Scottish Bakers gears up for ‘thought provoking’ and ‘intensely interesting’ Annual Conference

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Scottish Bakers Annual Conference is taking place on 5-6 May in Glasgow. Pic: Scottish Bakers
Scottish Bakers Annual Conference is taking place on 5-6 May in Glasgow. Pic: Scottish Bakers

Related tags Scottish Bakers Scottish Baker of the Year conference programme Training Inflation Social media Apprenticeship

The ‘Forward Together’ programme tackles a number of key issues affecting the sector today, including resilience and creativity during what has been the toughest trading period in history; the importance of training and especially apprenticeships; and how to make the most of social media.

President Ian McGhee will welcome delegates to the conference and awards weekend - taking place 5-6 May in Glasgow - with an address focused on the resilience and creativity of the sector, which has endured one of the toughest trading years in memory.

A director of McGhees – which has been baking since 1936 – McGhee has hands-on experience in maintaining healthy margins while tackling soaring energy and commodity costs. He will also reflect on the work he has been involved in throughout his first year to support the trade. 

Take a bow

Alasdair Smith
Alasdair Smith

The event will be Alasdair Smith's last as chief executive officer, after fives years in the hot set.

“When the curtain comes down on the Scottish Baker of the Year on Saturday night, that's me off the clock,”​ Smith told Bakery&Snacks.

“My background is in skills and apprenticeships, so from an employer side of the fence [not bakery], but very quickly came to realise this is an incredibly noble and proud trade and one that's got an amazing sense of fellowship. Whether you’re big or small, if you’re having any kind of issue or challenge, there will be another baker nearby that you'd be able to call upon.”

He added, “Over the course of the past five years, I like to think that I have supported my team through whatever challenges they may have faced, but also pushed them to achieve even more and be better  versions of themselves. They are extraordinarily and committed to the trade and to the association and I know they will continue with that dedication to support all the members.”

The process for Smith’s successor is currently ongoing, “but I know the Board is keen to ensure that someone is able to come into the post quite quickly.”

Designed to benefit bakers, large and small

Conference delegates will also hear from Neil Gray MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing, Economy, Fair Work and Energy. His keynote address will be followed by answering questions from the audience.

A discussion on employment law, wellbeing and recruitment sees a panel of professionals shine a light on finding new ways to support staff, how to get the best from them and, vitally, how to reward their efforts.

This will be followed by a baker-led debate on training – specifically apprenticeships – and how this can benefit bakers, large and small, as a means of recruiting and retaining valuable staff, improving productivity and efficiency, reducing waste and ultimately saving money.

Delegates will also hear from Matthew Bond, creative director of Project D, which was the first ever recipient of the Online Bakery Business of the Year Award at British Baker’s 2022 BIA ceremony.

Founded in 2018, Project D now turns over around £3.5m and employs over 100 staff. Its TikTok video of a mega heart-shaped doughnut being filled, decorated and then devoured garnered more than six million views.

At the conference, Bond will share the baker’s ambitious growth plans for the next 24 months and how moving away from ‘bricks & mortar’ to online not only helped pivot the business during the height of the pandemic, but now accounts for 20% of all sales.

Follow up sessions will focus on consumer and market trends, innovation, and new ways of reaching existing and new customers. The Saturday programme ends with a word from the reigning Scottish Baker of the Year champions, Paddy and Jane Murphy from The Three Little Bakers in Inverness.

As always, conference host and Scottish Bakers Ambassador Mich Turner MBE will facilitate the day.

“The programme for 2023 is full of content that reflects the positive outlook of a sector keen for continued growth against a backdrop of ongoing challenges,” ​said McGhee.

“I would like to thank the team at Bakers House, and particularly our outgoing chief executive Alasdair Smith for curating what promises to be a thought provoking and intensely interesting weekend for our industry.”

Scottish Baker of the Year

Scottish Baker of the Year

While delegates will glean important industry insight and learnings during the conference, it is the crowing of the 2023/4 champions – on Saturday evening – that the industry is waiting for with bated breath.

According to Smith, this year’s Scottish Baker of the Year Awards undoubtedly reflects the growing confidence within the sector.

“The competition was our busiest ever. We had 630 products for judging from 70 businesses – up from about 480 from 57 businesses last year,”​ he said.

“Judging was a very intensive process. The business part was the most closely [contested] that I ever remember in my time of overseeing the competition, so when we make the announcements for the Bakery Cafe of the Year, the Craft Baker, the Retail Craft Baker and the Wholesale Baker, it’s worth remembering that there really wasn’t much to separate those who walk away with the trophy from the other finalists.

“Again, I think that’s reflective of the trade that is more confident in itself. They’re working hard on every part of their business, from the products to the way they communicate with their customers to the way that they train their staff and the way they present themselves,”​ he added.

The following bakers are in with a shot of a top prize:

Annie’s Bakery, Caithness

Asher’s Bakery, Nairn

Babyfaced Baker Ltd, Edinburgh

Bavarian Bakehouse, Cumbernauld

Biggar Flavour, Biggar

Byron Bakery, Aberdeen

California Kitchen and Catering, Glasgow

City Market Bakery (City of Glasgow College), Glasgow

Cuckoo’s Bakery, Edinburgh

Cukie Patisserie, Dunfermline

Fisher & Donaldson, Cupar

G.H. Barnett & Son, Anstruther

Gannets Northeast Limited, Laurencekirk

Gilardi Bakers Ltd (Stobbs the Baker), Ayr

Goodfellow & Steven, Dundee

Grazey Days, Inverness

Gretna Bakery, Gretna

Harry Gow Bakery, Inverness

Irvines Bakers and Confectioners, Beith

J B Christie (Christie the Baker), Airdrie

J G Ross (Bakers) Ltd, Inverurie

J M Bakery, Carnoustie

John Gillespie & Sons Ltd, Stranraer

Luscious Lovelies Cakes, Falkirk

Mackenzie’s Bakery, Portree

Maclean’s Highland Bakery, Forres

McGhee’s Bakery, Glasgow

Mimi’s Bakehouse, Edinburgh

Murrays Bakers, Perth

Nevis Bakery Ltd, Fort William

Newlands Home Bakery, Glasgow

Pastel, Dalkeith

Peter’s Bakery, Glasgow

Plant Blonde, Glasgow

Reid’s of Caithness, Thurso

Bayne's the Family Bakers, Lochore, Fife

Stephens Bakery, Dunfermline

T A Francis & Sons, Annan

The Apple Pie Bakery, Lanark

The Bread Guy, Aberdeen

The Breadwinner Bakery, Edinburgh

The Kandy Bar, Saltcoats

The Naked Sourdough, Kelso

The Three Little Bakers, Inverness

Bako Group heads the sponsorship leaderboard for the conference and awards, along with category sponsors American Pan UK, Andrew Ingredients, British Bakels, Carr’s Flour Mills, Dawn Foods, DMD 2000 Ltd, Fleming Howden, Lesaffre, Puratos UK, Renshaw, Rondo and Scotland Food & Drink.

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