Millers and bakers resolve differences to beat challenges

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bread

UK millers and bakers, often at loggerheads in the past, are
increasingly working together, presenting a stronger front to
challenges facing their industry, reports Lorraine Heller.

The closer cooperation is already helping the sector to deal more efficiently with threats like the Atkins diet, according to Peter Knight, president of the National Association of British and Irish Millers (nabim).

Highlighting the improving relations between millers and bakers in a speech at the annual Federation of Bakers (FoB) conference recently, Knight said the trade associations of the two industries are now more united than they have ever been.

"There is a greater realisation within both sectors that their futures are mutually dependent,"​ he told BakeryAndSnacks.com.

Andrew Brown, interim director of the FoB, agrees. "Our improved relationship is based on the mutual understanding that we all share the same customer, and we all have to work together to produce what that customer wants,"​ he explained.

If this understanding runs all the way along the supply chain, industry will ultimately benefit.

"The consumer wants a particular quality bread; consequently, farmers must plant a particular quality wheat, millers must use this to make a particular quality flour and bakers use the flour to make the bread in demand. An efficient supply chain is in the interest of everyone,"​ added Brown.

Until several years ago, the Flour Advisory Bureau (FAB)- the PR arm of nabim- was a source of friction between nabim and the FoB. This has changed with nabim's decision that the FAB should withdraw from more consumer-led PR to focus on longer-term issues with a strong emphasis on nutrition.

Today, both nabim and the FoB have members sitting on the PR bodies of each other's organisations. The result is an integrated PR programme that has benefited the entire cereals chain, from farmers to consumers, say the organisations.

"Millers don't go in for 'hype',"​ said Knight, "they work closely with facts and figures and present the true facts in a convincing and realistic way. This concept has been developed in conjunction with the FoB to ensure that a consistent message is conveyed, based on the same sound principles."

He highlighted how, when faced with a threat to UK's access to duty-free, high quality wheat, the close collaboration of nabim and the FoB had positive results, leading to the successful retention of a system which provides unlimited access.

Furthermore, when Monsanto presented a GM version of wheat to the USA and Canadian markets, substantial pressure from British millers and bakers helped raise the concerns of the overseas users of this wheat. As a result of these concerns the project was abandoned. Had this not happened, the cost of sourcing non-GM wheat in the USA and Canada would have significantly increased, with consequent costs for the entire chain.

Another issue faced together by nabim and the FoB is that of grain and process contaminants.

"We tend to act collectively, because we know that if there is a problem, the whole sector tends to be affected, not just the companies directly involved,"​ said Knight.

Key proof of the better relationship shared by the two sectors is their combined efforts in the creation of the Vitality Eating System diet programme, an alternative to the controversial Atkins and other low-carb diets that promotes fibre-rich foods. The eating plan was developed by the Grain Information Service (GIS), the FAB and the FoB.

"Over the years we have worked more and more closely with the FoB as we share a lot of generic messaging,"​ confirmed Dr Tamara de Grassi, nutritionist and head of communications at FAB.

Having seen the benefits of collaborative work, nabim and the FoB are looking to cement their relationship and exploit its potential to the full.

Other miller and baker associations in the EU have been sufficiently impressed by the activities of the UK sectors that they are investigating the possibilities of following similar action in other countries.

Related topics: Ingredients

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