With healthy sandwiches and wraps becoming an increasingly popular choice for a light lunch or snack, General Vending Services (GVS), based in Horley, Surrey, is offering bakers a carousel food machine to vend sandwiches.The company, which supplies machines starting at £25 per week, says that its carousel food machines can vend everything from a single apple to a 9.5” plate of food, including wraps, baguettes and yoghurts. The machines can be set at varying temperatures to provide the optimum environment for different products and can carry company branding for point-of-sale advertising. GVS also says it offers good service cover.
For a long time, the focus in the sandwich trade has been on developing novel flavours and ingredient combinations for fillings, while sandwich retailers have often seen the bread as an afterthought. But some are now thinking outside the triangle.Not missing a trick, David Bal-mer, food technologist at Marks & Spencer, who heads up its sandwich range, endeared himself to bakers at the British Sandwich Association (BSA) conference this month by saying, “Bread is the most important part of the sandwich.””We’ve tended to focus on fillings and what goes into the product,” he said.”But there is a need to focus on the bread itself. The challenge for us and – our bread suppliers – is how can we improve on what we already do?”Over 216,000 tonnes of bread were used in commercially-made sandwiches last year, according to latest BSA estimates. This means there is huge scope to vary the types of breads used.”The UK bread market is hea-vily swayed towards plant bakers; they’re large-scale, high-volume and there’s a market for that. But we need to look at what other breads are out there,” said Balmer.When it comes to retailing sandwiches, all eyes are on M&S. The firm, which claims to be the first to sell pre-packed sandwiches in the UK in 1980, trails behind only Tesco and Subway for value sales and dominates the premium high street trade.But it is the small independent stores that are showing the way forward – both at home and overseas – by using a wider assortment of sandwich carriers, said Balmer.While the wedge sandwich remains king in the UK, he cited the food-to-go capital, New York, where wedges are in the minority and sandwiches come on anything from sourdough to rye to multi-seed and in baguettes, bloomers and bagels.”Inspiration comes from getting out there and looking at some of the fantastic small deli bars and coffee shops.”At M&S, we don’t have all the answers but we can pick up on key trends and try to stay ahead of the game.”One of those trends is environmental impact. A complete shift away from plastic packaging towards cardboard took place at M&S last year, with a more environmentally sustainable pack designed by Nampack.But solely from a commercial standpoint – the cost of the new packaging set against an eight-week trial at the end of 2004 that yielded little or no uplift in sales – the decision to switch to cardboard would not have been made.M&S absorbed the investment in kit and the extra cost of the packaging rather than passing it on to its supply base.”I won’t tell you how many millions of pounds that cost us but, as a business, we now have a sustainable format,” he said.”We’re having big successes where we’re going bigger, bolder, and with improved presentation.”Seasonality is another major trend – an area where the retailer has so far struggled, he conceded.”There’s plenty of availability of raw materials, but getting the right quality is the key challenge. There’s a growing army of people in the media and the industry looking to make more of seasonal products.”Food scares, such as the recent free-range eggs scandal, with some nine million battery eggs sold in the UK as free-range, have tested the public’s trust of food manufacturers.Similarly, food miles are a growing concern, with every item sold in the UK estimated to have travelled on average 1,000 miles before it reaches the consumer.This, coupled with the shift towards the demand for fresher products on the high street, will mean questions will be asked of the distribution chain.But while some retailers are hea- vily reliant on brands, M&S’s 5,000 SKUs are 100% own-label, which means it can effect change, stated Balmer.”To the frustration of a lot of our suppliers, we control the supply chain tightly – we don’t just let suppliers go out and buy key raw materials. That gives us differentiation.”Most consumers are open- minded about trying new products and experiences, he argued, and M&S has 65 food technologists charged with developing new products. This includes an ’additive-free’ range, designed to meet consumer demand.The retailer is finding new ways to reach its food-to-go customers, extending its Simply Food format into service stations and forecourts with BP’s Connect chain.Meanwhile, its lunchtogo-e.com website offers online buying of catered sandwiches, targeted at businesses and boardrooms.M&S has been “been fairly arrogant over the years”, he admitted, but chief executive Stuart Rose, who took over running the retailer in 2004, has challenged its somewhat cosy business culture and brought product innovation, service and store environment to the forefront of people’s minds.”I can’t overstate the importance of service,” said Balmer. “It’s becoming one of the key points of difference within any business.”It’s well-known that we paid an American £1m to come and train our store staff in good service. Simple things like asking ’how was your day?’ can make a real difference.”Innovation is not just about innovative products but also an innovative mindset, and that is gradually seeping through.” n—-=== Sandwich facts ===Latest figures for sandwiches show that:l Nearly half of all sandwiches bought last year (48%) sold for an average of £1.67 – a rise of 13pl People buy on average one sandwich a week, spending £1.82 a weekl Chicken is the nation’s favourite out-of-home filling (30%)l Over 216,027 tonnes of bread were used in commercially made sandwiches last yearTotal commercial sandwich marketValue £’000s £4,585,786Packs ’000s 2,700,348Commercial sandwich market growthValue = +8.9%Volume = +0.3%(Source: 52 w/e 13 August 2006, The Sandwich Report 2006, TNS Superpanel/British Sandwich Association – compiled from 5,000 consumers reporting their sandwich purchases via texting and telephone interviews)
Organic wheat prices have hit an “historic high” as a supply crisis combines with soaring demand.The price of organic wheat has risen from £200 to £300 a tonne over the last three months, ADM Milling marketing manager John Hastwell told British Baker. He said: “The global picture is of reduced availability and stocks and increased demand.”Paul Matthews of organic miller FWP Matthews also said organic wheat prices had risen by 50% in the last three months. He would be putting up prices from 5 February.Export restrictions in Eastern Europe and a shortage of worldwide stocks from growing regions, including Sweden, Canada, South America and Australia, had put supply under pressure, he said. Demand for organic wheat to feed organically-reared animals in the UK had also escalated.George Marriage, director of organic miller Marriage’s in Essex, said the price of wheat had risen by around £100 a tonne, not including extraction costs. He commented: “This is the law of supply and demand working with a vengeance. Demand for organic feed wheat has gone through the roof, with the rise in sales of organic meat and eggs, and with new regulations, upping the amount of organic wheat in organic feed.”Major organic wheat growing country the Ukraine had imposed an export ban on farmers, after a poor harvest, putting supply under further stain, he added.John Lister of Shipton Mill told British Baker that the supply situation was “horrendous,” and there was doubt whether wheat stocks would last to the next harvest.And John Norton of wheat merchant Norton Organic Grain said: that wheat prices are at “historic highs”. Around 50,000 tonnes of organic wheat are estimated to be sold in the UK a year.Norton said: “The market is very short of supply. Demand is up, for organic wheat for animal feed and across the board. It takes three years for a farmer to convert to organic, so there is a time lag in supply.”National Association of British and Irish Millers director Alex Waugh commented: “This situation is like the conventional wheat situation, but with knobs on.”Under European law, organic cattle and sheep can be fed 5% non-organic wheat and pigs and poultry 15%, but feed must be 100% organic by 2012.
Spiralling flour and fuel costs have helped propel the UK up the global ranking for bread prices, but the country remains one of the cheapest places to buy bread in the world.Figures from the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU’s) Worldwide Cost of Living Survey show the average price of a kilo of bread in London rose from £1.09 in September, 2006, to £1.45 a year later. In Manchester, prices rose from 88p to £1.11.The EIU said rises had been compounded by the strength of sterling and the weakness of the US dollar, which has seen the relative cost boosted further compared to countries with weakening currencies or those linked to the dollar.”Bread prices in the UK have risen in local currency terms as rising commodity prices have been passed on to consumers,” said Jon Copestake, food and drink analyst and EIU survey editor. “In Manchester, the prices we surveyed rose 15.2% in the last year, although only 1.2% in the past six months. In London, bread prices rose 20.1% in the past year, 13.6% of which came in the last 6 months.”Despite the price rises, the UK is still one of the cheapest places in the world to buy bread. Of 130 cities surveyed around the world, London ranked number 70, up from 81 in 2006, in terms of price, while Manchester was at 93, up from 103.”Bread in the UK is seen as more of a staple than other countries. Production is highly developed and commoditised,” said Copestake. “Large scale consumption allows companies to exploit economies of scale and the market is highly competitive.”The research was based on bread from three categories of retailer. ’Low’ covers multiples, such as Tesco, ’medium’ equates to top-end supermarkets such as M&S and specialist shops, and ’high’ comprises food halls.
Greencore Group, the Irish maker of sandwiches and malt, has had a tough year due to unseasonal summer weather, consumer slowdown, strong raw material inflation and a weak exchange rate, said chairman Ned Sullivan.The convenience foods division, including sandwiches, quiche, cakes and desserts, performed well in the first half of 2007, but profit declined by 16% in the critical second half, according to the company’s interim management statement last week. On a full-year basis, turnover in the division rose by 4% to €933.1m and operating profit fell by 7% to €64.4m.Managing significant food inflation has become a “key challenge for all players” in the global food industry, said Sullivan. “Our convenience foods division has been successful in working with customers to offset this impact – estimated to total 8-10% of our cost of goods.”Overall group operating profit will be hit by a weakening pound. “If the Euro/Sterling level were to continue, the translation effect year-on-year would reduce group operating profit by around €8m, and profit before tax by around €6m,” added Sullivan.The ingredients and related property division delivered operating profit of €26.6m, an increase of 372% over the previous year. The key driver was the strong recovery in its ingredients businesses, said Sullivan.
Starbucks has confirmed that the head of its UK and Ireland operations has stepped down. Managing director Phil Broad has been replaced by Darcy Willson-Rymer, previously vice-president of Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa. Willson-Rymer’s appointment was confirmed as managing director on 8 August, effective immediately. He will report directly to Martin Coles, president of Starbucks Coffee International. A statement from Starbucks said Broad “has decided to step down for personal reasons”.“Darcy is a great appointment for the Starbucks UK and Irish business, having been a pivotal figure in the development of our EMEA business in recent years,” said Coles. “Phil has made important contributions to Starbucks UK and Ireland and we want thank him for his leadership and wish him well in his future endeavours.” “We believe that Starbucks international business will continue to be a good growth engine for the company. We have seen steady, consumer-led growth in the UK for the last 10 years and remain excited by opportunities in the UK and Irish markets,” he added.
Warrens Bakery staff have become the first to get a new-style qualification without spending time in the classroom, doing coursework, or exams.Forty-two of the Cornish company’s store managers and assistant managers have just finished an NVQ Level 2 course in Food Manufacture Retail and Service Support Skills, with assessment based only on observation by their managers.The course, developed by Cornwall College Business in conjunction with the food and drink sector skills council Improve, dovetails with Warrens’ internal training programme. It takes place on the job, and progress is recorded as employees carry out activities, or ‘taskways,’ correctly on more than one occasion.Warrens’ eight area managers have been trained to teach and assess the NVQ. Senior area manager Andrew Cane said: “This qualification used to involve a lot of paperwork, which many employees were just not comfortable with. This is a million times better and we now just have to watch and ask questions.”Warrens’ Heamoor store manager Alistair Sedgeman added: “It felt like I was just assessed on what I normally do day-to-day. It has helped sharpen my skills.”Family-owned firm Warrens has 450 retail staff across 50 outlets and all will complete the course.
Food plan unveiled Last week, the Government published its new food strategy, Food 2030, which sets out its goals for long-term food security and sustainability. One of the main aims of the strategy is for well-informed consumers to be able to choose healthy and affordable food, produced and supplied by highly skilled, profitable and resilient farming, fishing and food businesses. To view the strategy visit: www.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/ food/strategy.Sarnies in SandwichAn event to celebrate the sandwich is to be held in Sandwich, Kent, in May this year. The Ultimate Sandwich will be held on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 May, on the weekend leading up to British Sandwich Week, organised by the British Sandwich Association. Local cafés, pubs and bars in the area will be competing against each other in a bid to create the ultimate sandwich.Wales pie PR triumphA life-sized pie of international rugby player of the year, Shane Williams, who plays for Wales, has been named as one of the best PR campaigns of 2009 by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. The life-sized Shane pie was launched at the Millennium Stadium in February 2009 in the week building up to the Wales vs England game in the RBS Six Nations.Bakery helps heroesAccording to website guideandgazette.co.uk, bakery staff at Caroustie’s JM Bakery in Scotland raised a total of £1,215 for the charity Help for Heroes, which was set up to help the wounded in Britain’s current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The money was raised through a raffle, with prizes donated by local businesses.
Rich Products has announced it is to spend over £1m on a new toppings and icings factory in the UK, marking a “significant investment” for the firm.Rich UK has just had plans approved for the new site, which will produce toppings and icings for the UK and Europe, said marketing manager Gail Lindsay. “It shows our commitment to that product category, as well as to the baking industry in the UK,” explained Lindsay, who added the company was keen to maintain its position as a British manufacturer.Whereas before, the firm sourced its toppings and icings from Rich Products’ base in the US, national retail account controller Vicki Banks said this investment would enable the firm to develop products that were bespoke for the UK market.”It gives us the opportunity to service our customers more effectively, with greater flexibility to meet their needs,” added Ted Rich, managing director of Rich UK/Europe.The company is planning for the new factory to be opened in October this year.
The report in British Baker (4 June) highlights concerns over the possibility of increased wheat prices, due to currency fluctuation and the increased use of wheat for biofuel production.The possible effect of these concerns is that wheat and subsequently flour prices will rise after a new crop, even though the estimates are optimistic in terms of both volume and quality for the 2010 crop on a global scale.The current LIFFE price for July 2010 is an unchanged figure of £97/tonne, with the level increasing to £100.85 for November 2010. Obviously, the cost of bread flour will depend on premiums for bread wheat over feed wheat and the action taken by wheat buyers to cover flour contracts.There are other factors to be taken into account. Although there is to be an increased demand for feed wheat for biofuels, can this not be supplied from material that would previously have been exported? After all, from an average cereal crop of 15 million tonnes plus, approximately three million tonnes of milling wheat is obtained, leaving a significant surplus. Presumably, the additional demand for biofuel can also be met at least partially by using land for growing not currently used for wheat.In addition, what action is being taken by wheat buyers to protect prices by taking ’options’ on future purchases? This involves paying a premium to secure wheat at a specific price. The option system offers a degree of flexibility, presenting the buyer with a variety of strategies when covering wheat purchases.There has been considerable publicity about the use by millers of 100% UK wheats in the manufacture of bread-making flour. This reduces the need for imported material, which, in addition to providing useful promotional opportunities, generates cost savings.Do farmers have enough incentives to become interested in taking advantage of the development in seed technology to grow increased levels of bread-making wheat varieties? A realistic premium negotiated through the miller and merchant can be made to offer farmers a more satisfactory return for growing milling wheat, making this raw material as attractive as crops such as rape.The craft baker continues to be under serious market pressure and every opportunity must be explored to secure consistent raw material prices. As much factual information as possible is key as this avoids unwelcome speculation as to levels of future prices.Stephen Bartlett, Morpeth