The Baking Industry Forum (BIF)- due to be launched by the end of the month- has been set up as a collaborative effort by BEMA- the baking industry suppliers association- and George Weston Bakeries.
It consists of a rotating five baking companies and five supplier companies which will meet three times annually to address the key issues facing the baking industry. The aim of this new initiative is to increase efficiency throughout the industry, reduce costs and improve profitability.
"BIF is a way to open lines of communication between suppliers and bakers in a formalised fashion. It will concentrate on very practical, day to day issues that founders felt could be better addressed in a group setting," said Margaret Zapalski, BEMA communications specialist.
"The baking industry globally is pressed by thin profit margins and must really eek out its existence. Bakers are looking for more and more automation versus labour-intensive practices, and BIF is one way to achieve this automation by streamlining procedures in bakeries," she told BakeryAndSnacks.com.
A key issue to be addressed by BIF is the elimination of waste specific to equipment manufacturing through a process of standardization. According to BEMA, if there was an industry-wide regulation on the standards of equipment, the cost for the latter would be significantly lowered, resulting in an improved ability for the baker to compete in the market and a possible reduction in product prices for consumers.
Other points of focus will include the definition of equipment quality requirements and the standardization of terms and conditions in contracts between suppliers and bakers, with the aim of reducing risk and therefore cutting bakers' costs.
Although at any one time BIF will only consist of five bakers and five suppliers, these companies will be rotated on a regular basis and decisions made by the forum will be available and applicable to companies throughout the industry.
The baking industry in the UK is also tightening relations in its supply chain as a response to industry pressures, with the milling and baking sectors joining forces in order to improve efficiency and combat mutual threats, such as Atkins.
The milling and baking industries in the US have also teamed up in the face of such threats, with the launch last year of the Grain Foods Foundation, which promotes the benefits of grain-based foods.