Coombs buckles under the weight of legislation

first_imgLeicester-based Coombs Quality Bakery has blamed a high street downturn and the burden of legislation after calling in the administrators on July 3. The third-generation company closed five of its 17 shops immediately after calling in the administrators, but hopes to sell the remaining outlets and the central bakery as a going concern. MD Guy Coombs told British Baker the less profitable shops had been closed, with 59 redundancies, but the rest of the business is continuing to trade. He said: “There has been a great deal of interest from a number of sources and we are very positive of getting a sale for the remaining business in its entirety, saving 160 jobs.”Coombs said he had been forced to call in administrators after facing mounting problems over the last 12 months. Sales had been hit by a downturn on the high street and an increase in competition as “everyone and his brother” moved into selling filled rolls and sandwiches, he said.However, the biggest problem for the company was the burden of legislation, he said. “We can’t concentrate on being bakers any more,” he commented. “We have to deal with so much paperwork, food safety legislation, employment law and due diligence. We are a small business – too small to employ someone specifically to manage the legislation.”Coombs Quality Bakery was set up by Guy Coombs’ grandfather and had been due to celebrate its 60th anniversary this year.Neil Money and Neil Gibson of CBA Insolvency Practitioners have been appointed joint administrators.last_img read more

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A day in the life of…

first_img6:00amT he alarm goes off, but the day doesn’t begin until I’ve had my first cup of tea and a look through my emails.Today I’m due at a bakery so I scoop up my notes and recipes, check that the car is loaded up with samples and my trusty tool-box and head off, picking up breakfast on the way.8:30amThe routine at the bakeries I visit will vary according to what I am doing. Today it’s troubleshooting so we begin with some detective work in the form of an in-depth discussion with the production manager about the problem, followed by a review of the process in action.Process and product trials follow this on the same day so we begin with a review of the objectives, the doughs to be made and the proposed timetable.Fermex supplies a wide range of improvers, concentrates, speciality years and technical products, so there’s always an ingredient to help a specific problem. After quick cup of coffee and we start on the trials.On other occasions I conduct training sessions with our customers’ staff. On those days the first thing to do is to prepare the meeting room with flip chart and projector, props and notebooks, making sure there are enough chairs for everyone. After introductions all round to break the ice, the session begins.11.00amTime for a break and a caffeine intake! Depending on the type of product I am working on, by this time it will be either bulk fermenting, in the prover or even in the cooler.I take the opportunity to check my phone for messages while there is a natural break in the process and deal with any urgent matters arising.This is also a chance for a chat with the customer. These sort of conversations can be about the industry generally or about specific issues that the customer has with a product or a process. After coffee, it’s back to the trenches!1.00pmLunch is always a moveable feast for me. As the saying goes ’time and tide wait for no man’, well neither does yeast, so lunch has to fit in around the bread making!Today I manage to grab a sandwich at around 1.00pm. I have been known to have lunch as early as 10:30am and as late as 5:45pm; but whatever time of day it is, this is a further opportunity to catch up with phone messages.This is also the time for the first review of the progress of the plant trials that have taken place in the morning. Even if the dough hasn’t reached the oven yet, there are always processing and dough rheology issues that can be analysed and discussed.Some days I may be involved in training rather than running trials. On a typical training day, the first session will have finished by now with questions and answers, and there will be time to rearrange the room ready for the afternoon session. There is also time for me to reflect on whether I have managed to make the subject clearer or foggier for the trainees!In these sessions I am usually trying to give a basic understanding of ingredients and processes to help line operatives appreciate why specific things, such as dough temperatures, are important for achieving final product quality and optimum plant throughput combined with waste reduction.4:00pmThankfully the bread making process today isn’t a particularly long one, so the bread is now baked and ready for assessment.I have a debriefing session with the customer, which includes a recap of the objectives and trials undertaken, along with a discussion of any specific issues that have arisen during the day.We cut the bread and assess its characteristics according to the specification. The team then agrees recommendations and makes decisions with regard to further work.5:30pmIt’s time to head for the hills and join the delights of rush hour traffic, but first another check for messages on the mobile.On the way home I switch into ’domestic’ mode and try to decide what to cook for the family supper.Tomorrow, I will be sitting at the computer at home working on specifications and later on this week, it’s a training session for a group of bakers.6.30pmFinally get home and I quickly write my ’to do’ list for tomorrow. Then it’s time to turn my attention to the evening meal.It’s been a busy day, but really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. One of the things I love most about my job is the way that no two days are ever the same.On any given day I may be demonstrating Fermex products to potential customers or I may be helping existing customers to develop new products. On other days I’m in the office at home dealing with specifications and samples or writing up reports.Troubleshooting, training and process auditing are also part of my remit, so describing a ’typical’ day is quite difficult! What’s for sure, is that I’ll be doing something different tomorrow. nlast_img read more

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Maple Leaf UK acquires Bernard Matthews site

first_imgMaple Leaf Bakery UK last week made the latest in a string of acquisitions, buying a Bernard Matthews bakery in Dunstable, Bedfordshire.The site specialises in savoury laminated pastry lines, such as pastry topped with egg and bacon, and employs 81 staff, including 18 agency employees.Turkey specialist Bernard Matthews said: “This development is part of an ongoing business strategy of focusing on core business areas where Bernard Matthews has a solid heritage and expertise. It has been adopted following a challenging sales period for the business.”Maple Leaf UK MD Peter Maycock admitted that the Dunstable business was “challenging”, but was also “an ideal strategic fit”.He added that integration of Maple Leaf’s recent acquisitions were well advanced. These include premium breads supplier La Fornaia, which was taken over in August, and London-based the French Croissant Company, Avance in Maidstone and the former Harvestime bakery in Walsall, which were all bought in 2006.The Bernard Matthews plant currently produces cakes and sweet and savoury laminated products. Capacity is to be expanded at the site and croissants could be added to the range, said Maycock.Meanwhile, a new group management structure has been put in place at Maple Leaf UK following a series acquisitions, most recently.La Fornaia’s former commercial director Ken Glennon is now commercial director across all of Maple Leaf’s bakery businesses, reporting to Maycock.The company has also extended capacity at its frozen bagel factory in Rotherham.Maple Leaf Bakery UK is owned by Canada’s Canada Bread.last_img read more

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Greggs appoints new chief executive

first_imgGreggs has appointed Ken McMeikan, currently retail director at Sainsbury’s, to succeed Sir Michael Darrington at the helm of the company.Sir Michael is due to retire at the end of July, after 24 years with the company, but will remain on the board as a non-executive director.McMeikan, who will become chief executive, will join the board of the retail bakery giant on 1 June. Announcing his appointment, Greggs chairman Derek Netherton said: “When we began the process to find a successor to Mike Darrington we recognised he would be an extremely hard act to follow. So we are delighted to have found, in Ken McMeikan, a person with the right mix of abilities and qualities to lead the business in the next stage of its development.”Netherton added that McMeikan’s “considerable retailing experience” would “greatly complement the skills and expertise that already exist within the Greggs senior team”.McMeikan, 42, joined Sains-bury’s in 2005 after a short period as CEO of Tesco Japan. Previously he had spent 14 years in operational roles with Tesco, becoming chief executive of the Europa Foods convenience store chain after its acquisition in 2002.Netherton also paid tribute to Sir Michael for “his outstanding contribution to the considerable growth and development of the business over the last 25 years”.Sir Michael said McMeikan’s experience would “prove particularly helpful in progressing the development of Greggs as a much more unified and customer-focused national brand”.last_img read more

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Him! poll findings

first_imgDespite increasing fears of a recession, new research suggests a higher number of consumers feel they will spend more on food and drink from specialist or local retailers than less. A poll conducted by GfK NOP on behalf of research based retail consultants him! revealed that of 1,000 adults asked, 19% expect to spend more in this area, and 16% will spend less. According to the survey 84% of the population are concerned the country will enter a recession compared with 57% in March this year. The research also revealed that 27% of adults said they would spend less on food and drink from fast food outlets, whereas only 6% said they would spend more. One trend in particular is the increasing number of people who say they will be spending more in discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl. Only 14% said they would spend more in March 2008 which rose to 22% in June.The findings of the poll also suggest consumers will be cutting down on restaurant meals, although the figures showed that they wouldn’t necessarily switch to take-away options, but will instead buy more food from supermarkets.last_img read more

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Turkish delights

first_imgWith Turkish, Greek and Kurdish communities on its doorstep and a bevy of Polish, Russian and Ukranian neighbours, it’s fair to say that Yasar Halim’s patisserie, in Haringey, North London, has a tough job to keep all of its customers happy.But step into the shop and it’s obvious that the patisserie, one of many Turkish businesses stretching along the busy, colourful Green Lanes shopping district, is more than satisfying its customers’ needs. At 11 o’clock on a Thursday, before the lunchtime peak hits, the place is buzzing with customers of all nationalities, picking from an exotic selection of Turkish and continental cakes, pastries, biscuits and bread.Turkish-Cypriot founder Yasar Halim has worked around the clock to build up the business since he opened it in 1981, and is still to be found at the patisserie seven days a week. That’s some achievement for a man who left Cyprus for London in 1982, arriving at Victoria station as a fresh-faced 18-year-old, with no firm plans. While Yasar initially found himself washing plates for a living, his love of, and interest in, food was to be the key to his success and he was soon employed as a filo pastry-maker.Fast-forward 46 years and he is heading up a buzzing business. Five bakers work throughout the day, so that fresh goods are always available, from when the shop opens at 9am until closing time at 10pm. Eight staff man the counters at the front of the shop. And Yasar is not one to sit back and let others do the work – he’s to be found in the shop every day, keeping an eye on business and testing out new recipes to add to the large range.Trial and errorMost of the products at the patisserie are based on Yasar’s recipes. He prefers trial and error when devising new ones, rather than painstaking research in books or the internet. Some are inspired by traditional Turkish Cypriot dishes, others by family recipes. Other products are based on food he has tasted during his travels and in the UK. “If I eat something I like, I find out what goes inside it,” he explains.The range, piled up in racks through the shop or displayed in counters, certainly has the wow factor. Traditional Turkish flatbreads in sesame seed or plain varieties are supplemented by Yasar’s more experimental versions, such as a flat round loaf made with tahini, sugar, cinnamon and butter. But fans of other European breads need not be disappointed – English, French, Italian, Greek Cypriot and Polish breads are also on offer.A hot savouries counter offers exotic snacks, including: filled borek – pastries with spinach, meat or halloumi cheese; filled pancakes called gozleme; pastirmati, which are breads stuffed with meat or cheese; plus more widely-known favourites such as pizza. And these treats are a bargain – with most priced between £1 and £1.50, Yasar Halim’s patisserie offers a truly wallet-friendly lunchtime option in a notoriously expensive city. “We’re working at a very small profit,” he says. Credit-crunch Thursdays – a recent introduction – see prices of basic items reduced further, attracting yet more custom to the shop.Freshness and simplicity are key to the patisserie’s range. Only fresh egg and fresh milk are used, nothing is frozen, and customers hoping for some added animal fat or preservatives will be disappointed. The patisserie caters well for the various religious beliefs of its customers. Pork is not used and the range is adapted to cater for the needs of Muslims and Greek Orthodox, for example, during times of fasting.As with any business, Yasar Halim’s patisserie has some challenges on its hands. Recruiting trained and skilled bakers is a real problem. “It has been very difficult to find skilled bakers,” says buyer Birsen Halim (no relation). “We’ve tried people straight out of college and have even tried the local newspaper and talked to local schools.” Many new recruits have dropped out after a few weeks, as they find it difficult to cope with the hours.”The problem is, many young people come [to work] here and they don’t really know what their future is going to be – they haven’t really thought about it,” she says.The patisserie is additionally burdened because it finds students who have trained in the UK often have no idea how to make the Turkish-Cypriot specialities. The obvious solution would be to source bakers from Turkey. But the patisserie has been stumped, Birsen says. The Home Office is not keen to grant work visas unless it has proof that immigrants can prove they are trained. Yet Turkish bakers, while highly-skilled, have often trained on the job, so do not have certificates. Their visa applications are often turned down. It would be helpful to the business, Birsen says, if the rules were relaxed.Parking is another problem that the patisserie’s local council, Haringey, has not been able to resolve satisfactorily. It’s quite common for customers to get slapped with a £50 fine after popping into the shop for 10 minutes to buy £10 worth of food.Like everyone, the patisserie is finding it tough to deal with rising costs of raw ingredients and energy. They source their flour from ADM, which has just pushed through a price increase. Yasar, though, is a model of positive thinking. “It’s been a tough year, but we’re just going to carry on making good products and giving really good service,” he says.It’s very clear from talking to the pair that the patisserie is far more than a food business – it’s also a community hub. Seasoned locals often arrange to meet at the shop for a spot of browsing, before heading off elsewhere. And it also has its own celebrity fans. The cast of EastEnders often cheer themselves up with a treat or two from the shop. And Cherie Blair’s actor father Tony Booth can sometimes be spotted eyeballing the baklava, while comedian Bob Mills pores over the patisserie.But, and probably most importantly, Yasar Halim’s customers know that if they need advice, someone at the shop will listen and help them. And this extends to all cultures and nationalities, and is helpful to recent immigrants just finding their feet in the capital, particularly if their English is not good. Yasar and his staff give practical advice on medical help and schools and have also provided emotional support to those in a crisis. He sums it up neatly. “We serve the human being.”No wonder his customers are loyal.l Yasar Halim’s Patisserie, 495 Green Lanes, Haringey, London, N4 1AL. Tel 020 8340 8090/020 8348 1074—-=== Highlights of the range ===Turkish flatbread – 68pTurkish ring bread, Simit, made with grape juice syrup – 45pOlive bread with halloumi cheese – £1.40Pilavuna, a type of bun, traditionally made at Easter, that the patisserie makes all year round. Ingredients include eggs, sultanas and halloumi cheese – £1.65Lokma, similar to a doughnut – made from flour, yeast and water, formed into balls, deep fried and coated with sugar syrup – 10pLarge Borek, a pastry snack filled with spinach, meat or cheese – £1.40 Nor Borek, a sweet pastry filled with ricotta, cinnamon and sugar – 90p Peksimet, an almond biscuit, traditionally given as a wedding favour – £1.45 a packetPastirmati, a stuffed bread snack, filled with meat or cheese – £1.30last_img read more

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Melitta colours up espresso

first_imgThe Melitta C5 is a fully automatic bean-to-cup espresso machine, and is capable of producing five espresso-based coffees. It can be supplied in a variety of sizes and the machine has different options available for providing hot water and steam and either an integrated or external milk chilling and foaming unit.The machine is cleaned internally by an automated system, so there is no need to disassemble. The operator is alerted by the machine when cleaning is necessary, which involves the insertion of a tablet before cleaning commences.The C5 is available in a range of colours and customers can also choose to order it in a particular colour, as an optional extra. These colours can be seen on sites such as [http://www.e-paint.co.uk].[http://www.melitta.de/dss]last_img

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Welsh patisserie expands with new factory

first_imgSouth Wales-based La Crème Patisserie & Catering Co plans to expand its retail and wholesale operations having completing the purchase of a new factory unit on the Baglan Moors in Neath Port Talbot.Building work started in December on what will be the La Crème Centre of Excellence and directors Siân and Ian Hindle hope the new unit will be fully operational by March 2009.The business’ fortunes were boosted when Siân Hindle was awarded runner-up in the Puratos-sponsored Patissier of the Year category at the Baking Industry Awards 2007. The accolade “made a huge impact” on the business, said Ian Hindle. “It took us to a different level.”He explained that prior to 2008, around 90% of the company’s sales were from selling patisserie directly to consumers. “From January last year, we started supplying cafés, coffee shops and hotels. It was the reason we decided to create the centre as we couldn’t cope with demand. We’d like it to be much more than just a manufacturing unit.” The centre, which will employ 10 people and cost £240,000, will also house a wedding and birthday cake studio and will host cookery classes and demonstrations. It will become the base for the company’s corporate, civic and business customers. The unit will also feature the latest technology, from web cams, to flat-screen TVs as well as interactive features such as recipe forums. “We also aim to one day have a number of La Crème outlets served by that unit,” he added.La Crème, established in December 2005, specialises in the creation of bespoke gateaux, cakes and desserts and also provides an outside catering service – La Crème Catering – for private and business customers.You can watch the progress of the unit on La Crème’s blog site – www.lacreme.typepad.co.uk.last_img read more

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Wall’s launches new pastry products

first_imgSausage brand Wall’s is to take on Ginsters with the launch of its new savoury pastries. Its Full of Filling range will compete directly with the West country brand and target male snackers shopping in convenience stores.Valerie Kubala, Wall’s pastry senior brand manager, said: “There is a huge opportunity for Wall’s to use its meat, quality and value credentials to reinvigorate the pastry sector with this new range.“It has been developed to offer a quality, on-the-go product supported by the reassurance of an established brand. Consumers trust Wall’s and know it will deliver on quality and value.” The 12 new products are: sausage roll, two pasties (large Cornish; onion and cheese); five slices (ham and cheese; chicken and mushroom; peppered steak; chicken and bacon slice; chicken tikka) and four pies (individual pork pie, individual pork and pickle pie, two snack pork pie and scotch egg).Wall’s made its first foray into pastry products last year when it launched the Stroller – sausage meat wrapped in pastry – in three varieties including one topped with cheese.last_img read more

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Nation turns to toast and crumpets in downturn

first_imgBread is reclaiming its place at the nation’s breakfast table, with recession-hit shoppers turning to morning toast as they seek greater value from their loaf.This effect has reversed a long-term decline in bakery products consumed at breakfast as the category has fought back into growth.According to TNS Usage data on the number of occasions bakery was consumed at breakfast, for the year to November 2006 saw a decline of 4.7%. Latest figures for the year ending July 2009, revealed in the annual Warburtons Bakery Review, show this is now in growth, up by 2.6%.”While the number doesn’t look that big, 1% actually represents 162 million additional servings of toast. It accounts for a vast number of occasions,” said Warburtons’ customer strategy manager Martin Baptie.The turnaround means breakfast now accounts for 29% share of bakery consumption occasions. Said Baptie: “Over the last four years there has been a consistent decline, year on year, of bakery products consumed at breakfast. The recessionary effect has turned this around.”The biggest category winner was crumpets, with value sales shooting up 29.2% year on year. Executive director Brett Warburton told British Baker: “Crumpets has been phenomenal for us. We’re investing in new capacity at the moment. It’s a very flexible product a snacking product that people are taking to throughout the year. It is clearly an area that gets promoted, but promotions are only part of the story.”Bakery at breakfast has also seen the strongest value growth, up 9.3%, against the relatively static ’sandwich alternatives’ and ’tea break’ categories, under Warburtons’ definition. The remaining category, ’Meal accompaniments’ was also in growth, up 4.3%. “Evening meal accompaniments have seen an acceleration of growth, driven by things like naan breads and chapatis,” said Baptie.last_img read more

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