Have you ever seen fields of sunflowers swaying gently in the summer breeze, a beautiful blend of yellow and green emboldened by dramatic black centres? It was certainly a sight that seared into the soul of Holland’s famous post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh, whose painting of sunflowers forged his fame. The Dutch name for sunflowers is ‘sonneveld’. It is also the name of a company in Papendrecht, Holland, that hopes to make a big impression of a different kind in the British and Irish bakery markets.Sonneveld supplies bread improvers, mixes and release agents, manufacturing them at one of Holland’s most state-of-the-art plants, headed up by MD Geert Sonneveld – ‘Mr Sunflower’.Geert Sonneveld’s father, who began as a master baker and branched out into selling lard to his customers, started the family company 50 years ago. He was then joined by his son, Geert, who is still at the helm of the firm three days a week, having joined the company with a remit to develop new products. Geert Sonneveld took a slightly different path: “I began making bakery emulsions in a room behind my father’s bakery and improvers became my passion,” he says. How successful has he been? “Well,” he says, in a matter-of-fact voice, “I believe we have grown to become the biggest supplier of liquid improvers and mixes throughout Europe.”New marketsThis year, Sonneveld celebrates its 50th birthday and operates from one the cleanest, most modern factories in Europe. To celebrate, Geert Sonneveld is taking all his 150 staff and partners to a festive weekend in Budapest.But the anniversary has also seen the birth of a new ambition – to make inroads into the British and Irish markets, where the company believes its products are eminently suitable for the plant baking industry, as well as for in-store and craft bakeries.To facilitate its debut, Sonneveld has gone into partnership with one of the UK’s best-known names in improvers, Martin Churchill, who has been appointed technical sales manager for the UK and Ireland.Mr Churchill also began as an apprentice craft baker, working in Swanage. From there, he went on to jobs ranging from ovens to in-store bakeries, followed by a senior technical role at Spillers. After this, he moved on to ingredients supplier and wholesaler Kluman & Balter. I ask Mr Sonneveld why he thinks his products are right for the British market. He tells me: “The size of the plant bakery market in Britain is similar to that of Holland. It is an area in which we have a lot of experience. Sonneveld’s expertise lies in providing quality improvers and mixes. But we are known for our new product development, aiding continuous development of new products for plant bakers, for example in the area of soft rolls.“We make innovations happen,” he asserts. “We have special development programmes for each sector – plant, in-store and craft – and we build relationships with trust. We become partners with our customers. For example, in the 1990s we innovated with liquid shortenings and many new mixes. Now, we have patented a block improver that is simply sliced. This was developed after listening to our craft customers.”In the UK, Martin Churchill works with Sonneveld’s UK sales director Ruud Klasens. Ruud speaks English pretty much like a native and explains that the company uses 300 raw materials, all with barcodes and complete traceability stretching from its supplier through to its customers. The company also provides software support connecting its suppliers and its customers.Twenty-five people are employed on research and development at Sonneveld, more than are employed on production, which is highly automated. “We make a bespoke range of improvers and mixes,” says Mr Klasens, “because the big users, in particular, know exactly what they want to achieve. But there is a standard range too.” Sonneveld processes 10,000 orders a year and makes 1,500 products. “We pride ourselves on being daring and creative and adapting to individual needs,” he adds. As well as claiming to be market leader with its products in the Benelux countries, Sonneveld supplies the Middle East, Russia, Finland, France and Eastern Europe. As part of its service, it provides information on consumer tastes and market research for all these countries. “That’s what service and partnership means,” says Mr Klasens. And the company does not market itself under sub-brands or other brands, just Sonneveld.Marketing muscleBut no company can make inroads without marketing and that is the province of Sharon Lowensteyn, who begins by giving me a tour of the factory. First off, I see the raw materials arrive via silos: 10 outdoor and eight indoor. Fine ingredients arrive bagged, but must pass full metal detection before use.The vast warehouse for goods-out is busy, but elsewhere seems fairly quiet. That, I learn, is down to the large levels of automation, and also the fact that all powdered ingredients are sprayed with oil and emulsifiers, so there is no dust.While being focused principally on trade products, the company also makes a range of consumer bread mixes, which represents a small percentage of sales. Sonneveld uses encapsulated yeast, thus giving the mix a nine-month shelf life. “We endeavour to be innovative,” she says. “New products for bakers have included Marlino, which was exclusive to artisan bakers for three years, but has now been demanded by the plants.” This is a yeast-free mix containing baking soda, raisins, sugar, flour, water, chocolate powder and fats.“Sonneveld provides bakers with the mix, the base ring for the cake and also posters showing the product. Our research told us that a typical consumer for Marlino was a hermit during the week but a bon-vivant at the weekend, so we tailored the poster accordingly,” says Ms Lowensteyn. “Research shows that consumers’ main drives at the moment are health and convenience. So for the health-driven sector, we supply organic mixes for products such as pumpkin breads. These are made off-site and guaranteed anti-allergenic – there are no animal fats on the premises at Sonneveld and no nuts. We have also cut down on trans fatty acids.”She continues: “For convenience we know that there are more single people, who want smaller volumes – perhaps four slices of bread. But whatever consumers choose – standard bread, Pain de Camargue, Dolce Pane Sunflower Bread or one full of grains – the perception must be of freshness, diversity and indulgence. That must be reflected in the marketing.”SmileNext I meet Cees (pronounced Case) Hack, commercial director, and he tells me to smile. I didn’t think I looked unhappy, but he is actually talking about an acronym the company uses to describe the products that can be made with Sonneveld mixes:SimpleMemorableInterestingLikeableEmotive.Mr Hack joined from DSM eight months ago, having started life in a craft bakery at the age of 15. He then moved into teaching bakery and wrote two books on baking technology. Next, he moved to Unilever’s bakery division, which enabled him to take a Masters in Food Science. As a relative newcomer to the company, I ask him to define his role. “I put in the drive,” he says. “To do that you need to be proud of your products, focused and decisive.”Mr Hack has demonstrated the latter by deciding to target the UK and Ireland, and building the partnership between Martin Churchill and Ruud Klasens.His management style centres on delegation and trust. “If you delegate to people you must give them responsibility, but protect them. I say to them that if they go outside their remit, they should tell me and, if they blow it, next time ask me. That is an important pathway to growth.”But he limits geographical growth to deliverable distances. “We will distribute our goods to anywhere within 1,500km (which takes in Britain and Ireland). We like to stay close to our customers, the bakers, and within those parameters, we can also provide full traceability records within one hour – often less.Raw materialsHow many raw materials does it take to make mixes and improvers? Mr Hack explains that Sonneveld buys some 300 raw materials and converts them into several main products.- Powder: all sprayed with oil and emulsions so there is no dust; – Paste: which needs to be scooped;- Liquid: not based on fat, but oil so it can be pumped. This formula is more suited to fully automated bakeries;- Block: a patented combination of powder and paste, which is easily dosed (cut), and can be stored at ambient temperatures of up to 30ºC, or refrigerated.The 300 raw materials end up as 1,500 products, which are supplied to craft, in-store and plant. Mr Hack adds: “I believe we are the only manufacturer of liquid bread improvers made on a fully automated line, with a recent investment of E8m. But investment does not stop there. Currently we are investing in a E2.5m Innovation Centre.”But the last words belong to Martin Churchill and Ruud Klasens, the duo charged with targeting the British and Irish markets. Mr Churchill says: “We started visiting potential customers three months ago and found they particularly like our fast-moving new product development. At the moment, there is strong interest in fruited breads, with soft crumb rolls and seeded breads following fast behind.”The ever-cheerful Mr Klasens, for whom the SMILE acronym could have been invented, tells me: “I am delighted to be part of this venture, it is really exciting. We have much to offer but are just as keen to listen.”As we head back to the airport, it is midwinter and there is not a sunflower in sight. But Mr Klasens diligently enquires if we would enjoy a brief diversion to see some famous windmills standing proudly along a canal. For a man called Ruud he’s very polite.
Some 325 delegates attended the British Sandwich Association’s Taste conference and exhibition, held in London last week.Speakers at the event included Marks and Spencer’s food technologist David Balmer, Tim Nicholas of market research company TNS and consultant Nellie Nichols.The delegates shared information from the latest TNS sandwich report for the year to August 13, which showed the value of commercial sandwich sales was up 8.9% to £4.6bn for the year.The top three filings were chicken salad, egg and cress and chicken & bacon.A sausage sandwich competition at the show, run by the British Pig Executive, was won by Fresh Organics’ Best of British Sandwich.
Courgettes, also known as zucchini, are a very versatile vegetable with a delicate flavour. Courgettes were not widely eaten in Europe before the 20th century, but have been cultivated in Central America for 5,000 years and are related to watermelons, gherkins and cucumbers. They are plentiful in the summer months and anyone who has ever grown courgettes will know that they seem to turn into marrows before your eyes and are best when picked young, as they have more flavour and less water.They mix well with peppers, tomatoes and herbs, put onto puff pastry to make a Provençal tart. They can also be added to a savoury flan, grated or sliced and gently steamed first and mixed with an egg and goat’s cheese or Feta cheese filling. Grate them raw, mix them with cheese and, possibly, cornmeal, and put them in savoury quick breads or scones.They can also be added to cakes, whether in a spicy loaf cake or a chocolate cake with a difference. Mix some with carrots to make a carrot and courgette cake. Some grated into a muffin mixture, again savoury or sweet, works very well. The green from the skin gives an interesting speckle to the cakes but, if preferred, peel them first.Courgette season: June to end of SeptemberFiona Burrell, co-author of Leiths Baking Bible, from the world-famous Leiths School of Food and Wine
Fanta now contains no artificial flavours or colours, thanks to a reformulation of the drink, as part of a £6.25m brand investment by Coca Cola Enterprises (CCE) this year.Fanta will also have a pack redesign to highlight these new claims. The new design will include Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) and state that the product contains real fruit juice.According to data from AC Nielsen in August 2008, Fanta is the biggest flavoured carbonate brand, worth £117.3m in retail sales. “Flavoured carbonates remain a massive market segment, worth £332.9m,” said Kenny Chisholm, trade communications manager at CCE.”Consumer research has proven that the new packaging communication should increase purchase intent by up to 24%, which is a great opportunity for retailers to drive soft drinks sales.”[http://www.fanta.co.uk]
Doubling its sales has prompted handmade speciality bread and cake producer The Bread Factory to build a new production facility.The high-end wholesale baker, which has been baking breads and morning goods for more than 17 years, needed more space after sales rose in the last two years. The Bread Factory spent £780,000 on the new 15,000sq m production area, which includes a new mezzanine floor to utilise space above a production area; handmade morning goods are now prepared on the ground floor kitchen and high-end cakes are baked on the first floor.The new factory – just 500 yards away from an existing site it owns at West Hendon – has doubled The Bread Factory’s capacity and prompted it to hire more staff, taking the total to 140.The company bakes a range of 300 handmade products, including British, French, Italian, sourdough breads, bread rolls, speciality baps, sandwich loaves and morning goods. Its client list includes first-class hotels and high-end retailers, such as The Dorchester Hotel, The Fat Duck at Bray, Le Gavroche, and Fortnum & Mason.MD Tom Mulner said: “We’re doing more seeded breads and German rye bread, while our handpiped muffin business has grown quite a bit. I think demand for artisan, quality bread in general is growing.”The company will also open its fourth branch of neighbourhood bakery outlet Gail’s, in Clapham in June. It already has shops in Hampstead, Portabello and St John’s Wood.MTC Insulation Solutions were the food construction contractors behind the new factory
Workers at Allied Bakeries’ plant in Netherton are fearing for their jobs after Tesco reduced its business with the firm, which employs 150 staff at the site.Roy Streeter, regional officer with the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union, said Allied was working to secure production contracts from other retailers, in a bid to maintain employees’ positions. “Staff are worried about their jobs,” he said.An Allied spokeswoman said there had been no job losses, adding: “Crumpet production with a major retailer has been reduced. So we are assessing potential new business opportunities.”
Costa Coffee today (Wednesday, 8 April) broke through the 900-store mark as the branded coffee shop sector showed little sign of recessionary slowdown. With the opening of a new outlet in London’s Piccadilly on Wednesday, a spokesperson told British Baker that Costa would be opening 100 stores in 2009, despite initial industry uncertainty about how recession would affect café culture.She said: “Costa has had a great year of expansion. We now have over 1,300 stores in 25 markets. Over the coming year, we hope to open around 100 stores in the UK and around another 100 internationally. In the UK, we will look to expand in areas that don’t already have a Costa and build on our presence at motorway service areas and in-store at Tesco. Internationally, we will look to grow our presence in our existing markets.”Costa recently stepped up its “coffee war” with Starbucks, with a marketing campaign that featured independent market research suggesting that customers preferred Costa’s coffee blend over that of its leading rival – the second-placed cafe chain behind Costa on store numbers.Costa’s chief taster Gennaro Pelliccia, who recently made headlines for insuring his tongue for £10 million, told BB that the current marketing campaign followed “many many years of trying to tell everyone how much better our coffee is”. Costa also spent £150,000 on the opening this week of its third barista training academy in Newbury, launched to deal with the chain’s growth ambitions, with 4,500 staff expected to be trained across the group this year.
The Village Bakery in Melmerby is an organic operation in every sense of the word. Producing a wide range of bakery products, including wheat, gluten and dairy-free organic ranges, its commitment to standards and innovative branding won over the judges at last year’s Baking Industry Awards, which saw it take home The Organic Award, sponsored by Asda.Based in Cumbria, and owned by family business Bells of Lazonby, the bakery sources inspiration for its recipes from across the globe. Marketing manager Lindsay Kilifin explains that a lot of its older flagship products have interesting stories behind them. “For example our rye bread is made from a sourdough recipe that our founder, Andrew Whitley brought back from Russia over 20 years ago.” The Village Bakery was founded in 1976 by Whitley, a former BBC Russian correspondent, who until a few years ago still helped out with new product development.Kilifin says the business isn’t just about organics; it’s much more than that. Sustainability, healthy living, nutrition and minimal processing are all important aspects of the business, which also bakes all its products in a wood-fired oven, using renewable energy. “We tried to highlight what makes The Village Bakery different, and how it goes the extra mile in everything that it does,” says Kilifin, regarding the business’s approach to its application. She explains that being organic isn’t always the easiest thing, and sourcing the right quality ingredients can sometimes cause problems, but continuing the values on which the business was founded is key.”Nothing is compromised,” she says. “We’re very particular about the ingredients that go into our foods and our bakery products. We only use the finest of ingredients and it becomes more difficult when you look at the products which are not just organic, but are also gluten, wheat and dairy-free too – that’s when the difficulties really kick in.” Other challenges have included developing products with sufficient shelf life for distribution to supermarkets.It believes ’natural good taste’ is the key to success, and it uses natural processes, artisan methods and minimal additives in its products. In fact the only additive it uses is baking powder in some cakes. Its breads are produced in the belief that ’time equals flavour’, employing artisan methods of slow fermentation. “We won’t use certain ingredients, even if they’re likely to be a great seller, if it compromises our values. For example we don’t want to use unnecessary sugar, so we sweeten products using fruit juice, for example apple juice, and date syrup. We don’t plough sugar into what we do – even if sometimes it would be easier.” It also aims to use ingredients which cater for most special dietary needs.Its products are all accredited by the Soil Association and it also conducts frequent reviews of its suppliers to ensure the quality is upheld and that improvements are made as the market evolves and the availability of ingredients improves.In the year leading up to the awards, one of its biggest achievements was launching its breads in compostable bags, says Kilifin, which it believes was an industry first. It rebranded its organic range back in 2006, before doing the same for its free-from ranges in June 2008. “It’s given the brand a bit of personality, an injection of colour and a focus on our brand values, as well as helping to build more of a rapport with our customers, in terms of who we are, what we do, why we do it and why we go to the lengths that we do,” she explains.The bakery also worked on a number of initiatives to improve the accessibility of its products, for example by widening its distribution and increasing its branded presence.Its Village Bakery breads are now stocked in major multiples including Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose and in a number of health food and organic retailers across the UK, such as Planet Organic and Fresh and Wild. Approximately 50% of its branded turnover is from the independent sector.In its application to Asda’s Organic Award, the bakery said it believed its growth is down to a focus on its brand values (organic, sustainability, healthy living, honest and ethical – and simply better), the fact that its innovations are very much in line with consumer and retailer trends, and also its focus on growth markets.”The Organic Award was a new award last year, and there hadn’t been one like it before. We felt The Village Bakery fitted the criteria perfectly. It had its name written all over it,” says Kilifin.As always with these things, it’s still a big shock when you win, she explains. “I think the judges felt we were different and that we worked hard at maintaining what we’re about. It’s always a total surprise when you win and we didn’t expect it, but we’re really, really proud of it. It’s an honour for the brand.”The awards night was attended by Kilifin, as well as MD of Bells of Lazonby, Michael Bell, wife Susan and its HR manager, Julie Kemp, who was a finalist in the Achievement in Bakery Training category.Looking to the future, Kilifin says that despite the tough economic climate, the business is still climbing. “Being an organic brand especially, it is tough – it’s no walk in the park, but we’re still developing. We’ve just launched two new breads into Waitrose, under The Village Bakery brand.”The Village Bakery knows the fact that a product is organic is not always enough in itself for the product to sell. As the company puts it, its focus is on the wider picture surrounding the organics issue, and an attempt to encompass healthy living and sustainability as extensively as possible in all that it does.—-=== View from the awards night ===== Michael Bell, MD, Bells of Lazonby ==”The awards evening was fantastic last year. It was absolutely spot on. I know times are hard for everybody, but actually it’s a great occasion to celebrate all that is good in our bakery industry, from the very big to the very little and everyone in between. It’s a good networking night as well.”== How did it feel when you were announced as winners? ==”Well I’ve always wanted to lift up the FA Cup, and I’m delighted for the business to win a Baking Industry Award – it’s up there alongside it; it’s fantastic. Everyone likes to be associated with success. Winning the award doesn’t put thousands of pounds into your bank account, but it’s you being judged by your peers in the industry and it’s great to get a pat on the back from those who know.”== Why do you feel you won? ==”We’d be complacent for thinking we knew why we’d won, but we try very hard to look beyond just being organic. Consumers are wanting more than organic ingredients, and want to believe in the brand behind the products.”
Baking cases producer Chevler has joined Puratos as a sponsor of National Cupcake Week (NCW). Sales director Mike Wescomb said that the firm is proud to sponsor NCW and is happy to support all creative bakers taking part to develop new and innovative ideas. “As the UK’s leading manufacturer of baking cases, we are launching a gold, silver and multi-coloured cupcake range to help bring individuality to the market,” said Wescomb. Chevler is offering all bakers taking part in NCW a sample pack of this new range. Call 01844 344231 for details.* Don’t forget to enter our National Cupcake competition in the run-up to NCW. The deadline, 22 July, is almost here. Our panel of independent judges includes: Dan Lepard, Mich Turner and Fiona Burrell. Just send us a commercial-scale recipe and method, including topping, plus photography and an application form, which can be downloaded from BB’s website bakeryinfo.co.uk.Send your entries to [email protected] or post to Cupcake Competition, Elizabeth Ellis, William Reed Business Media, Broadfield Park, Crawley, West Sussex RH11 9RT.
Jobs at Sunfresh Bakers are safe, after bosses bought the business out of administration.Directors Stephen and Mark Taylor bought its assets and goodwill, safeguarding 140 jobs, and will now trade as Taylors the Bakers. The Ashton-under-Lyne firm in Lancashire, which makes oven-bottom muffins, went into administration at the end of last month and insolvency firm MCR was tasked with finding a buyer.A spokeswoman for Taylors the Bakers said it had worked hard to secure the continuity of supply from suppliers and that it had the support of its major supermarket clients, who wanted to continue to buy the “quality of product and service synonymous with Sunfresh Bakers”.She added: “We are proud to have saved 140 jobs and this strong dedicated workforce are relieved that all the speculation about jobs and the future of the business is over and for them now it’s business as usual.”The company had to make 30 workers redundant earlier this year due to a downturn in trade.Sunfresh Bakers’ most recent accounts in November 2008, filed at Companies House, showed a pre-tax loss of £365,337 and net liabilities of more than £200,000.