Nantwich-based craft baker Arthur Chatwins has built up a loyal following in the north west over a history that spans nearly 100 years. Its high-quality scratch-baked range of breads, savouries and cakes are popular with customers in 19 bakery shops and five coffee lounges, in the North Staffordshire and South Cheshire area.But its continued success depends on a forward-looking approach, as the trading environment becomes more competitive. The fourth-generation family business is proving it is up to the pressure – it is just about to open its 20th shop in a prime location in Chester town centre – and has plans to automate more of the processes at its central bakery in Nantwich.And Chatwins’ balance sheet also suggests it has struck the right note between tradition and innovation across the business. Last year it says it achieved record profits on a turnover of around £6m.The company is also a frequent finalist in British Baker’s Baking Industry Awards. In 2005, joint-MD Trevor Mooney was a finalist in the Baker of the Year category, and the year before, one of Chatwins’ wedding cake decorators, Dawn Dean, was a finalist in the Celebration Cake Maker of the Year category.Care and attentionSo what has been Chatwins’ formula for craft baking success?“Over the years ‘quality’ and ‘service’ have been the key words,” says Mr Mooney. “One only has to visit our shops to see the array of products made with the care and attention that our customers have the right to expect.”Knowing its customers is also a key consideration for the company. One of the big trends Chatwins has noticed and responded to is growing demand for lunchtime takeaway, he says. The company now sells 1,200 of its best-selling egg mayonnaise sandwiches a day, through its shops and wholesale channels. Sausage rolls are its best-selling line overall. Chatwins also does a roaring trade in pasties, selling some 2,250 a day, including vegetable, Cornish, and cheese and onion variants. And the company will be launching breakfast wraps and savoury rolls to coincide with the opening of the new Chester store on February 8.Chatwins’ general manager Kevin Pearce says customers like things “a little bit different”, but there are limits. Some of the shops in better off areas can sell smoked salmon ciabattas, but traditional lines are always the favourites. The company has a diverse range of 300 products, from pasties to cream cakes, but only parts of that range will be on sale at any one time. Members of the bakery and retail management team, including general manger Kevin Pearce, and joint-MDs Trevor Mooney and Brian Lightfoot, hold bi-weekly meetings to discuss range and what products should be rotated. That ensures customers are offered a varied array of products.For example, one week fancy pig cakes may be presented on the counters in stores as a novelty; the next week frogs and after that bees. And with slab cakes, options such as orange, Genoa and ginger are rotated, alongside seasonal specials.Chatwins recently took on a French development baker, Dominique Schickele, charged with inventing innovative new products. He experiments with new concepts at the bakery one afternoon a week. Over the festive season, his Christmas pudding mousse got a particularly warm reception. Scratch bakingChatwins currently employs some 300 staff, around 95 of whom work in its main bakery, in Nantwich town centre. About 90% of Chatwins’ range is made from scratch at this bakery, which is a warren of interconnecting departments. Upstairs is a sandwich area, where the sandwiches are prepared fresh daily. And in an adjacent cake area, novelty cakes are decorated to customer orders. Customers can choose from a range of options, from iced sugar paste and chocolate wedding cakes, featuring swags, curls, handmade flowers and modelled figures. There is also a room set aside for the display of wedding cakes. These creations are lit by spotlight and stored behind glass. Customers can come in on a Saturday and order from the selection, which includes traditional and more modern options. Downstairs is the main bakery, which makes the range of cakes, breads, sausage rolls and pasties. Along from the main bakery is a cream room and a packaging room, as well as a room where tarts are decorated.The company’s suppliers include Heygates and Bradshaw for flour, BakeMark UK and Renshaw for other ingredients, and chocolate company Barry Callebaut. Local suppliers are used for ingredients such as meat and vegetables. As with most bakeries in the craft sector, staffing and skills shortages are issues. Mr Mooney says: “Training and maintaining skill levels are very difficult these days, but over the years we have managed to achieve a lot with the help of various colleges and associations. As a family business we have always invested in our staff and in 2004 we were awarded the much-coveted Investors in People title.” Over the years, Chatwins has offered staff specialised training in conjunction with institutes such as the Richemont School in Switzerland. This helps it combine contemporary Continental practices with traditional baking techniques, he says. Following the enlargement of the European Union in May 2004, the company has found a solution to its staffing problems – it has taken on several Polish staff (as well as one from Croatia). Mr Mooney says: “We are absolutely delighted with them. You just can’t find them enough work to do.”Their creations are delivered daily on Chatwins’ 14 vans to the 19 shops and to wholesale customers, who account for 15-20% of Chatwins’ turnover.The company sells to convenience stores, delis and universities. It also supplies the John Lewis café in Wilmslow. Minimum orders for wholesale are around £100 a week.Drivers start deliveries around 7am and are back at the bakery by 11am. One of the challenges Chatwins faces is parking its fleet of vans. Its bakery is landlocked in Nantwich town centre and there are parking restrictions all around. Van drivers end up paying for tickets to park in the adjacent car park. It is a big expense for the company and the Chatwins family did consider moving to a purpose-built site around 15 years ago. However, the decision was taken to completely refurbish the original redbrick premises instead, expanding into an old cinema next door. The whole bakery was modernised as it was rebuilt in five phases. This is a company which values its heritage, but also moves with the times. Chatwins has plans to streamline the manufacturing process at the bakery to make it more mechanised. It is introducing computerised weighing, stock control, and traceability systems. It is also planning to update its pasty line. These are made by hand at the moment, but the company wants to make the process more efficient, without compromising quality or appearance. The most important factor of any new machine will be the depositor, as Chatwins’ fillings are very firm, says Mr Mooney. A couple of machines have been shortlisted and Chatwins will now have to see them in action. Energy riseChatwins’ emphasis on quality and tradition means it does not compete directly with the supermarkets, and it is even reasonably resilient against the impact of bakery giant Greggs.Greggs has moved into two of the areas where it trades and, although sales have been hit, the impact has been nowhere near as debilitating for Chatwins as for other similar retailers in the area, Mr Pearce says.Costs are also rising, particularly energy prices. Chatwins has just come out of a fixed-term supply contract, and was facing a 70% hike in the price it pays for gas on a new contract. Following negotiations, a new six-month contract was secured, with an increase of 60%. And last year trade was a little less buoyant – a rise in interest rates took its toll on spending habits. However, Chatwins is moving on with cautious expansion plans. Mr Mooney says: “We are looking to expand, but not too fast. In five years we would hope to have around 24 shops. It depends on what units are available.”The news that the company has acquired its 20th site based at a former Weinholt’s bakery is a milestone in its history. The outlet in Northgate Street has a 70-seater tea room, small coffee bar and traditional baker’s shop. Chatwins was given first refusal on the former Weinholt’s bakery, following a “gentleman’s agreement” stretching back decades. This agreement was that the two chains would not encroach on each other’s trade. Chairman Edward Chatwin says the company is delighted to have acquired the site. “To have a shop in the centre of Chester has always been a goal and I’m sure my late grandfather, Arthur, would have been very proud. FAMILY AFFAIRArthur Chatwin is a fourth generation family business, founded by John Chatwin in 1913, the great-grandfather of today’s chairman Edward Chatwin. The business carries the name of John Chatwin’s son Arthur. In 1971 the business was passed to Brian Chatwin, who still works for the company as a consultant. Edward Chatwin, who took over as chairman two years ago, is supported by two brothers: John, who works in the marketing department, and Michael, who works in the accounts office.
Enrobing has always been a messy and time-consuming job, but BROOK FOODS (Minehead, Somerset) says the Bell Perkins Easi-robe machine overcomes these problems. The Easirobe can be used for chocolate, fondant, jams and jellies.The machine features an air pump for transporting the product from the tank to the dual-curtain coating reservoir. Various attachments can be fitted to the blower so that the top or sides of the product, or indeed both, can be coated.Thermal oil heats the stainless steel unit allowing an even, gentle transfer of heat through the jacketed tank, achieving accurate temperature control.
Dawn Foods’ Adore brand offers four lines of individually wrapped premium muffins, brownies, indulgent cakes and American cookies, available in a variety of flavours.The brand has been developed to offer a premium packaged product to suit the foodservice industry and comes in a range of flavours, including blueberry and redcurrant muffins, triple chocolate fudge cookies and orange and mascarpone indulgent cakes. The muffins and cakes have a very moist eating quality, while the cookies are chewy, says the firm.Dawn Foods’ marketing director Maggie Dagostino comments: “Our targeted approach to NPD has been incredibly successful and, through quantified research, we know that the Adore brand exactly meets the demands of today’s consumers.”
Northampton-based baker Oliver Adams is sending its food waste to be turned into energy, in addition to its existing recycling programme.Instead of paying £40 per tonne to send its food waste to landfill, waste management company F&R Cawley is now picking it up and sending it for mixing with pig muck for feeding into a biogas plant.Oliver Adams produces several tonnes of food waste a week from its 28 shops, said MD Thomas Adams. “I am no tree hugger but I can see a great deal of benefit in using waste to generate electricity and for other products.”
Antioxidant-rich chocolate, which can be used in bakery applications, helps heart health, according to new research from Japan.The report from Chiba University suggests that consuming dark chocolate containing flavonoids (associated with antioxidants) on a regular basis improves coronary blood flow, and so reduces the risk of fatty build-up in the arteries and, therefore, heart attacks.Trials were carried out over a two-weeks period on 39 adults, with an average age of 29.Half were given 550 milligrams of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate to eat every day, while the other half were given normal white chocolate, which has no flavonoids. The participants who ate dark chocolate showed significantly improved blood flow after two weeks, while those who ate white chocolate showed no change whatsoever.”Flavonoid-rich dark chocolate had acute effects in improving coronary function in healthy adults, as compared to non-flavonoid white chocolate, independent of changes in oxidative stress parameters, blood pressure and lipid profile,” researchers said.On consumption of dark chocolate, coronary arteries dilated, letting more blood through, reducing the risk of heart attacks.Meanwhile, Prestat has just launched a new Choxi+ bar. The company says that only two squares provides a day’s worth of antioxidants. According to the company, cocoa beans are the richest-known source of several antioxidants.
The national bakers buying group Bako has decided on a radical restructure of its group purchasing division, following a strategic review by its directors.Two new purchasing divisions – Northern Purchasing Division and Southern Purchasing Divi-sion – will be created. These will be based at Preston in the north, while in the south, group purchasing will be electronically shared between Swansea, Wales, Cullompton Western and Merton, London.Former chief executive David Armstrong, who reported directly to the board and recently left to work for supermarket group Asda, will not be replaced.The original Bako Central Purchasing and Marketing Division, located in different offices in Preston, has closed. The functions have been allocated to the new divisions. A minimal number of staff at Preston are in consultation about jobs, but there will also be some redeployment. Two new positions have been created at Bako North Western in purchasing and one will be created at each of the three southern locations.Six regional Bako sites provide ingredients, packaging, equipment and finished products to craft and wholesale bakers throughout the country. These are based in the North West at Preston; the North East – Durham; Glasgow – Cumbernauld; Wales – Swansea; Exeter – Cul-lompton; and London – Merton.Acting Bako chairman John Waterfield, MD of Waterfields of Leigh, Lancashire, with 48 craft shops, told British Baker: “Waterfields has been a member of Bako for over 30 years. This is a very positive step forward – not only for Bako, but also for suppliers and customers. The closure of the central buying offices at Preston will reduce overheads and enable the Bako companies to give a better service. The move will also allow each Bako region to build a closer working relationship with suppliers and customers.”He continued: “The glue that helps hold Bako companies together is its own-label products. The change will also enable North and South purchasing to develop Bako brands, which have increased over the years and now account for over 25% of total sales.”
Competitions, karaoke and camaraderie were just a few of the ingredients that went into an eventful May Bank Holiday weekend at the Alliance of Bakery Students and Trainees’ (ABST) conference in Torquay.Held at the Toorak Hotel, there were a few moments during the Friday night dinner, when the conference looked like it was going to be some-thing to write home about for all the wrong reasons, when a precariously balanced candle toppled over and nearly lit up a white tablecloth. Fortunately, the crisis was averted, thanks to some quick reactions, and the delegates all got on with enjoying the start of the weekend.The meal on Friday was followed by a little karaoke and a lot of silly hats, the wearers of which paraded around the room, competing for the title of Best Silly Hat. The winner wasn’t a baker, but a toddler, with baby bottles attached to the side of his hat and a rather ’cool dude’ pair of shades. Next followed a quiz – half bakery, half general knowledge – a raffle and dancing, which went on into the night.== Competition time ==Saturday was competition day, with the entries laid out on tables in the Chatsworth rooms, ready for judging to start at 9.30am. Entries came from around 180 students at Blackpool College, Tameside College, Liverpool Community College, Brooklands College and University College Birmingham (UCB), with over 700 different items on show. The Hovis and Granary competitions attracted the greatest number entries with 352 loaves up for judging. “The Masters Award for the Best Bread in Show went to Adam Whately from UCB, for a 400g Hovis loaf,” said chairman of the bread judges Charles Geary. “I personally, along with head technical judge Colin Lomax. feel it is the best we’ve seen in the last six years.”Geary said the overall standard of the competition breads was very good. “The winning loaves in particular were especially good, showing great skill and technique. The Innovation class showed a quality of thought and the California Raisins competition was of an exceptionally high standard again, with great thought and innovation.”The Live Dough competition (Wrights Trophy) was also of a very high standard – the highest we’ve had for years – and with only one point between first and second,” Geary said, adding this is very rarely the case.In the confectionery competition, new ABST president, Christopher Freeman, chair of the confectionery judges, said the quality of the celebration cakes and the Slattery Trophy entries (for chocolate cakes) had been excellent. “We had a great team of judges. The quality of all the products has been very good.”General secretary and confectionery judge, David Mizon added that the entries were slightly up on last year and that there had been a good mix across the board.Lomax also noted that the quality of the loaves was better than last year and said demonstrations at colleges on technique, carried out by Rank Hovis technician Chris Foxall, had really helped the students.”From a lecturers’ point of view, it’s nice to have someone come in from outside – and the students listen to them differently,” explained retiring competition secretary and Brooklands College tutor Jane Hatton. “The popularity of the conference goes through peaks and troughs, but there has been a real interest this year. Even if the students don’t win, they get a lot out of doing it and learn so much from taking part.”Mizon said the conference gave the students a great deal of encouragement and made them very competitive. “It also gives employers the opportunity to view new students’ work, an experience of the kind you wouldn’t get if you were just interviewing them,” he explained. “We’ve had over £20,000-worth of sponsorship for the conference this year from various sponsors, including British Bakels, BakeMark UK, California Raisins, British Sugar, Unifine, Cereform, Slattery, Muntons and Rich’s. We’re very grateful to them and hope they’ll support us again next year.”At 3.30pm, the doors were opened and students poured into the room, eager to find out how they’d done and to celebrate the success of fellow students.== Winners included: ==Gary Inman from Blackpool College, who won first prize in The Horton Trophy for an 800g white loaf; Brooklands College student Jung-Yun Jung, who walked away with the British Sugar Award for her floral cake design, as well as first prize in the Live Wired Sugar Rose Corsage and The Goldex Cup; Tony Thomsen from Blackpool, who won The Masters Cup; Catherine Bamber from Blackpool, who took first prize in the California Raisins’ Confectionery category; and Philip Scase from Tameside, who won the Bread category.Everyone donned their glad rags for the drinks reception and black tie dinner after the excitement of competition day had died down. The formal dinner featured speeches from the likes of past-president John Lindsay, and saw the presentation of a cake to chosen charity Rowcroft Hospice. A collection of £108 was made, which will be donated to the hospice.The evening continued with live band ’Freeway’ and a disco where everybody had the chance to let their hair down.== Need for support ==Sunday morning brought the students’ AGM and prize-giving ceremony. In the general secretary’s report, Mizon spoke of the support needed from government, for young people to keep the quality of craft bakery high. He also spoke of the urgent need for volunteers to fill various roles at the ABST, especially the position of editor.Lindsay spoke of the ABST’s achievements during the year, namely in improving the number of members. “We had a few goals at the start of the year, one of which was to double the number of students and, to a great extent, I think we’ve done that,” he explained, adding: “If we don’t stand up for the future of our industry, nobody will.”Hatton then gave a vote of thanks to the retiring officers, and to those who had taken risks to bring about change. This was followed by the installation of Freeman as the new president and Lindsay was presented with the past-president medal, with John Renshaw named as president-elect for 2009/10. “The display you put before us yesterday afternoon was fantastic,” said Renshaw, addres-sing the students, adding, “and then you really showed us how to party.”The awards presentation followed, with students refused the chance to hide from the limelight, as eager tutors had their cameras at the ready. Many struggled to keep hold of their large trophies.On his aims for the coming year, Freeman said the ABST would continue to make the students’ conference focused and affordable, as well as build on the networking success of the organisation. “We had more students and more competitions this year,” he said. “To see the delight on students’ faces when they won is great. They also have the chance to talk to the judges about how they can improve.”Freeman added that it was all about spearheading the baking industry and keeping it to the fore, making sure the students and the industry alike receives its just rewards. “We want to encourage and enthuse young people about what they can achieve,” he said.
Employers have been invited to set the agenda for a new food and drink ‘excellence’ qualification, aimed at raising the bar on productivity and efficiency in the workplace.Food and drink sector skills council Improve is setting up a working group of employers, including bakers, to consult on best practice in areas such as lean manufacturing, sustainability and quality.The results will be used as a basis for a new publicly accredited qualification, as part of the national Qualifications and Credits Framework (QCF).The likes of Warburtons, United Biscuits and Northern Foods have already expressed an interest in taking part in the group’s first meeting on 25 June, and Improve is keen to hear from more companies of any size.“In the first stage of the project, we will work with employers to identify a set of National Occupational Standards outlining the skills and knowledge all workers in the industry should have in order to achieve optimum performance,” explained Derek Williams, Improve’s development director.“These standards will then form the basis for a nationally recognised Food and Drink Proficiency Qualification designed specifically for assessment in the workplace.”
What will bread look like in the future? And what is the best thing since sliced bread? These are questions I’ve made it my quest to answer. And where better to start than pre-history?I recently spent a morning with Jacqui Wood, in her Bronze Age settlement, making bread in a very, very old-school way. She asserts that bread is the lynchpin that rooted us from being nomadic. Wow, that right there is pretty seismic; we’re in the business of making the stuff that got people civilised. Jacqui expounded a theory that several thousand years ago, when all of Europe was forested, a pandemic of Dutch elm disease left glades and clearings that, like a watering hole, were a natural animal magnet. This Flintstone meat market enabled us to get protein without chasing it through the woods, and use our new found ’me’ time to cultivate cereals.Once a crop has been planted, you can’t just wander off, so we’ve been destined to stay put ever since (until easyJet!). These crops – spelt, barley or emmer – were vacuum-packed through winter in clay-lined, vermin-proof pits. There is evidence that holes were dug in the ground, lined with wet clay, filled with the harvested and threshed crop and sealed with a clay lid. The grains around the edge would start to germinate and, in doing so, would use up all the oxygen, creating a stable environment for storing until the stash was needed. The grain was ground into a coarse flour, using a saddle quern. The loaf would sometimes have been ingeniously leavened with dried elderberries – an astoundingly simple, local and successful method. The various activities required to make bread, from sowing through to baking, were shared around, and communities were established. Jacqui and I baked our loaf in a granite bank oven, and the fibrous end-result was both bitter and sweet, with a regal purple hue and more-ish juiciness that made me seriously question our notion of progress.To quote the Roman poet Juvenal: “Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who, once upon a time, handed out military command, high civil office, legions ? everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.”I chew on a jaw-gym crust, and wonder if things will ever change. Sales of sliced bread are up for the first time in 30 years, but this surely isn’t sustainable. The future isn’t plastic-wrapped, and it isn’t the spin of value-added. I don’t wish to rubber-neck the final surge of a product, comparable to an unwitting politician enjoying his last moat-cleaning, but I feel the overwhelming truth of good, simple bread will inevitably lick the pap. Whoever you are, once you know there’s a choice, a better bread, the pretence is spoiled and there’s no going back. The nation’s current status quo of blissful bread ignorance is transient. Yet, like a yeast, you only need a tiny amount to rise the whole lot!I believe bread of the future will look more like real bread and the best thing since sliced bread is… real bread. I’m on a crusade to share the staff of life’s joy with as many people as possible. I know that a better future is about responsibility, community, pleasure and sustenance from sustainable food. This requires skill, vision, passion, imagination, all the things largely suppressed by our modern “bread and circuses” – cheap food and soporific entertainment. Yet all the real attributes are as viscerally just under our collective crust as in any Bronze Age hut. Like a sourdough, I’ll wait patiently for the rise – and boy, will it be worth it.We’re all on a bread journey and I’d like to know where you [email protected]
Sweet Freedom is a newly launched company producing natural sweeteners made with 100% fruit.Two products are available: Natural Sweetener, which is mild and sugar-like in taste; and Natural Syrup, which is darker with a molasses-like taste. They are made from water extracted from fruit (apples, grapes and carob), and can be added to cakes, brownies and flapjacks to produce ’no added sugar’ products.The sweeteners have 25% fewer calories than sugar and bakers can use up to 50% less as they are sweeter than sugar. “We are now supplying several commercial bakeries, both small and large, with Sweet Freedom, as an ingredient alternative to sugar, honey, HFCS, glucose syrup, golden syrup, agave syrup, maple and rice syrups,” said joint founder Tina Michelucci.www.sweetfreedom.co.uk