sickness absence rates have fallen in recent years, the average employee in the private sector still has 6.4 days off work each year due to “illness”. Further research shows that, at any one time, 3% of the entire working population is away from work because of it. So it remains a major headache for employers.Of course, tackling sickness absence, regardless of whether it is short- or long-term, can also be a problem. This isn’t helped by a myth which circulates among employees; some think that you have no right to contact them when they are off sick. But this is not so. Not only is it perfectly acceptable for you to remain in touch with an employee during any period of sickness absence, it is considered “good management practice” to do so. This means you can ask them for regular updates on their health and a likely return-to-work date for example, via a daily or weekly phone call or by meeting with them.An invasion of privacy?Some employees are sceptical of this approach; they feel it is a breach of their privacy. But the bottom line is that careful management demonstrates you are a reasonable and supportive employer, which takes its duty of care towards employees seriously. Note that this will come in handy should you face a discrimination claim at tribunal. And keeping a close eye on things will also help to unearth any fraudulent sickness absence.Outline the management approach you will take in a robust sickness absence policy. It should state that all employees are expected to attend a return-to-work interview following any period of sickness absence. Also, reserve the right to request a home visit where any illness or condition is “long-term”; this is usually deemed to be five or more days’ absence.If you want to visit an employee at home, don’t turn up unannounced or outside reasonable hours. This could be viewed negatively by the tribunal for example, that you are trying to harass or catch them out.lSo always drop them a line first, suggesting a date and time, and explain the purpose of the meeting in other words to see:1. How they are;2. If there is anything you can do to get them back to work sooner; and3. If an occupational health referral is needed.An employee may feel uncomfortable with a home visit and you can meet on neutral territory. But remember that discussing health-related matters in a public place could breach their privacy, so do point this out.If an employee refuses a home visit, you cannot demand one. But if their sickness absence becomes a capability issue and you are considering dismissal, any reluctance to discuss their health will go in your favour.l For a free sample of ’Sickness Absence Policy’, call 01920 468061.