BSB 2023 Spring Conference report by Sylvia Macdonald
The British Society of Baking’s Spring conference was one of the best attended for many years.
Held on 19 April at Tythe Barn, Bicester, approximately 100 leading industry figures were in attendance across the whole spectrum of bakery from ingredients to equipment and finished products. Networking was much to the fore throughout the breaks. The theme was one of overcoming challenges and defining forward strategy. Some speakers do not want their talks reported in detail.
Presentations kicked off with the scientific: Campden BRI’s Dr Phil Voysey’s explaining the path to reducing mould and increasing shelf life. While science can be baffling to anyone non-technical, Phil ensured everyone understood key factors affecting microbial growth. He defined the differences between moulds and yeasts and also defined sources of contamination. He then moved onto the causes and control of rope. Finally, he discussed specific bacteria of concern – all things bakers need to be aware of in avoiding, controlling and eliminating mould. Phil runs courses at Campden BRI, which demonstrate his talk in greater detail.
Grupo Bimbo’s Innovations and Strategy Director, Kate Haskins, took delegates through the company’s thinking, explaining in a lively and informative way how the company works and how it plans ahead.
Entrepreneurship was much to the fore in Bako ‘s CEO Mike Tully’s presentation about completely turning around Bako’s profits from £100 thou to £ 6.2 million. In a motivating talk he divulged his own forward-looking strategy and leadership style.
On the technical front, Neil Olly, who’s completed 32 years at Tesco, revealed how suppliers should communicate with the supermarket, plus the sort of information and actions required by the supermarket, the problems that ‘kept him awake at night’ and how, being open, efficient and transparent, can lead to a good and often lasting collaboration with the supermarket.
Tesco’s Bakery Category Specialist, John Lamper, gave a forward-looking talk on how Tesco works in partnership with suppliers to deliver what he defines as ‘operational excellence’ across all ISB channels, from equipment to ingredients to bake-off. His remit is to ensure quality across on shelf across 1,500 Express Outlets, 600 large format stores with scratch baking in 450 outlets. He looked in detail at the digital evolution: how QR codes and content, developed with suppliers, give access to support material. This in turn drives quality and capability for both instore and field colleagues. He gave helpful examples of three case studies, then summarised the collaborative approach that needs to be achieved with suppliers of equipment, ingredients and bake-off, in order to fulfil his demanding brief of ‘operational excellence’.
The next generation was also represented not only by the attendance of students from UCB with two tutors but also in the next two presentations. The first portrayed excellence in milling: seeing and hearing the progress made by Wright’s world-beating, innovative flour mill in Harlow, Essex. A video and entertaining talks followed the new mill through inception to completion, with joint presentations from MD David Wright and son James, commercial director.
David revealed the history of the family company, which began in 1867 and how as a boy his duties included litter picking but it was clear how under his strategy the mill and the range of products has greatly increased in size and diversified hugely in the number of flours and mixes supplied both to trade and retail. Son James took delegates through the extremely modern, environmentally conscious, world-beating, new milling facilities, the third site in the company’s operation.
BSB Conference ended on a controversial talk by a former Student Baker of the Year, Sophie Carey, now Bakery Development Manager at Matthews Cotswold Flour. She decried the efforts of communication between employers and students regarding recruitment and industry opportunities for bakery students and apprentices. There are several key ways it could improve, she suggested, including: assigning each trainee mentors, having one industry committee working towards one goal with the support of all baking organisations, plus asking for more feedback from students and trainees. If bakery wants to incentivise students, recruit and keep them, it needs to try much harder, she suggested.
Delegate feedback to the BSB conference and speakers was excellent and networking was much to the fore, defining this competitive industry that is also a ‘community’.
Thank you to everyone to spoke and attended!
The next BSB conference is 11 October dinner, conference 12 October. The Ardencote Hotel, Warks.