Allied Mills is returning to the commercial market in Great Britain after a three-year gap, which followed the sale of six of its nine milling sites to ADM Milling.Allied divested the milling sites in February 2003. Since then, it has concentrated on milling for parent firm Associated British Foods’ (ABF) brands in Great Britain, although it still supplied customers in Ireland from its Neill’s mill in Belfast. An agreement with ADM to stay out of the commercial market in Great Britain ended this month, and Allied now plans to target new customers as well as service its existing business. Speaking exclusively to British Baker, group commercial manager Nick Donovan said the new Allied Mills wants to differentiate itself by offering innovative solutions, high-quality products and producing to customers needs. He commented: “We have invested in innovation over the last few years and we are very forward-thinking. Our competitors are very good. We have been out of market for three years and we know we need to prove that we have something more to offer.”Over the last three years, Allied has focused on re-engineering its business, and becoming a “21st-century organisation”, he said. It has invested heavily in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and is using cutting-edge technology to communicate with and service customers. For example, it has installed silo telemetry on bulk silos, which monitor stock movements, so customers do not need to re-order when they are running low. And Allied is using web portals to communicate with customers, so they are able to log on and view statements, orders, proofs of delivery and certificates of conformance. Plants and processes have also been upgraded – for example, with debranning technology.Its milling sites in Manchester and Tilbury – comprising a total of four mills – will now service commercial customers as well as existing ABF trade.
Food & Bake will see the launch of Bake3D – a new system for the analysis of product quality and consistency from CF Controls (stand P270) where bakers can create a virtual loaf for analysis.Once product weight, height, length, width and volume have been recorded, the Bake3D system analyses shape, colour and texture to create a 3D virtual model. The system helps identify problems in production processes, including panning, proving and baking. It also performs slice analysis including cell size, quantity, alignment and circulation.Fully compatible with Microsoft Windows, product information and report statistics can be exported to a number of formats, such as Excel. Information is embedded into a single file so every virtual model can be traced back to the exact unit, time and date where it was created. This file can be emailed to customers for evaluation and shared within companies that have more than one site. CF Controls will also be exhibiting systems for checking bake colour, shape, texture and coverage.
Quality, variety and convenience are driving the growth in premium baked goods, argues Wirral-based BakeMark. This is forcing bakers to juggle already-stretched resources to meet demand.Using its range of cake mixes means bakers can spend less time weighing and measuring and more time devoting their efforts to creativity, argues the firm. BakeMark offers a broad range of ready-to-use cake mixes under the Craigmillar brand. The mixes include ginger cake, rich fudge brownies and Madeira Cake. For a US-style treat, says the firm, bakers can use its American muffin mix, which it claims produces light muffins every time.BakeMark says that bakers can put their personal stamp on the cakes made using its mixes by adding ingredients such as chocolate chips or sultanas to increase consumer appeal.
Plums in old recipes mean currants rather than plums. Plum cakes were popular and there are a variety of recipes to choose from. This one comes from The Experienced English Housewife by Elizabeth Raffald, which was first published in 1769. Raffald was an impressively busy woman. She worked as a housekeeper for 15 years before moving to Manchester. There, she ran a confectioner’s shop, where round plum cakes were part of the daily offering to customers. Makes 10 x 20cm round cakes 3lbs 12oz/1.7kg butter2½lbs/1.2kg white sugar17 whole eggs17 egg yolks3lbs 12oz/1.7kg flour½oz/15g ground mace½oz/15g grated nutmeg (1½ nuts)16fl oz/450ml brandy or white wine1lb 4oz/560g currants1lb 4oz/560g raisinsZest from 2½ lemons1lb/450g candied orange and lemon peel3fl oz/70 ml orange flower water 1 Beat the butter to a cream2 Add the sugar and beat again until pale3 In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and yolks well4 Mix the eggs into the butter and sugar5 Add the flour and the spices6 Mix in the brandy, fruit and peel and orange flower water7 Put into greased tins with 1½ pints/¾-litre capacity8 Bake for 45 minutes at 180?C
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is deciding whether to fund scientic reasearch into the technicalities of reducing salt in bread.The FSA has already met with stakeholders, including the Fede-ration of Bakers, the UK Association of Manufacturers of Bakers’ Yeast and the Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers, over the last couple of months, to discuss the technical problems associated with reducing salt in plant bread, particularly those made with higher-protein flours. It said in a statement: “The Agency is assessing whether it could support specific research which would help overcome these barriers.”Experiments would be likely to take place before salt guidelines are reviewed by the FSA in 2008, a spokeswoman said.The FSA added that data from the UK’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey showed that bread was one of the largest contributors to salt intakes in the UK at around 17% of intakes, probably due to the high quantity and regularity of consumption. But salt reductions of around one-third had already been achieved in some breads since the 1980s, it said.
l Insider columnist Tony Phillips takes issue with “unnecessary” qualificationsl We explore the facts behind sugar in wholemeal breadl British Baker staff attend Unifine’s Ingredients in Action day at its development kitchen suite in Milton Keynesl And watch out for the snacks column in our regular launch pad section
The IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo will take place on 28 July to 1 August, 2007 at McCormick Place South, Chicago.It aims to bring together experts from the baking and food industry, including technologists, scientists, buyers and sellers from all over the world. Visitors will see a variety of new products and learn about market trends. It also offers a chance to interact and exchange information with peers.International attendees will find more than 20 educational sessions, addressing issues such as research and product development, packaging, dietary supplements and functional foods, emerging science and technology, antioxidants in food preservation and in health promotion, post-harvest intervention technologies and quality assurance.International food giant Cargill is set to showcase health-oriented convenience food at the show, in response to consumer and customer demand. Cargill prototypes featured at IFT 2007 will include:l baked goods with flavour variety and healthier fatsl adult-focused indulgent cereal and convenient snacks with health benefitsl confections with no or reduced sugar and low caloriesl organics, including a decadent organic confection.Jason Jennings, best-selling author, will also deliver a Keynote Address, on Sunday, 29 July, which will draw on the food science industry, sharing insights into the ways in which leading organisations are innovating.More than 23,000 visitors are expected to attend the event.
== What’s your job and what are your day-to-day responsibilities? ==I was appointed in November 2007, following the acquisition of La Fornaia where I was sales, commercial and logistics director and a shareholder of the company. My role has changed significantly since joining Maple Leaf UK – from working with one manufacturing site to eight sites and with sales increasing sixfold. I therefore work very closely with the executive and management teams and on all sites to help grow and develop our business. One of my day-to-day responsibilities is to train and coach my national accounts managers in the commercial world of servicing all the top retailers. At the same time, I ensure I have a good working rapport with each retailer.== How did you get into the baking industry? ==By default! I joined La Fornaia in January 1996 for 12 weeks only, as an interim consultant manager, having owned my own food business for five years. Prior to that, I spent 25 years in food retail. During my first 12 weeks at La Fornaia, I saw so much opportunity in the premium speciality bread business and was so impressed with the people and the ethos of the company that I accepted their offer to stay.== How has your career progressed? ==In my early years I nearly became a professional footballer, but due to an injury, I shot into retail. At the age of 18, I became the youngest store manager in the country and progressed to a regional controller and superstore manager in London. During that time, I was involved in numerous acquisitions and mergers, training and coaching people.== What’s the most important quality you need to possess to do your job? ==A sense of humour and common sense! I’m a people person and I firmly believe communication is crucial to the success of any business. My open door policy means I’m always available and easy to approach. It may sound strange but my goal has always been to make myself redundant in a way, by empowering the people around me, so my focus is on developing people to achieve their ambitions and fulfil their full potential.== What is the key to success in your area of expertise? ==To provide first-class service to our customers by understanding their needs and forging working relationships for long-term success. A passion for both quality products and people is a must – this is what strong businesses are made of.
Prudens Bakery has expanded its family-run business with a new shop in Stoneycroft, Hemel Hempstead. Its sixth shop opened on 7 May and business is “going very well” so far. Prudens had been looking for a new premises for a couple of years, and has now found the ideal location at the site of an existing bakers. “It closed down over a year ago,” said director Jon Pruden. “We moved in, re-fitted it and opened the Wednesday after the bank holiday.” Prudens, run by Jon and Andrew Pruden, are the third generation to run the bakery which was founded by their grandfather in 1928. They already have shops in Dunstable, Luton, Harpenden, and Adeyfield in Hemel Hempstead, as well as their head office in Markyate. It has also expanded its celebration cake business with a wedding cake showroom at their Adeyfield premises. “We built a new bakery just before 2000, and had lady called Stella Dickinson work part-time decorating the cakes for us,” said Jon Pruden. As the business grew it was evident that the Markyate premises was not large enough to house the cake decorating side of the business and has therefore been relocated.
A combination of the credit crunch, high raw materials price inflation and low business and consumer confidence makes this a testing time for owners looking to finance an early or mature phase of expansion in the food sector.Shaun Galloway, finance director at pie and pastry manufacturer Ginsters, says: “It’s far tougher now for anyone to raise funds, and it will become more difficult for companies to refinance. The credit crunch has had an effect, and banks won’t lend on such aggressive multiples any more.” New entrants could fare particularly badly, he says: “There are some quite substantial barriers to entry, and we are seeing far fewer start-ups than was once the case.”Nevertheless, there are businesses at different evolutionary stages, for which key decisions about expansion, investment, buy-outs or selling up have to be taken now or in the near future. As relationship director for food, drink and packaging at Barclays Commercial Bank, John Laud tries to be positive: “Forecasts are that the food sector will grow annually at around 3.5% over the next three or four years – and businesses can expect to grow with their customer base.”Operations which see themselves as targets for acquisition may not be disappointed either, he argues. “Food is one of the fastest-consolidating sectors in the UK,” he points out. “The supermarkets are looking for synergy savings from their supply base they can be a part of.”At one stage or another, most businesses will look to the banks for some sort of debt finance. “It’s cheap compared with equity, and the interest is tax-deductible,” Laud explains.Working with a bank will also tend to put less pressure on the owners. “Banks have to be conservative creatures, and lower margins mean less risk,” he says.One business that has navigated the first few years of growth, through a combination of personal funds and bank debt, is Higgidy Pies. MD James Foottit, husband of founder Camilla Stephens, plots the development of the company, from a turnover of some £880,000 in the year to September 2006 to a projected £3m turnover in 2008.Initially, the owners used only a small overdraft facility. “But then we changed banks to HSBC, where we had a very good relationship with the commercial manager,” says Foottit. “He was something of a maverick and was more interested in the story of the business.” That story now includes a listing of 10 Higgidy-branded products in Sainsbury’s.Last year, a move to larger premises became overdue. “We funded the new building with bank loans,” he says. “This is the cheapest way to realise investment, but it is secured with personal guarantees.”Similarly, since setting up the first café in London in 2004, Amano CEO Jonathan Cooper says that bank debt finance has been essential to the growth of that business. “As a non-covenanted company, we were also looking at personal guarantees,” he says. “But when we moved to the Clydesdale Bank, it was very supportive.”In Amano’s case, the bank agreed to waive personal guarantees. But where this is not on offer, says Cooper, the government-backed Loan Guarantee Scheme, which effectively ring-fences the bank’s risk, can be a useful option.== Fight for control ==Alongside risk, control is one of the prime issues when owners are looking for additional finance. At Higgidy, Foottit and Stephens have vivid memories of life with just a 25% stake in their business. “There was someone else calling the shots and reining us in, when we were looking long-term and losing money in the short-term,” he recalls. “We fought tooth-and-nail to get a majority stake.”The couple now own 80% of the business. But Foottit admits: “We’re out of personal funds now, so if we want to jump to the next stage of a £1m factory, we’d struggle to do that without giving away some equity. We’d just try not to give away a controlling share.”Like most ambitious owners, Foottit and Stephens have looked at private equity or venture capital finance. To date, they have avoided it for the same reason, that they are wary of losing control of the business. But these days, even when small companies court this type of investment, they may have trouble obtaining it.Some 12 years ago, Amano’s Cooper was one of the three founders of the sandwich chain EAT. “Back then, venture capital would get involved very early on,” he says. “But now, the opportunity to get that kind of finance for a one- or two-store operation is no longer there.”The nature of risk assessment for these funds has changed, he says, and this change predates the credit crunch by two or three years. “Amano talked to some quite large funds early on, but nothing was forthcoming,” Cooper states. “The notion of a ’proven concept’ for a roll-out brand has changed considerably.”Yorkshire-based private equity fund management company YFM Group explains the shift that has taken place. Investment manager Nigel Barraclough says: “The problem is not the availability of funds, it is the cost of due diligence. So for a £250,000 investment, there might be £5,000 of negotiation and other fees.” And as Barclays makes clear, most of these fees are fixed costs. Barraclough adds: “Not many people provide private equity under £2m.”Amano’s Cooper agrees with Ginsters regarding the equity gap problem for new businesses. “The capital investment required for any new site is enormous, particularly in London,” he says. “Small start-ups are just squeezed out of the marketplace.”== A guardian angel? ==One solution is the angel investor. The maverick element, and the personal, intangible appeal of certain propositions, again comes into play here – more so than with corporate funds. But while businesses may start life as partnerships of like-minded, experienced individuals, finding a new private investor at a later stage can be a daunting task.As Cooper puts it: “It’s a case of caveat emptor on both sides. Angels have to do their own level of due diligence, though it’s a lot lower, usually, than for institutions.” A robust shareholders’ agreement is essential, he adds.YFM’s Barraclough says: “Business angels are much more organised now, and their networks operate more as teams. We’ve seen this evolution over the last 10 years or so.”Another option for smaller funding levels is regional development finance. Amano was looking at an extended network of angel investors when the London-based Capital Fund began operations. This venture capital fund, managed by YFM, is aimed at supporting fast-growth SMEs in the capital. Here, funds can initially be up to £250,000, with the possibility of a second tranche up to the same limit six months later. Investors include the Department of Trade and Industry and the European Investment Fund.With a 2007 turnover of £120m, Cornish-based Ginsters is no start-up. But a year earlier, it too benefited from regional funding under the EU’s Objective One programme. This reached almost £1.3m, including matching sums from central government. “As a bakery business, with a link through to agriculture, we qualified for up to 40% funding for expansion,” says Galloway.While Objective One no longer operates, 2008 saw the arrival of EU-backed regional convergence funding. However, this is more focused on training and skills than infrastructure development. Regional Development Agencies will know about funding opportunities in different parts of the UK.In fact, as part of the privately-owned Samworth Group, Ginsters sources most of its investment internally. Galloway wonders about the wisdom of conceding influence – or control – to private equity investors. “Retailers will no doubt look at the ultimate ownership,” he says. “Quality of supply and stability beyond a three-year horizon will be important to them.”Media attention tends to be lavished on the serial entrepreneur and the perceived short-termism of private equity investors. But there are many more privately-owned businesses, which grow by sticking to what they do best.For now, at least, Foottit at Higgidy falls into the latter category. “We hope that Higgidy can be a springboard for new ideas,” he says. “A brand gives you benefits that own-label production does not. We feel we are still a long way from even thinking about wanting to sell up.”