Cathal O’Connor, MD of Amandine (Dungarvan, Waterford) has invested in a rack oven from Double D Food Engineering. Double D’s Revorack Ovens bake 25 racks of French confectionery a week. “Once you’ve perfected the baking programme for each product, you can enter baking parameters into the controller,” he says. The BACS II programmable controller enables the range of Amandine’s products – from croissants to meringues – to be baked.
A £4.4m food and drink skills ’academy’, which co-ordinates existing training programmes in England, will launch in April.Food and drink sector skills council Improve has worked with employers, including Warburtons and RHM, to establish the academy, which is expected to give skills to over 28,000 people during its first four years.It will do this through a network of approved Academy Training Centres, of which there are five at the moment. “Another 35, including Thomas Danby in Leeds, are expected to be approved within three years,” said Paula Widdowson, Improve’s commercial director.Improve aims to extend the scheme into in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at a later date.
JaiOur fourth day in Switzerland proved to be just as instructive as the previous ones. Our escort Mr Sigisbert Bienz arrived at 6.45am to take us to one of the most prominent bakeries in the area, the Bachmann bakery, on a tour that he had kindly arranged. On arrival, we were greeted by Mr Bachmann himself and spoiled with breakfast before a personally guided tour of the whole bakery. It was really interesting to see some of the traditional skills we had learned being put into practice on a grand scale.I was particularly impressed with the high standard of cleanliness and presentation. For example, one of the racks of finished bread looked absolutely delicious, but we were frantically waved away by a member of staff when we tried to photograph it. Sometime later, we discovered that the bread we so admired was actually on the rack designated for products to be scrapped!Other things that definitely stood out were the company’s logo and equipment, coloured bright pink. Much to the delight of my six-year-old daughter, on returning home, I presented her with one of the pink bakery hats.After an extensive tour of the bakery, we moved on to one of Mr Bachmann’s shops in Luzern to observe his wares on display. I was surprised to discover that Bachmann’s produce all their own packaging and paper goods. In my experience, all non-baked goods are usually bought in.The open-plan layout and glass displays in the shop were very effective in enhancing the visual appeal of the products. I found it interesting to learn that the Richemont School also offers courses in varied shop display and presentation techniques. We managed to grab some lunch from the shop and then went on to view some of the competing bakeries in Luzern.While we were there, Mr Bienz revealed some more of the sights that he deemed noteworthy, including the natural formations of the fascinating Glacier Gardens. The glaciers that had sculptured the Alps and the Lakes have left the most amazing and strange geographical features, and the earth still moves. A sign reading “beware falling rocks” is not to be taken lightly, as the rocks can often be larger than your car. Before leaving Luzern for the last time, we made a brief visit to the College of Music to see its beautiful gardens. We also managed to squeeze in a last-minute gift-shopping spree, as I was under instruction to top up my baggage allowance with as much Swiss chocolate as I could carry!Mr Bienz then escorted us to the station where we said our thank yous and farewells. I cannot express what a pleasure it was to have someone so knowledgeable and enthusiastic as our guide; he truly was indispensible. He made the whole trip more enjoyable and a much bigger experience.We boarded the strange double-decker train for the last time and travelled to the airport, and so our adventure came to an end. I look forward to keeping in touch with my fellow award winner Robert Campbell, to swap ideas and possibly reminisce a little too.I am most grateful to Piero Scacco for this wonderful opportunity, and to The Worshipful Company of Bakers, for making the arrangements.RobertOn Friday, which was the day of our return, Siggy had arranged for us to visit a local bakery called ’Bachmann’. This was run by Ramon, who took the time to show us around. Bachmann’s has eight shops and an annual turnover of £12 million. There are 80 people working in the bakery, which is the same amount as at Thomas the Baker, but we have 31 shops, which puts into perspective how in-depth it is and the amount of time they spend on finishing the products compared to ourselves.We also got the opportunity to visit his shops, which were extremely classy. Bachmann prides itself on its service and display of products and it certainly does it well! Whether it was in their shops or cafés, the assistants were always of help and nothing was too much trouble. On the evidence of his products, bakery and shops, it is easy to see why Bachmann has a very wealthy business.My two days’ training at the Richemont School has been the highlight of my bakery career. I never imagined that I would ever get the opportunity to enhance my knowledge and skills from experts like the people I’ve met in the baking industry. It has been a huge pleasure and quite an honour to have been picked for this award. I would like to thank The Worshipful Company of Bakers most sincerely for giving me this fantastic experience, which has been of great use and will never be forgotten. Hopefully, it will help me progress in my bakery career. I would also like to thank abim for sponsoring my trip and I owe a huge thank you to Thomas The Baker for all its support and training throughout the last 11 years, which got me into this position to enter for the award. n
Boils need to be lanced, ears need to be unwaxed and tongues need to be bitten. That’s the rather messy – and painful-sounding – scenario facing those charged with bringing the disparate elements of the industry together to create a unified voice for skills training, following turning-point talks between student leaders and sector skills council Improve this week (pg 5).Everybody in the industry has an opinion on skills provision – or the lack of it. Most are passionate about it. Many have gripes. But one thing is certain: nobody is happy with the current situation and things must change quickly.The baking industry will need 16,000 new craftspeople over the next seven years, according to estimates, but the leadership to tackle this demand has been missing.While Improve – a strategic body rather than a skills provider – recently launched a modular, flexible qualifications framework, which it says has the backing of the industry, one major question has emerged: who’s going to deliver it?Further education bakery colleges have declined from over 20 to under 10 in eight years, and there has been an almost complete withdrawal of work-based learning providers. Meanwhile, there is a generation of trainers approaching retirement and there is no clear career path to attract young people into the profession. There are chicken-and-egg scenarios left, right and centre.Thankfully, the Alliance for Bakery Students & Trainees has grasped the bull by the horns and will spearhead plans for a Centre of Bakery Excellence – a plan that received the full backing of Improve in the crunch meeting this week.So what is a Centre of Bakery Excellence? Would it have satellite academies at the various bakery colleges? What about training of bakery tutors, craft skills and work-based learning? And how could we best tap government resources?It is crucial that stakeholders voice their opinions, clear the air and back this initiative over the coming months. Last year, the government’s Leitch Report threatened to make employers’ provision of skills to Level 2 a legal requirement if not enough is done to address skills shortages by 2010. If the carrot of a better-skilled industry is not incentive enough to take action, then surely the stick of regulation will be.
There is a fine line between brilliant innovation and the utterly bizarre. This was evident from the Hotelympia 2008 exhibition, which showcased a vast range of products, including aluminium teabags and juice made from flowers.== Snacks ==In the snacking category, hand-cooked crisps with a high mark-up price are all the rage. At the end of last year, research company Mintel predicted this trend would take off in 2008. Demand for hand-cooked crisps in particular has grown about 20-30% in recent years. According to Mintel, sales of standard or regular crisps dropped by 3% between 2004 and 2006, while sales of premium brands increased by 4% over the same period.”People are looking for quality products that are perceived to be healthier than the standard varieties. They want exciting flavours and a great-tasting product,” said Simon Herring of Pipers Crisps. “Bakers can benefit from added-value sales, as consumers view crisps as indulgent treats and are buying more expensive ranges.”Among a wealth of handmade premium snacks that were on display, Pipers Crisps are hand-cooked and come in a range of flavours, including Biggleswade sweet chilli, and Somerset cider vinegar and Anglesey sea salt. Other crisp companies at the show included The Real Crisp Company, Salty Dog, and Yorkshire Crisps. Yorkshire Crisps come in a range of flavours, including tomato, basil & mozzarella, parsnip with black pepper and Cheddar & caramelised onion chutney.Healthy snacking options are also on the rise, such as fruit and cereal bars. An unusual snacking alternative making its debut in the UK is Wheat Nuts. The nut-free snack has no trans fats and is claimed to be a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E.== Soft Drinks ==Health, once again, was high on the agenda in the soft drinks category, with some companies pushing innovation to its limits.The Hibiscus Drinks Company launched what it called “the UK’s first superflower drink”. Hib! is made from the calyx of the Hibiscus sabdariffa flower bush and pure spring water. It has no artificial additives, colourings or flavourings. Anita Doran, director of the Hibiscus Drinks Company, said: “Hib! contains a source of anthocyanin antioxidants, which help to mop up harmful free radicals in the body and have been linked to a reduction in blood pressure and the slowing of cancers.”It comes in two flavours including Hibiscus and Grape and Hibiscus and Peppermint. Other drinks companies at the show included Juice 4 U with its new smoothie dispensing machine and Projuice, which provides everything for setting up and running a juice and smoothie operation. The firm was also promoting its own Juice Academy.== Tea ==As a nation of tea drinkers, offerings at the show were varied. Stick Tea, for example, is a novel alternative to teabags. The point of using stick tea is to alleviate the need to stir with a spoon. It is a disposable infuser made with a thin aluminium sheet. According to the company, just put the stick into an empty glass, pour in hot water and stir the stick until the tea is the desired strength.Award-winning Newby Tea UK was also promoting its range of luxury teas, including Imperial Jasmine, Royal Black Dragon, Premier Assam and organic teas.Typhoo, one of the household names at the show, launched the On the Go Cup. This features a teabag inside a cup that is ready to go. “As consumer lifestyles become busier and lunch breaks get shorter, Typhoo On the Go Cup is a way for bakers and outlets to drive tea sales, particularly at point of purchase, where 75% of all purchasing decisions are made,” said Typhoo’s Sue Jones-Smithson.== Coffee and machinery ==The Italian Beverage Company was showcasing a range of products, including Fairtrade hot chocolate, flavoured syrups, sauces, toppings from marshmallows to toffee crunch, speciality teas, wafers and beverage machines.Café Bar, which supplies a range of bakery chains including Lyndale foods and Firkins, was also showcasing its range of Espresso machines. The latest new addition is the CMA-Planet espresso unit. The CMA-Planet system is manufactured in Italy and is available in single, double, triple or quad brew versions and the operator can choose between automatic and semi-automatic modes.Other companies with espresso machines on show included Macro, First Choice Coffee, Coburg coffee company, Black & White, WMF, Scotsman Beverage Systems, Magrini, Brasilia coffee machines and many more.== Cakes and confectionery ==No cup of coffee is complete without a slice of cake. Chasing a share of the premium dessert market, The Handmade Cake Company launched its Blueberry and Lemon Drizzle Cake.Barry Callebaut, supplier of chocolate to the baking industry, also promoted its range of hard and soft chocolate coatings, as well as its single-origin chocolates with 70% cocoa from Ecuador, Madagascar, São Thomé, Java, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.Sandwiches, wraps and speciality breadsTaking place alongside the exhibition, The British Sandwich Association held the British Sandwich Designer of the Year Competition.It also gave presentations, ranging from healthy options to adding value to your sandwich, delivered by development chef Howard Rowell from Cherry Valley.According to Cherry Valley, there are over two billion sandwiches sold out-of-home each year and a third of people want to see duck used in sandwiches and wraps. The company showcased its range of sliced and shredded cooked duck meats and handed out sandwich recipe ideas.Nearby was Speciality Breads, an artisan wholesale company with a range of sandwich carriers, including paninis, brioches and a fruited rustic loaf.”The Speciality Breads’ product range has evolved to keep up with changes in consumer expectations,” said Peter Millen, sales and marketing director. “These have been fuelled by foreign travel, the ’celebrity chef’ and a plethora of TV channels devoted to food.” n
Country Style Foods plans to double capacity for artisanal breads at its Grimsby factory after investing in a giant new stone bake oven that can produce up to 4,000 loaves per hour.Due to be commissioned in July, the 250sq m travelling oven has been adapted by Country Style engineers with the addition of 10 tonnes of granite slabs. These will automatically transport loaves, such as ciabatta, sourdough and pain de campagne, through the oven while providing the constant bottom heat that is necessary for long-fermentation breads.The company, which supplies major multiples and foodservice customers, currently bakes artisanal breads on three stone-bottomed deck ovens, but demand has threatened to outstrip capacity in recent months.”The popularity of artisanal breads has increased by so much over the past few years that we wanted to develop a way to increase output and improve efficiency, while staying true to the artisanal baking process at the same time,” said Country Style founder Tony Wood.The company has bakeries in Leeds, Grimsby, Peterlee and Flint, and employs over 1,200 people.
Double D Food Engineering has expanded its technical centre near Edinburgh to accommodate the Frigoscandia range of spiral freezers, chillers and provers.Industrial bakers will now be able to trial complete in-line baking and cooling/freezing systems with the integration of Double D’s continuous ovens and Frigoscandia’s high-throughput self-stacking freezing and chilling equipment.The expansion follows the acquisition of Double D by JBT FoodTech earlier this year.Double D managing director Bob Petrie said: “We will now be able to demonstrate at first hand the flexibility and synergy between the two systems.”
A Nottingham company claims to have discovered a way of modifying salt, to provide more taste from smaller quantities.Eminate Limited’s product Soda-Lo 20 could potentially help bakers achieve lower salt targets in their products without compromising on taste, it is claimed.“Looking at a level of 2% salt in a loaf of bread, we have been able to take it down to 0.6%,” commented Eminate’s sales and marketing manager Andrew Stacey.The development of the product has also been helped by an Innovation Support Grant, of just over £4,000, from the Food and Drink iNet, which helped Eminate gather the evidence it needed that Soda-Lo 20 worked in bakery products. It used the facilities and techinical expertise at Nottingham Trent University, which provided explanations on the function of Soda-Lo 20 in baked bread, said Stacey.“This now forms the basis of a technical explanation of its ability to reduce salt content in bread, by as much as 70%,” he claimed.
In these hectic times, snacking on the go has come into its own. But as our lifestyles gather speed, driven by the need to tweet every time we boil the kettle, the need for fast food solutions that keep pace grows ever more acute. Sometimes one yearns for a 120psi cannon to fire food straight into one’s face.Thankfully, such dreams have crossed over into reality, with one Youtube video showing ’product launching’ taken to its logical conclusion. The Cupcake Cannon offers a somewhat less dainty way of consuming a cupcake than politely nibbled with an afternoon tea. See t-shirt brand Johnny Cupcakes’ cupcake cannon video here: bit.ly/bVoArI.The concept is about to go mainstream with the return of Wallace & Gromit yes, they’re back and they’re baking, this time as the face of nPower Energy’s World Cup-themed advertising. Wallace has devised a cannon to distribute pies to a stadium crowd, but it goes out of control, leading to a splendid Maradona ’Hand of God’ pun: bit.ly/9FIVro.
Convenient traybakesBorder Homebake has launched a range of traybakes in individual slices, to cater for coffee shops, delis, sandwich bars and convenience retailers. It has also launched a new website traybakes.com with an online shop offering delivery throughout the UK. Its range includes flapjacks, caramel shortcakes, honeycomb crunch, biscuit tiffin and brownies.Italian breads demoFWP Matthews is to host its first Italian bakery demonstration on 1 September at 12pm. The event is free and Aldo Cordero will be attending from Italy to demonstrate how to produce authentic Italian products, such as focaccia and ciabatta. Email [email protected] if you would like to attend.Village opportunityThe makers of a new Channel 4 series, The Village, are looking for couples and families, including those working in a skilled trade, such as bakery, who would like a chance to start a new life in the English countryside and the opportunity to win a three-bedroom cottage in Yorkshire. The series will follow the participants as they move to the village for a week. Local residents will then decide on who wins the cottage. Filming will last between one to three weeks. To find out more call 0207 534 2029 or email: [email protected] bakery fireAn investigation is being carried out into a fire at a bakery in Gosport on 20 July. According to Portsmouth Today, police are hunting a suspected arsonist, who broke into The Cottage Loaf in the high street and is believed to have set fire to packaging inside. The owner’s son Sam Porter told the newspaper that the back of the shop looked badly damaged, but that the shop itself was in relatively good condition.