Scottish Baker of the Year, Healthier Baking Fund, people investment and the power of social media: Highlights from the annual Conference and Awards

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Mimi's Bakehouse finally made it to Baker of the Year, after nine years of being 'a bridesmaid'. Pic: Scottish Bakers
Mimi's Bakehouse finally made it to Baker of the Year, after nine years of being 'a bridesmaid'. Pic: Scottish Bakers

Related tags Scottish Bakers Scottish Baker of the Year Apprenticeship reformulation Social media Innovation coronavirus

Scottish Bakers’ annual conference – held in Glasgow over the weekend (5-6 May) – saw Mimi’s Bakehouse fight off stiff competition to take the title; the launch of a government-backed fund to support the sector with reformulation; and a warning to ignore social media ‘at your peril’.

Mimi’s Bakehouse of Edinburgh scooped up a number of awards, including Bakery Café of the Year Category; Regional Silver for its (1) Sourdough, (2) MWG (free from) bread and (3) 2D Celebration Cake; and Best in Scotland Gold for its (1) Fruit Scone and (2) Chocolate Raspberry (free from) Cupcake.

This is no mean feat, as this year saw a massive pool of 630 products from 70 bakers entered.

Organised by Scottish Bakers – which has been protecting the interests of Scotland's bakery trade for over 130 years – the contest was once again hotly contested with entrants each submitting up to 12 of their star products to be taste tested by a judging panel made up of 50 industry experts.

Scot 2
Mich Turner

“Each and every one of which was assessed for appearance, the quality of the bake and taste”​ said Scottish Baker of the Year ambassador and star baker Mich Turner MBE.

“Mimi’s Bakehouse can be rightly proud of their win.”

Added Scottish Bakers president Ian McGhee, “Each year, our judges look for the best scones, loaves, savoury items, morning rolls, individual cakes and biscuits, as well as French and Danish style pastries and free from bread, biscuits and cakes … and the competition was once again close run. It was great to see the best iconic Scottish bakes entered alongside some fantastic new innovation on show, a real celebration of our fantastic sector.”

While the glittering Awards Ceremony was certainly the highlight of the weekend, the conference itself was packed with insightful and useful content for participants.

Scotland’s magicians

Scot 6
Edward Reid

Following an amusing interactive session from entertainer Edward Reid to ‘start the day with mindfulness’ – along with introductions by Mich Turner, Ian McGhee and Paul Long, MD of Bako Northern (lead sponsor of the event) – Neil Gray MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy took to the stage.

Edward Reed’s 9 steps to being a mindful leader

Be non-judgemental – turn the tables and imagine that person judging you…

  • Patience – so many positives here
  • Have a beginner’s mind – see everything with fresh eyes, it opens new opportunities
  • Trust – trust your employees to do the job they’ve been hired to do; trust in yourself, too
  • Non-striving – striving 100% of the time can be exhausting and takes the joy out of life; give yourself a moment to relax
  • Acceptance – no matter the loss (be it a death, a job, a dream), this is now the reality, so breath and accept – it’s the key to peace
  • Letting go – we all like to be right, but kindness will win over being right every time
  • Gratitude – it’s a big thing when you’re the recipient of gratitude, so give it back
  • Kindness – it’s contagious and doesn’t cost much to give 

“It's a great pleasure for me to be at the premier event speaking to an institution everybody loves and takes great enjoyment from,”​ said Gray, adding “it’s the first time that I have closed my eyes and thought about my breathing ahead of a major speech … so different preparations, but one that was very much enjoyed.

“Scotland's food and drink industry is a great success story. Our produce is celebrated and enjoyed around the world. We have some of the highest quality produce available and this is down to the hard work commitment and passion that our industry gives every single day.

“There is no doubt our outstanding bakers and bakery products are a shining example of this, and I'm sure that Alasdair [Smith, Scottish Bakers CEO] will not mind if I quote a line that he forwarded in his briefing: ‘Scotland's bakers are magicians every day of the year.They turn humble, natural ingredients into an incredible range of delicious, freshly baked bread, savoury snacks and sweet treats for everyone in Scotland to enjoy’.

Scot 5
Alasdair Smith

Added Gray, “The past few years have been difficult with the pandemic, Brexit and other challenges, and the bakery sector has not been immune.

“Recognising the difficulties facing the food and drink sector, the Scottish government has committed £15 million of funding between 2020 and 2023 towards the sector's recovery plan, which contains 50 actions to help businesses address some of these challenges.

Of that, £950,000 has been earmarked to support Scotland Food & Drink, under which “Scottish bakers are well catered for to ensure the new strategy meets your needs for future development of the sector,” ​said Gray.

“It's encouraging the current data on commodities such as cereals and energy have shown some improvements, with associated prices coming down from historic highs and returning to more normal levels. And I hope we can all take some comfort from this, but it's time to look forward.”

Gray noted “this will involve urgent discussions to agree how government can better support business and communities using policy levers such as non-domestic grades. We've already heard the concerns of business about … the deposit return schemes readiness for launch this August. As a result, that will now be delayed and the launch of the scheme will now be the 1 March 2024.”

Hooked on health

Scot 7
Neil Gray MSP

He also used the event to announce the launch of the Healthier Bakery Fund to support bakers across Scotland to make some of their product healthier. The Fund falls under the auspices of the Scottish Reformulation for Health programme, ​managed Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Scotland.

“The £50,00 fund will help bakers to meet the growing consumer demand for healthier options. It will also support businesses to meet UK-wide nutritional targets such as the salt and calorie reduction targets. The funding can be used, for example, to trial recipe or process changes for nutritional testing or improving production capacity for healthier recipes.”

Gray also addressed skills investment, noting that “modern apprenticeships are a vital resource for employers in the bakery sector.

“Our priority is for high quality apprenticeships that provide sustainable jobs and careers. And our cooperation with partners will be key to achieving this dream.”

Scot 1

This topic formed the bulk of the Saturday morning programme, with panel discussions on employment law; the importance of apprenticeships; how mindfulness can help employers; and how some in the sector are getting it right, including McGhee’s Bakery, Lees of Scotland, Keptie Bakery and Mimi’s Bakehouse.

“We have all experienced a lot of change in the past few years, but we're moving forward at pace with plenty to look forward to,”​ concluded Gray.

“Your continued effort in serving the community with fresh products on a daily basis and your tangible contribution to our economy is hugely appreciated by myself and by the Scottish government. We'll continue to try to provide the platform for growth that you need and look forward to working even more closely with you in the days, weeks and months ahead.”

Rags to riches

Scot 3
Matthew Bond

Post-lunch, keynote speaker Matthew Bond, cofounder and creative director and a self-confessed doughnut lover, took the audience through the whirlwind success story of Project D, the brainchild of three ‘ignorant’ 25-year-olds on a shoestring budget.

“Blood, sweat and tears”​ followed the company’s launch in 2018 and while the pandemic was a death blow for many, Project D ran with the challenge and expanded into outdoor pop-up shops and home delivery of not only doughnuts, but also free-range eggs, flour and yeast to help home bakers in the Midlands through the national shortage.

“These were absolutely incredible times,”​ said Bond, noting queues would form “around the block.”​ The company was also prominent in thanking front-line workers and became a viral Tik Tok sensation with its giant doughnut (6 million views), leading to partnerships with British Airways, Brewdog, Coca-Cola, Amazon, Love Island and Sainsbury’s.

“When you put your mind to something and never give up, you’ll never know where you’ll get to,”​ Bond advises startups, adding, “It’s never too late to start; take yourself out of your comfort zone every day; take risks; positivity is key and teamwork makes the dream work.”

Scot 4
Jacqui Passmore

This mindset emulated the theme of the afternoon’s panel sessions, with speakers exploring opportunities, trends and innovation.

The future, without a doubt, is social media, with 7 in 10 UK consumers willing to purchase sweet baked goods online, according to Jacqui Passmore, marketing manger of Dawn Foods. Eating with the eyes and the feel-good factor must be embraced, along with taking a dive into new adventures, taste, textures and cultures.

“There’s an opportunity for us all to look in new areas for inspirating,”​ said Alasdair Smith​ in his wrap up speech.

“Ignore social media and online at your peril.”

Scottish Baker of the Year

SWNS_SB_WINNER_05

Prizes were awarded for best products on show – biscuits, breads, cakes, morning rolls, free from offerings, viennoiserie, etc – but also best businesses: Craft Baker of the Year (three shops or less); Retail Craft Baker of the Year (four shops or more); Wholesale Baker of the Year (no shops) and Bakery Café of the Year (produce the bulk of their own baked goods either onsite or at a dedicated bakery unit).

“Each and every winner should be justifiably proud and we hope that for every well-deserved prize, there is a corresponding business boost,”​ said Scottish Bakers president Ian McGhee.

Full list of 2023/24 winners

Annie’s Bakery, Caithness

Asher’s Bakery, Nairn

Babyfaced Baker, 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, Laurencekirk

Gilardi Bakers (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), Inverurie

J M Bakery, Carnoustie

John Gillespie & Sons, 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, 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

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