Separating the wheat from the chaff: UK’s craft bakery sector weathers the pandemic with great aplomb

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Craft Bakers Association, artisanal bakeries, coronavirus

The Craft Bakers Association (CBA) – which represents approximately 500 bakery businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – reports the sector has become very dynamic on the back of the coronavirus outbreak.

According to George Fuller, chairman of CBA and Karen Dear, director of operations, it’s the quality of the personal care and attention of the traditional baker – mostly still family-run businesses – that sets the sector apart. Because of their size and stature, they’re also in a position to adapt very quickly.

An essential component in the past couple of months.

“Bread is an important dietary food … and we’ve seen a lot of positive news stories about it, particularly in the past three months or so,”​ said Dear. Indeed, by all accounts, consumers around the globe went on a bread baking binge, purportedly to banish lockdown boredom and perhaps find solace in the comforting staple.

Fuller added, “If people have the benefit of a small craft bakery – it doesn’t even have to be that small, in fact some of our members are quite large outfits – then it is a win:win situation, because you’ve got access to the real thing and its manufactured locally.”

The value of good bread

He noted the sector was already enjoying something of a revival as far as people were starting to appreciate, once again, the value of good bread long before the pandemic struck.

“For the past 10-15 years, we have seen the traditional side of the craft coming to the fore again after the big push in the 60s and 70s by industrial millers who simply wanted everything on a machine, driven by cost-efficiency.”

Looking at statistics, sliced bread sales are in decline, which is to the advantage of the craft sector, although Fuller conceded craft bakers would not be able to fill the space because of volume.

“We have to acknowledge the industrial baker has a great role to play in feeding the nation, and even they are becoming more innovative,” ​he said.

“However, some of our member have seen quite significant growth of the traditional-style of bread and that tells me the re-education process is working.

We chat to the two CBA execs to get a better picture of the UK’s craft bakery sector and how it really has weathered the coronavirus outbreak. We also take a deeper dive into how its members have innovated to adapt their businesses in response to the health crisis, and what the sector should look to as the lockdown eases.

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