Futureproofing the craft bakery sector

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

The Craft Bakers Association 2023 Business Day was focused on futureproofing the sector. Pic: CBA
The Craft Bakers Association 2023 Business Day was focused on futureproofing the sector. Pic: CBA

Related tags Craft Bakers Association craft bakery Government Energy business rates Apprenticeship levy Net zero

The Craft Bakers Association’s Business Day 2023 - held in London on 14 June - was hailed a ‘resounding’ success, with nearly 200 delegates in attendance, 15 exhibitors and a host of industry speakers sharing their insights.

The day kicked off with the CBA’s 134th​ Annual General Meeting, which saw the installation of national president Patrick Wilkins and president elect John Foster, along with the appointment of two new directors - master bakers John Frost and Giles Grout.

It was an opportunity for former president Neil Woods to take his bow, following a year that saw three Prime Ministers take the country’s hot seat, the loss of a Queen and a new King crowned. Through it all, Woods said members proved there are opportunities to create something positive out of the negative and the CBA received reports of “members seeing increases in both sales and crucially margins. I congratulate you all.”

CBA Neil Woods

Make the most of the media

“The Business Day was a fantastic opportunity for those attending to discuss the challenges facing the industry, while also sharing knowledge and advice about what bakers can do to futureproof their businesses,”​ said Karen Dear, who was appointed CBA’s chief executive in April after nearly 23 years in key growth positions with the association.

“We were delighted to see so much engagement and passion for the bakery industry all in one space and hope the day delivered benefits for all.”

Among the lineup of industry voices sharing their insights was Amy North, editor of Bakery&Snacks’ sister publication British Baker, ​who gave a mini masterclass on how to engage the media.

“The media is a valuable resource to raise your profile,”​ said North, noting it could be used to attract staff, establish your footprint in your community and highlight you as a trailblazer.

While there is no guarantee in having a story published, she said the media are always on the lookout for “anything new” ​and will be highly appreciative of press releases that follow ‘The 5Ws guideline’ (providing the who, what, where, when and why of a story), along with relevant, sharp, detailed pics.

Explaining the difference between a news story and a feature, North said news briefs get across ‘instant information’ that are ‘time dependent’, while a longform feature gives a story more room to breathe, delving deeper to get behind the scenes.

Taking the stage as keynote speaker of the day was retail futurist Howard Saunders, who shared insight into the most valuable currency: the human connection. Saunders also drove home the value of finding ‘the’ product - not ‘a’ product - and that the future isn’t all about robots.

“AI [artificial intelligence] can help with lots at the moment, but we are in no danger of it taking over our jobs in five years,”​ concurred North.

Lobbying government

Helping hand Getty
Pic: GettyImages

Instead of giving a presentation of what he thought the audience would like to hear, Greg Falconer, deputing director of CBA’s long-standing government partner - the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) - opened the floor to questions.

The three topics to dominate conversation were energy rates and business support, apprenticeships and meeting net zero.

Falconer called his department the ‘one stop shop’ for businesses of any size across the country, representing the industry’s interests at government level.

“You’re doing the hard work; government should be supporting you,”​ he told the audience.

“We are a dedicated team making the case for you; fighting your corner.”

Regarding the industry-wide labour shortage,​ Falconer said his team is “interested in working with businesses to [fully] understand the issues”​ and issued an invite for business owners to “work with us to remedy the apprenticeship system to ensure it works better for as many businesses as possible.

“It’s all very well if government makes a suggestion, but ultimately, you know your business a lot better than we do.”

The CBA has been the voice of more than 500 bakery businesses in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland for over 130 years, working hand in hand with its members to futureproof the craft baking sector. Members are given free access to an extensive range of business critical services including expert advice on HR, employment law, health and food safety, as well as discounted online training and discounts from partner organisations for insurance, among others.

The CBA also works with relevant trade bodies on legislation and government guidance to ensure members’ needs are represented and heard.

Among these are the Horsham District Council and Safer Food Scores, a health and safety consultancy that also provides auditing and training services. Joining the Business Day’s speaker panel was Paul Hobbs, Horsham District Council’s principal environmental health officer and Audrey Dean, SFS’s technical director, consultant and cookbook author.

Complying with food regulations can be fraught for bakers, so in 2016, the CBA partnered with the Horsham District Council to form a Primary Authority Partnership (PAP) to handhold bakers through environmental health and trade standards enforcement. The CBA has instant access to the Primary Authority and is kept up to date with new legations and government policy. As such, this can be turned around to instantly advise and guide members.

Deane’s presentation walked delegates through the work her department does to help CBA’s members prevent issues ranging from health and safety, food safety, labelling and risk assessment, through assure advice manuals and the CBA member helpline. 

Rewards and recognition

CBA Awards

The CBA hosted its inaugural Bakery Competition, which saw a number of bakers being recognised for their outstanding baked goods.

Harrods was named the overall Champion Baker, nabbing a number of awards along the way, including best Fruit Loaf, Signature Bake and the star of Innovation. Paul UK wasn’t far behind on the winner’s leaderboard, scooping up best Vegan Cake, Assorted Rolls and Sourdough. Thomas’ Bakery was championed for its Scones, while Fullers received the award for best White Tin.

“Throughout the UK, the standards and quality of baked goods available to our customers is first class and entering a competition is an opportunity to show off those skills and match yourselves against your fellow bakers,”​ said the association, noting winners were awarded for “not one single factor … but a combination of quality attributes, as it is unlikely that a product with the most perfect internal crumb structure and flavour would win if the outside appearance was below standard.”

Also receiving his moment in the limelight was Eddie Clarke of Hurst’s Bakery, who received the CBA’s Honorary Life Membership Award.

And while on the subject of showcasing “our brilliant industry”,​ the CBA acknowledged the ‘amazing’ work done with its Member of the Month awards.

This year saw West Yorkshire’s J Wild (January), Watford’s Flourish Craft Bakery (February), Potts Bakers in Barnsley (March), Robinsons Artisan Bakers in Manchester (April), Hasting’s 1066 Bakery (May) and Frairy Mill Bakery in Devon (June) nab the spotlight, with a special mention going to Peter Ellis from Belinda’s Bakery, named CBA’s Member of the Year.

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