Scottish cake company Lightbody of Hamilton is to build a £2m factory in the Czech Republic and launch joint ventures in Asia and America, in a global expansion.Managing director Martin Lightbody told British Baker Lightbody has supplied overseas markets including France, Italy and Spain over the last couple of years from its state-of-the-art bakery in Hamilton, Scotland. Sales volumes now justify opening manufacturing premises to serve European markets, Mr Lightbody said.Construction of a new 100,000sq ft factory in the Czech Republic will begin at the end of next month, and the building is set to complete by the end of the year. The new premises will employ 200 staff, and will be expanded further as European sales increase. Lightbody is also about to launch a joint venture in Shanghai, China, to supply Asian markets. It already supplies some licensed products to these markets. Manufacturing premises in China will employ 5,000 staff, including brand and development staff sent over from Scotland. And management is also seeking a joint venture partner in the Americas to set up a similar operation there.The expansion plans come on the back of rapid growth in the UK business. Mr Lightbody revealed that the firm’s sales grew by more than a quarter last year and profits tripled in the year to April 2005.Turnover at the fourth-generation family-owned company was £36.7 million in the year to April 30, 2005, with profits before tax rising to just over £2m, almost triple the £732,517 recorded in the previous year, according to figures filed at Companies House.Holding company Light-body Group recorded turnover of £38.2m for the year to April 2005, an increase of around £10m for the previous year, with pre-tax profits of £1.3m, compared with a loss of £262,000 the year before. Mr Lightbody said: “We have expanded at 20% a year since 1995, and we will continue at that level, or higher if Asia goes well.”The company also plans to expand its “portfolio of celebration products”, diversifying from the current offer of large cakes and smaller everyday and dietary products. The first new product in this range, a Disney branded children’s apple-based party fizz drink, is already on trial in Carrefour stores in continental Europe.
Capacity at Dean’s of Huntly will increase by 70% once construction of a new production area is completed this summer as part of a three-stage, £1.6 million investment programme, writes Ian Martin. Work has already begun on extending the production area at Huntly from 40,000 to 60,000sq ft. According to Bill Dean, managing director of the hand-baked shortbread, home-style biscuit and oatcake manufacturer, this will “give us the capability to take the whole site from around £6m to £10m in (annual) turnover”. Phase one of the investment project is due for completion in July and will be followed by the addition of office, staff and development kitchen facilities by early next year. The final phase of the development programme, scheduled to be completed by Easter 2007, involves the construction of a café and a gallery enabling visitors to view the entire production area. Development of the Huntly facility will remove some of the constraints currently hindering business growth, according to Mr Dean. “This is the biggest investment the business has ever had,” he said. “Hopefully, we will be able to go after some bigger slices of business that we are not able to take on right now.” Around two-thirds of Dean’s turnover comes from major UK multiples, including Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. Remaining sales are split between the foodservice, wholesale, gift and export markets. Dean’s of Huntly now employs some 140 people but the expansion programme is expected to create at least 30 additional jobs over the next two to three years. The company is aiming to increase turnover by around 25% to £7.5m over the same period.
Over 500 craft bakers across the UK are taking part in National Doughnut Week this week, sel-ling doughnuts to raise money for charity The Children’s Trust.Christopher Freeman, owner of Dunn’s Bakery in Crouch End, London, and founder of National Doughnut Week said: “We hope to do better than last year, when we raised more than £40,000 for The Children’s Trust.”National Doughnut Week, sponsored by BakeMark UK, has also attracted widespread media attention – the event has been mentioned on both Radio 1 and Radio 2 and coverage is set to be broadcast on national TV. Mr Freeman said: “This, together with support from the national and local press, will help us raise even more money for children with multiple disabilities and complex health needs.”
A bid to lose some “bakery baggage” has seen Croydon-based craft baker Coughlans continue to roll out its rebranding as Munch and, in the process, scoop the Baker Sandwich Maker of the Year at the Sammies for the second year running.The rebrand has given Coughlans the confidence to try new things, says managing director Sean Coughlan (pictured). This means a continuing focus on updating recipes and keeping a keen eye on the big-name high street competitors.“People get bored very easily,” he says of consumers’ fickle lunchtime habits. “We work really hard on coming up with new recipe ideas. We’re constantly looking at what the opposition does, but we’re also very conscious that we don’t copy other people and retain our own identity.”The new stores certainly have that, with the distinctive lime-green branded fascia replacing the brown hues of old. While the balance of products remains largely untouched, the baker’s high street profile has been boosted. Six of its 20 shops have now undergone the revamp. “We didn’t stand out enough in the past,” states Coughlan. “I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh, you’ve got a new shop now’ when we’ve been there for 20 years!”The facelift was inevitable; around 70-80% of Coughlans’ trade is now done at lunchtime, with bread and cakes making up the remainder – a complete reversal of its past trade. Sandwiches are key to its strategy and are freshly made on request alongside around 20 ready-made sandwiches on panini, ciabatta, baguette and sliced breads. The biggest sellers are the bloomer and pre-packaged wedge sandwiches. One aim is to “bring the restaurant market into sandwich fillings”, he says. This means catering for an increasingly discerning crowd. The philosophy applies across the breadth of offering, including coffee, for which it sells premium Italian brand Illy. “We’ve gone for the top end on everything we do. The coffee, the uniform, the packaging – all have completely changed,” says Coughlan. “We’re not making humdrum, boring sandwiches; we bring out a new sandwich every week.” Up to 10 ingredients go into the fillings, and Coughlans does not buy in mixes. Most pre-packed sandwiches in the market with mixed mayonnaise fillings all look the same. “They all look grey,” he adds. “I really can’t stand mixes. Some places put mayonnaise in every sandwich. There’s a market for that, sure, but it’s certainly not a future market. We’re buying top-quality ingredients, and I’m a firm believer that you’ve got to be able to taste each ingredient. You can’t beat a chicken, bacon, avocado, spinach and tomato sandwich, with a bit of mayonnaise on the bread. You don’t want to hide those flavours.”Confidence in inventive ingredient combinations and a touch of brand flair have seen the coffee and sandwich chains steal a march on the bakers. Coughlan says “There’s a lack of trust in bakers when it comes to sandwiches.You would be happy to go into a Pret A Manger anywhere because you know what you’re going to get.”He believes in harrying suppliers to come up with new and interesting ingredients, and to source items for his own creations. He also urges losing some of the “bakery baggage”. “Bakers have to see where the future is, and it’s not in bread. I love the trade, but there’s no point in flogging a dead horse,” he says. “It’s about us battling to get customers. You’ve got to be different to drag them in.”FILLINGS – THE INSIDE STORYAs Sean Coughlan, managing director of Coughlans stresses, the café and sandwich chains, with their slickly branded, varied and highly desirable sandwiches are sweeping up the lunchtime trade. Many bakers, though not Coughlans, see ready-made mixes as one way to compete. They widen the sandwich repertoire, without having to switch hats, step into the kitchen and invent original recipes, or prepare fillings from scratch.Fillings suppliers can also help keep bakers in touch with lunchtime trends. The dozen or so most popular fillings, such as tuna mayonnaise, coronation chicken and mixed cheese and spring onion, will always provide the core offering, but with office workers buying sandwiches five days a week, people inevitably crave the occasional break from egg and cress.“We’re constantly upgrading our range and following the trends, which are for sandwich fillings on the drier side, such as glazed and marinated ingredients,” says Maxine Wing, sales and marketing director for Kent-based Fresh Start Prepared Foods. The firm distributes 400 varieties of fillings nationally, sup-plying sandwich manufacturers, bars, airliners, restaurants and hotels. Crayfish and dill, she says, is “quite a trendy thing now”; minted lamb, barbecue lamb, hoisin duck, aromatic duck, and salt beef and dill are also proving popular. For vegetarians, falafel or mozzarella with roasted vegetables are good sellers, she adds, while houmous, olives and kidney beans are recent additions. The catchment area and typical customer type should always guide the baker’s range, and more outlandish fillings might better suit inner-city traffic, where a cosmopolitan spread favours international tastes, affording the baker the freedom to experiment. But common among customers is a waning demand for mayonnaise-based mixes, claims Wing. “A lot of people are trying to get away from mayonnaise now,” she says. “Low-calorie dressings are popular at the moment, as are glazed meats, such as Mexican chicken, which comes in a mayonnaise-free sauce base.”Andrew Vagasi, production director of the London Crispy Bacon Company, which manufactures 70 different mixes and distributes nationally, agrees that marinated dry mixes rather than mayonnaise-based mixes – which he concedes are cheaper to manufacture – are now in vogue.“We do cater for sandwich manufacturers but mainly for sandwich bars, and they tend to want more upmarket fillings than the cheap and cheerful mayonnaise-based fillings used by sandwich manufacturers,” he says.He adds that he follows a 70/30 ratio of filling to mayonnaise, compared with the more common 50/50. “That’s where we differ from the other sandwich filling manufacturers,” he believes. Cheese-based mixes have also seen a dip recently, he adds. “Because of bird flu, we thought that people would go more for our vegetarian fillings, but we’ve found that pork and beef mixes are picking up instead.”The word “vegetarian” may come as a surprise from a company that has “Crispy Bacon” in its name; but since starting out manufacturing bacon seven years ago, it has supplied a whole range of sandwich fillings. These include chicken-based fillings such as hot and spicy, tandoori and tikka, made from fresh ingredients and using no ready-made sauces or pastes. “We don’t put any preservatives in,” says Vagasi. “Everything is made from scratch, and the market seems to be going more towards the ‘natural’ way.”
Austrian-based company König has launched a range of concept dough-laminating and sheeting equipment, distributed in the UK by epp (Epsom, Surrey).The firm’s new company, König Laminiertechnik GmbH, is set to manufacture and market the equipment from a purpose-built factory with state-of-the-art demonstration facilities.The TwinSat is designed to minimise mechanical stressing and produces ciabatta to pizza. The dough is not rolled down but pressed by a high-speed, gentle tamping movement. Eliminating speeds ensures it is not stressed as is the result with traditional techniques.
n Bakery retail group Lyndale Foods says it saw good trading in the run up to Christmas. The company, which operates the Maison Blanc, Sayers and Hampsons fascia, will complete a strategic review by April, chairman Sandy Birnie told British Baker.n TeaSmith, a new tea shop concept by John Kennedy and Tomoko Kawase, has opened its first outlet in Spitalfields Market, London. The new store sells 40 types of high-quality Chinese and Japanese tea leaves to be sampled and to take away. The husband and wife team also sells handmade chocolates and cakes to accompany the teas.n The Duke of York will open a new £1.1m extension at Crantock Bakery’s plant in Indian Queens, Cornwall, on 7 February.The investment will see an increase in pasty production by 40,000 a day and will create 30 jobs. MD Nick Ringer said the Cornish pasty business was worth £150m a year to the local economy and that the pasty market was increasing abroad.n Packaging machine company Bradman Lake Group has been granted planning permission for a new multi-million-pound manufacturing site in Norwich. The new site will be home to its Autowrappers and Europack brands, which will start production of packaging machinery in 2007.n Subway, the world’s largest sandwich chain, opened its 27,000th store in Ealing, west London, on 17 January, owned by franchisees Vishal Kakar and Farris Al-Naqeeb. The chain has opened more than 850 stores in the UK and Ireland, with 20 new stores opening every month in 2006.
Tens of thousands of bread baskets being illegally used by bakeries and caterers have been recovered in the past six months by Bakers Basco, an organisation set up by the industry to crack down on companies who hold on to baskets following deliveries.Basco’s national team of 12 recovery officers, working in conjunction with the police, Trading Standards, Customs officials and Environmental Health Officers, have carried out raids on a wide range of businesses suspected of using stolen bread baskets, including bakers.Businesses face heavy fines and seizure of equipment, if found guilty. However, Paul Taylor, Basco’s general manager, pointed out that most bakers did not realise they were breaking the law by holding on to bread baskets and were not fined. “I’d say 90% of bakers don’t know they are committing a crime and are now proactive in making baskets available for collection,” he said.Although Taylor estimates tens of thousands of baskets have been recovered, he said this is “just the tip of the iceberg” with millions of baskets estimated to have gone missing in the past decade.Basco has teamed up with crate company PHS Teacrate to offer firms the option to replace stolen bread baskets with legitimate alternatives. PHS Teacrate can deliver replacement crates anywhere in the country within 24 hours. Teacrate’s sales manager Bill Smith said: “We offer rental or purchase to suit the client’s budget, so financial outlay is kept to a minimum.”
== Cupcake Magic ==By Kate Shirazi, published by PavilionKate Shirazi apparently moved to Devon in 2006 “looking for a slower pace of life”, so the obvious choice was to become a baker(!).Clearly not wasting any time, having quickly established her online business Cakeadoodledo, she’s already come up with a tome on cupcake making.Subtitled ’little cakes with attitude’, the chapters are split into low-faff, mid-faff and high-faff, clearly aimed at the home baker. But there are some interesting ideas on the savoury side, from ricotta and smoked salmon cupcakes (if you like that sort of thing), to bacon and egg cupcakes (ditto…).There are also ethical brownie points earned in urging people to pay more thought towards the eggs they use. Shirazi keeps her own chickens recovered from battery farms, but rather than give them a holiday, she puts them back to work churning out eggs for her cakes (but in a free-range environment).This is all conveyed in Shirazi’s distinctively chummy tone that may grate with the gruff cynics among you. But at least she’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, firstly confessing to preferring margarine over butter for the cakes, and then proposing an unfashionably irreverent defence of lurid artificial colouring.”Think of the possibilities of harnessing the energies from a small child in the throes of a colour-induced frenzy of hyperactivity,” she writes.”I may have solved one of the eco-conundrums of our time.”And you can’t really ask more than that from a book about cupcakes.
Costa Coffee has been voted the best coffee chain by customers who rate its friendly staff and tidy stores more highly than its main rivals.Costa beat Caffè Nero into second place and Starbucks and Coffee Republic, in third and fourth respectively, to the title, as a result of consultancy firm him!’s Coffee Chain Customer Tracking Programme. This asks customers to rate their experience, after visiting a particular branch, on topics such as quality of drinks, choice of food, time spent queuing, atmosphere and overall value for money.Costa scored 9 out of 10 for friendliness of staff, and cleanliness of counters and tables, which helped it take the top spot from the previous year’s winner, Caffè Nero.Will Vernon, Costa’s head of operational skills and brand standards, said he was delighted to have been voted best coffee chain of the year. “We pride ourselves on our customer service and the welcoming store experience we offer our customers.”He said all Costa stores were accredited to strict brand standards and were frequently audited, focusing specifically on coffee excellence, cleanliness and store environment. “Costa relaunched a new service excellence programme last year and had a big push specifically on speed of service, so it is fantastic to receive this kind of recognition from our customers this year,” added Vernon. him! aims to repeat the study in 2009, which is designed to identify sales and profit opportunities for retailers and suppliers.
www.lapizzacompany.com La Pizza has launched a range of Tascas – folded soft bread pockets – which can be used to create sandwiches with a difference. The manufacturer of frozen part-baked pizza bases, dough balls, tear-and-share garlic bread and speciality breads has introduced three new items: Ceasar Tasca, containing cracked pepper and an Italian cheese topping; Red Onion Tasca, containing red onion pieces; and a Plain Tasca, which can be used for a range of fillings.Retailers just need to thaw, fill and cook the breads in a panini grill or warm them in the oven. The soft bread pockets are treated, to ensure easy splitting.Tascas are supplied frozen in packs of 24 units per case and can be stored in a fridge, wrapped, for up to four days.