MEET THE NEGOTIATOR

first_imgMr Polson, who was born in Glasgow, now lives in a village in north Oxfordshire with his wife and two children -– girls aged nine and 13. He has worked in trade associations for 20 years and has had positions with the British Amusement Catering Trades Association, the British Insurance Brokers Association, National Association of Steel Stockholders, the Federation of Ophthalmic & Dispensing Opticians and the Aluminium Federation.He is an active member of his village’s parish council – speed limits through the village are a current political concern. He enjoys sports including golf, ‘spinning’ on a stationary bicycle and ski-ing.To hear Gordon Polson talk about plant baking issues, you would hardly think that six months ago his only connection with the bread industry was as a consumer. The Glaswegian has clearly been a conscientious student as he establishes himself in his new role as director of the Federation of Bakers (FoB) following his appointment in September 2005. Promoting the interests of an industry with retail sales of £3bn, which employs 20,000 people and supplies 80% of the nation’s bread is no mean feat. But Mr Polson seems to have got to grips with the FoB’s nine members’ issues, ranging from Tesco’s bread basket project to the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) various health initiatives, such as its salt reduction strategy. It helps that Mr Polson, who was in the past director general of the National Association of Steel Sockholders, has years of experience running trade associations on his CV. It shows in many ways, for example the understanding that trade bodies need to pull together. The FoB will be working closely with the Flour Advisory Bureau in 2006 on public relations promoting the Vitality Eating System, which is a guide to a healthy diet. Mr Polson’s career has also given him experience of the machinations of European Union politics. This stood him in good stead in one of the early challenges of his role – lobbying MEPs on European prescribed bread weight legislation. Bread weightsMr Polson is pleased to report positive signs on the EU Nominal Quantities Directive. On December 12, a European Commission committee voted in favour of retaining national bread weight legislation. This would allow the UK to keep its system of selling bread above 300g in weight in prescribed quantities – 400g, 800g and 1,200g loaves. New weights, for example 600g or 1,000g, could also be added. The plant baking industry wants the original weights to be retained to prevent unscrupulous bakers passing off lighter loaves, for example selling a 700g loaf for the price of an 800g one.Following an EU Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee vote, the issue will now go forward to the European Parliament for debate, with a vote expected to take place this month or in February. The debate will then be passed onto the European Council of Ministers, in a process which is expected to take a year to 18 months. Mr Polson comments: “It will be a long process, it is difficult to predict how long it will take to resolve. With the UK relinquishing its presidency of the EU, the new Austrian presidency may decide it is not important and turn its attention to other issues.”Mr Polson knows there will be months of lobbying ahead as the draft legislation makes its progress through the European legislative system, and seems unphased by the bureaucracy. In fact he says “lobbying is quite good fun”.He continues: “You have to keep on top of what lobbying is happening behind the scenes. We have to keep our arguments in MEPs minds, go to Brussels and sit with MEPs in their offices. It is important to keep them up to speed with issues. “The timing has to be right. You have to remind them what the position is before the debate takes place, speak to the whips and the key MEPs. You need to get position papers out, and speak to civil servants to make sure you hear things from all angles.” It sounds like Mr Polson will continue to familiarise himself with the British Airways timetable to Brussels over 2006 as the FoB keeps up the pressure on the issue, working with other bakery bodies, such as the National Association of Master Bakers.Salt content Closer to home, the FSA has plenty to keep Mr Polson occupied. He rattles off a list of issues that the FoB is currently in consultation over, including front-of-pack labelling, salt and folic acid. “We keep going on all those issues”, he says.The FoB recently pledged to publish details of average salt content in plant loaves, as part of a proposed programme of salt reduction.Members have agreed, in principle, to submit up-to-date recipe data so the FoB can establish average salt contents for white, brown and wholemeal bread. These could then be reduced by 5% within two years, and by another 5% by 2010.The FoB has also proposed setting a maximum threshold for salt in bread – of 0.6g per 100g – within 12 months. That will be reduced to 0.54g per 100g within two years. By 2010, its members have pledged to reduce salt to 0.5g per 100g, subject to agreement from the FSA. And members’ bread packaging will list salt content per slice and per 100g, instead of sodium.The proposals would ensure that salt content in the saltiest breads is reduced at a greater pace than average breads, Mr Polson says. He comments: “I do not think that anybody is going to say, ‘I am against looking at what can be done on salt reduction’. But it has to be done in a way which is achievable. There has to be a balance. If anyone suggests a level and a date there has to be flexibility.” Mr Polson says informal discussions on the proposals with the FSA, which originally suggested a target of 0.4g of salt per 100g, are positive. He comments: “We had a brief informal discussion with the FSA, but no formal response yet. It is distilling the 70 responses it got to the salt consultation. It acknowledged the advantage of using maximum and average figures on reducing salt in terms of technology and consumer acceptance.” Cleary the FoB isn’t headed towards a brawl with the FSA on this issue – Mr Polson is taking a sensible approach. He adds: “We would hope that the government and the FSA could look at the bigger issues of people’s health in general rather than just targeting the food industry all the time.” Folic acidMeanwhile, Mr Polson is preparing for a debate on mandatory fortification of bread with folic acid. He wants to make sure that if this goes ahead millers fortify at the flour stage.The FSA held an exploratory meeting on the issue before Christmas, and will start a consultation in February. Again, timescales cannot be predicted, it could be 2007 before a decision is made. He comments: “Our position is that a decision about mandatory fortification of bread with folic acid has to be a medical decision that the government takes. If it is going to be mandatory then it should be flour that is fortified.”He is also keeping one eye on the situation in Ireland, where a committee is considering submissions from the public consultations on fortification with folic acid.The committee is debating the nitty gritty issues like how much folic should be added to foods and who will pay the costs, estimated to be hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. It meets again in February to finalise its recomendations, which will then be sent to the Irish Minister for Health, who will then decide whether or not to introduce voluntary or mandatory fortification. Bread basketsAnother issue which is occupying the FoB is the roll out of standard-sized breadbaskets with Tesco, which it is overseeing through sub-committees and a steering group. After hard negotion with major plant suppliers, Tesco started its trial of a one-size-fits-all 10-loaf plastic bread basket at larger stores in October 2004. The trial was extended in the autumn to cover over 130 larger Tesco stores. The baskets can be stacked ten high and then wheeled onto the shop floor. The stack is used as a roll-in merchadising unit or baskets can be locked into place on specially designed shelving. Plant bakers are footing the cost of the new baskets and the changes to their handling processes required to accommodate them – a considerable expense.Mr Polson says: “The cost is different in every bakery. Different bakeries have different operations and types of customer. Some may do 5% of their trade with Tesco, so they deal with those orders in a different way from the bulk of their orders, rather than changing the whole operation and investing several million in changing the handling of the baskets.” At the moment, the relationship between FoB members and Tesco is exclusive, although that period of exclusivity is coming to an end. After that, other supermarkets may choose to adopt the same baskets, leading the way towards an industry standard bread basket, rather than the current range of sizes used by plant bakers. Tesco is using the baskets as a point-of-sale solution, but other supermarkets will make their own decisions on them, Mr Polson says. He adds: “Only Tesco uses them at the moment, but the new breadbasket could be an advantage as an industry standard in years to come, but probably not in 2006. Where we might be in 12 months or three or four years is very interesting. Will there be one basket which everyone is using, not just Tesco?”And the consequences could be even more far reaching, if combined with reform on other supply chain issues. LogisticsConsumers forget how much the plant baking industry is involved in logistics, says Mr Polson. It is a side of the baking industry which impressed him immensely when he joined the FoB. He comments: “Every industry has its hidden gems. The plant baking industry produces and distributes 9m loaves a day, and customers just take it for granted. It’s amazing when you think about it.”At the moment rival plant bakers distribute loaves using their own vehicles, which turn up at supermarket back doors, often causing congestion.Increasingly, supermarkets are asking plant bakers to look at ways of streamlining deliveries, perhaps by collaborating more with each other. It is a challenge which will need to be addressed by the FoB. Mr Polson comments: “Wouldn’t it be fantastic for the supermarkets if one lorry turned up with all their bread from the different suppliers, already in baskets and ready to go onto the shopfloor?”That may be lateral thinking, but with enthusiasm from the likes of Tesco for reform of the bread distribution network it may not be so unlikely.ConsolidationThe next few years will be interesting for the plant baking industry, as supermarket operations become ever slicker. The manufacturing base is also changing as the saga New Rathbones draws to an end and in many other changes in the businesses of FoB members. For example, Warburtons is challenging Allied Bakeries and RHM Bread Bakeries for national dominance. Mr Polson is positive about the future, and prosaic about the recent round of problems at Harvestime (2005). He says: “It is a commercial world and commercial things come and go. You could have argued that maybe there was a bakery or two too many, so I don’t think it will have a negative impact on the market.” A bright futureMr Polson says the days of economy bread are over. “I’m very optimistic for the coming year. I think plant bakers are continuing to innovate in premium products. The consumer gets fantastic choice and the bakeries do well out of them, as do the supermarkets.”The FoB will shortly start working on a campaign promoting the value of bread, in collaboration with the Flour Advisory Bureau. It is also looking forward to its conference on May 10, where speakers will include horticulture minister Lord Bach.The FoB’s members will be reassured their new director has settled in so quickly and appears to be shaping up as a straight-A student. They waited longer than expected for a permanent replacement for their former director John White, who left in February 2005. Mr Polson says he believes it is important their voices be heard, and the signs are that the volume will be turned up in 2006.The FoB conference takes place in London on May 10. For more details call 0207 420 7190 or go to www.bakersfederation.org.uklast_img read more

Salt levels in bread vary across country

first_imgResults from an interim report into salt levels in foods suggests there may be wide regional variations in salt levels in breads.The report from local government body Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) suggests breads and rolls from a specific region of the UK are exceptionally high in salt.LACORS has declined to name the region concerned while the research is ongoing. A spokeswoman explained that it wanted to conduct further investigations to make sure the figures were robust before revealing any findings.However, all seven samples taken from the region so far are considerably higher than for the rest of the UK.”The salt content of such a staple food in one area of the UK is currently of interest and really needs to be explored further,” said the spokeswoman. The project, which started in 2005, is now set to continue for another two years, with regional variations in sugar and fats in foods also examined.The spokeswoman added that the Federation of Bakers would be working with LACORS as the research continued.LACORS coordinated results from council trading standards and environmental health officers for 831 food products for the research. The report found that the salt content of foods had been reduced by 10.9% since May 2005, although fewer than half had achieved their target levels for 2010.The average figure found from 48 bread products following 18 months of investigation was 0.49g/100g. The Food Standards Agency’s sodium target for bread and rolls is 0.43g per 100g of food.last_img read more

Competition Commission report gets mixed reception

first_imgAfter spending almost two years investigating the grocery sector, the Competition Commission published its latest report on February 15. This is an interim report, ahead of its final report which is due before May. Supermarkets and other interested parties will be lobbying hard between now and then.The Commission had earlier noted a climate of fear between suppliers and retailers, but whether its proposal to introduce an ombudsman to control the power of the supermarkets will solve the problem is in some doubt.The Commission’s other main proposal is to make it easier for smaller supermarkets to set up in areas already controlled by another major retailer – in practice, mainly Tesco.Tesco was said to be unhappy with aspects of the report, but its smaller rivals broadly welcomed it.last_img read more

Barilla sells off bakery division

first_imgItalian pasta company Barilla has put its German subsidiary Kamps Bakeries up for sale, six years after acquiring in a deal worth around E1.8bn.Kamps comprises 900 mainly franchised craft bakery shops and five plant bakeries, employing over 1,200 people. Turnover in 2007 was E208m with a further E300m from sales through its stores. The decision to sell the business does not affect Barilla’s Kamps Brot und Backwaren division, which manufactures retail brands such as Golden Toast and Lieken Urkorn, as well as private-label products.”After achieving a successful turnaround over the last few years, Kamps Bakeries is a solid and growing company, which we expect to continue to grow both in sales and profitability,” said Robert Singer, Barilla CEO. “However, managing shops is not a core activity for Barilla.”According to press reports, Barilla has asked 20 potential buyers to submit initial bids for the company within the next month.last_img read more

Jon Castle, Secretary to the Western Region pays tribute to Tony Phillips

first_imgHe was Gloucester region president in 1986 when he started taking a deeper interest in the National Association of Master Bakers (NAMB).Tony was made Western regional president in 2000/2001, this year culminated in an open day bakery visit to his business, Janes Pantry, and he held his dinner dance in Bournemouth. Being very street wise, financially, Tony gladly helped many bakers and put them on the right lines to running their own business. Also at this time, he started contributing articles to the American bakery magazine having become a member of their association, Retail Confections International. Tony Phillips, British Baker’s longstanding and highly popular columnist, was born in Swanage and attended Swanage Grammar School. He then joined the Merchant Navy for a number of years until he met Barbara and became, as he jokingly referred, her toyboy. After their marriage they opened a fabric shop. They also had a cafe which increased demand for their home baked cakes, this started them on the road to becoming bakers and they turned their basement into a bakery and extended into neighbouring premises. Barbara meanwhile commenced making chocolates. As his business progressed Tony became adept at delegating, in particular to his right hand man, Neville Morse.Tony’s business expanded most successfully into nine shops, nine vans and a chocolate and catering business. In 1998 he took a party of British bakers with him to the American bakers conference in Mineappolis, with a few days in New York. While at the conference he arranged visits for our members to a variety of local bakers. We did notice that a lot of them also produced dog biscuits!Tony went on to be elected National President of the NAMB in 2004/2005 and held his conference at Harrogate. While there, we had the pleasure of visiting Hughes Family Bakers and Sparks Confectioners, Tony believed there was always something to learn. He was elected Vice Chairman to the NAMB board, and subsequently chairman. Three years ago he played a major part in putting the NAMB finances in order and cutting the major loss-making AWBT training arm out of existence.In 2007 he became President of the American bakers’ association, the RCI, having been a member for 11 years. He was the first and only British baker to become their President, Tony also played a part in local government, eventually becoming leader of Gloucester City Council.Tony leaves a wife Barbara, two daughters Andrea and Jane and his grandchildren.Jon CastleSecretary to the Western Region.last_img read more

Forfars finds time-saver

first_imgSussex bakery chain Forfars has reduced costs and man-hours after introducing the Toshiba B-SV4D compact desktop printers and Solo software from KTEC to print labels. With label formats stored on the printers, the time-consuming manual labelling process was replaced by printing on demand. The KTEC solution is USB-based, so any changes to the label formats or prices can be sent from head office on a memory stick, for download directly to the printer on site.last_img

Burning a hole in your pocket?

first_imgConsultants with specialist knowledge of the sector say that bakery businesses should no longer expect to see year-on-year reductions in insurance premiums, even where they take steps to reduce risks.According to risk consultancy Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT), a spate of high-profile, high-cost fires in the sector over recent years has pushed up insurance costs. Says UK food and drink executive Ian Edwards: “Put bluntly, the time for premium savings is probably behind us. Unofficial statistics suggest that fire losses in the food industry have exceeded £1bn during the last five years.” He cites the 2004 blaze at Warburtons’ Wednesbury plant as a case in point. This alone is said to have cost insurers over £40m. JLT bases its assessment on feedback from the top 15 property insurers in the sector.This view is supported by independent fire safety consultant Alan Gill. He says: “At best, I’ve seen that the largest insurers have held premiums at a level, rather than putting them up.”Lack of understandingAccording to Edwards, insurance standards and premiums relaxed after the last ’hard’ market, in the wake of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks in New York. “Many insurers new to the food sector entered this marketplace during 2002-3, seeking healthy premiums, but crucially failed to understand the complex risk exposures,” he says.When Finsbury Food Group company United Central Bakeries (UCB) suffered severe fire damage to its Scottish plant in 2006, insurance company AIG (which now has troubles of its own) paid out the sum of £6.8m. “They were very good,” says MD Archy Cunningham. “And they went on to increase our insurance payments by only a minimal amount.” He adds: “We negotiated with them through our broker, but after what they had done, there was no way I was going to switch from one company to another.”This “minimal” increase in premiums did come with strings attached. When the two damaged bays of the three-bay factory were being rebuilt at a cost of some £5.5m, Cunningham estimates that around £100,000 was spent on fire security. This included water and CO2 fire suppression systems in the ovens, and a blanket system over the fryer used for UCB’s Yum Yum product. As well as more standard fire detection methods, infrared detection systems were installed near every source of heat and automatic shutters between each bay, linked to the detection and alarm system. There was an additional cost of white rock wool walling between the bays to slow the spread of fire by up to two hours.The insurer did show some flexibility. “They suggested a factory-wide sprinkler system, but I said ’no’,” Cunningham reports. “The cost would have been too high. They’d have liked utopia, but we found a middle way between utopia and pragmatism!”In fact, many of the measures stipulated by AIG are standard features for new-build bakeries. And established businesses, too, will often find themselves with little option but to invest in fire safety.Damage to favourable insuranceHowever, Edwards says the series of costly fires in the bakery sector has helped to reverse the favourable insurance market of the past five years or so. “If risk management standards have been allowed to slip under more relaxed insurer arrangements during the ’soft’ market, an expensive programme of risk improvement measures might be required in order to enjoy like-for-like coverage,” he says.Ex-fire service officer Alan Gill points out that staff training can be just as important as structural and equipment safeguards. This training works on three levels, he says: general fire awareness, specially-appointed fire marshals and incident controllers.Gill recalls having been at a client’s factory when insurance company representatives were on-site. While not claiming personal credit for this, he says that by being able to explain all the measures in place, his client was able to avoid a potential 10% increase in the premium.In that case, the insurer was Zurich, said by Edwards at JLT to be the most active company in the sector. He quotes a senior property underwriter at Zurich, Paul Johnson: “We underwrite food and drink risks on a case-by-case basis. Excellence in risk management is a ’must’ for us, and we continue to see a great deal of inconsistency here across the industry.”Coincidentally, as an example of that inconsistency, Johnson cites just the type of ’utopian’ sprinkler system that UCB managed to avoid having to install. Clearly, insurance companies are equally “incon-sistent” in their requirements.Ultimately, of course, insurance premiums only seem significant as long as fire precautions remain effective – exactly as they should. One bakery company that has implemented an assessment and improvements in fire safety is Cheshire-based Frank Roberts & Sons. As health and safety manager Martin Martlew puts it: “A lot of the measures we’ve taken were done because they were the right things to do in the interests of the business and the employees. Anything else is a bonus.”—-=== Tighter controls ===UK silo manufacturer Braby believes not enough is being done to promote the importance of ATEX regulations and is calling for tighter controls by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). It believes the recession is also likely to make businesses cut ATEX compliance from their costs. The regulations, which came in on 1 July 2003, require all businesses to comply in order to prevent the risk of dust and flour explosions.Paul Mayer, sales and marketing director, says that you only have to type flour explosions into the search engine on YouTube to see the devastating effects of these types of accidents. “It becomes very frustrating when you see a lack of awareness in the marketplace,” he says. “Also, a lack of enforcement through ignorance; people don’t actually understand the implications fully.”He also questions whose job it is to inform businesses of these regulations. “I visited a business yesterday, which had not even conducted the survey inside their premises and clearly does not conform to the legislation,” says Mayer. Any businesses found not conforming will be given a prohibition notice and, if found to have ignored it, could be shut down.Braby supplies silos, storage vessels and handling systems. The Solids Handling and Processing Association (SHAPA) has produced a guidance leaflet, available on the HSE website www.hse.gov.uk.—-=== Oven safety ===l Ovens should be positioned in accordance with a full fire risk assessment – and the manufacturer’s specificationl Any adjacent processes without direct relevance to baking should have sufficient separation (’bunkering’) to isolate any fire for an hourl Oven maintenance should be documented as part of general fire risk assessmentsl Ovens should be cleaned and maintained in accordance with manufacturer specifications – or even more oftenl Drip or crumb trays should be provided beneath the ovensl Ingredient mixing, or other dust-generating processes, and packing processes, should be located away from ovensSource: risk assessment consultancy Jardine Lloyd Thompsonlast_img read more

In Short

first_imgBorders coffee outlets closedAll 36 Starbucks outlets located in Borders shops in the UK have been forced to close after the book chain’s administrator MCR was unable to agree the sale of any part of the business as a going concern. The outlets closed on 22 December and a spokesperson for Starbucks said the firm was “working to temporarily redeploy as many partners as possible to nearby Starbucks stores”.US bakery café boomBakery cafés in the US have emerged as high-fliers in the restaurant industry, reported Businesswire.com. The findings, in a new study from foodservice industry consultant Technomic, also suggested bakery cafés were well-positioned for new growth opportunities as the US economy improves. Panera Bread, Einstein Bros, Bagels and Au Bon Pain have the biggest share of the market.M&S leaves City coldAnaylsts were underwhelmed by Marks & Spencer’s third-quarter trading figures, which showed UK like-for-like growth of just 0.8% and food sales up 1.3%. Paul Mumford, senior fund manager at Cavendish Asset Management, said: “The figures underline the problematic market position of M&S in recessionary Britain. This is particularly apparent in its food division, which is only now starting to address supermarket competition, and a premium brand that does not play well in Britain’s new age of austerity.”Sonneveld’s new siteBakery ingredients manufacturer and supplier Sonneveld has launched its new website www.sonneveld.com/en this month. It offers support for its clients 24 hours a day and bakers can find the right ingredients with its relevant search criteria.last_img read more

Allergies: 2% affected

first_imgA fifth of adults claim they suffer from a food allergy or intolerance, but evidence has suggested less than 2% actually do, according to new research commissioned by the Flour Advisory Bureau (FAB). The report, carried out by the University of Portsmouth, also revealed that over half the population believe wheat allergy is a common illness. Yet confirmed cases of wheat allergies are less common than, for example, peanut, egg or milk allergies. “Those living alone and those aged 35-44 were most likely to report such an allergy,” said the FAB.”Only 1.4-1.8% of UK adults are allergic to any food and wheat allergies are less prevalent. So many people are avoiding wheat unnecessarily, which may have an adverse impact on their nutritional intake,” said Dr Heather Mackenzie, one author of the new Wheat Hypersensitivity Report.last_img read more

Additional paternity rights

first_imgIf a child is due on or after 3 April 2011, the father or mother’s partner will be entitled to 26 weeks’ “additional paternity leave”. But babies are rarely on time. So what happens if they arrive before the legal deadline?More rights on the horizonWe previously explained that where a child is due on or after 3rd April 2011, then the father or mother’s partner will be entitled to take a maximum 26 weeks’ “additional paternity leave” (APL) in the first year of its life. However, APL can only commence once the child is 20 weeks old.This new statutory right is granted under the Additional Paternity Leave Regulations 2010 and is in addition to the existing right to two weeks’ paternity leave within eight weeks of a child’s birth. Other than being renamed “ordinary paternity leave”, this particular right remains unaffected. But babies often fail to turn up on the date predicted by the medics some make an early appearance and others decide to hang on.However, APL won’t kick in for a while the earliest it could commence is 21 August 2011 that is, 20 weeks after 6 April 2011. Those employees who may be the first to take advantage of it will soon know that they are about to become parents. So you are likely to start getting queries when they confirm the “expected week of childbirth” (EWC).However, the lack of certainty on arrival dates has flagged up a query for our members. Suppose a child is due on or after 3 April 2011, but actually arrives early will the eligible employees still have the right to take APL, or do they lose it?Before any employee can claim APL, they must have a minimum of 26 weeks’ continuous employment at the 15th week before the EWC. If they don’t, regardless of the day the baby is born, they won’t be entitled to take it.Assuming this is OK, but the child is born early in other words, the mother’s due date met the APL criteria then they will still be entitled to it. These Regulations have been designed around the EWC, rather than the actual birth date, because this is so impossible to predict.Required notice periodsRemember, an employee must give you eight weeks’ written notice of their intention to take APL. It must specify both the date the child was expected to be born and the actual date of birth. If you have any doubts on entitlements, you can ask them to produce medical evidence on dates. APL is likely to throw up many other queries and we will be revisiting the topic again.Note: An eligible employee will only be entitled to APL if the mother has returned to work they cannot both be off at the same time.If an employee indicates their intention to take APL, remind them that they are only entitled to additional statutory paternity pay during what would have been the mother’s statutory maternity pay period. The rest of APL is unpaid and this fact should make them consider their actions carefully.l Call 01920 458061 for the NAMB’s policy for additional paternity leave.last_img read more