The Silent Challenge

While 2012 is likely to see various trends develop throughout all aspects of baking, one major trend will have the greatest impact.

It is occuring subtly and silently, but has the potential to create both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity we’ve seen since the introduction of the rapid-dough system. Customers’ growing interest in high-quality food has the ability to make or break the baking industry.

The ‘80s and ‘90s saw us revel in the fast-food revolution. Fast, quick and sugar-laden were the basis for most developments in the food sector and bakery was no exception. Nutrition was rarely thought about as the need for speed took over. It seem as though everything and anything was being developed into a premix. Just add water and away you go!

It seemed like a good idea at the time. And, as they say, there’s nothing quite like hindsight. Looking back, those changes have hit hard now. The de-skilling, through reduced training, and the resulting lack of food knowledge is biting hard, and it makes our challenge of the next few years greater as a result.

Success comes when opportunity and preparedness meet. We have incredible opportunity happening right now, but are we prepared?

Our apprenticeship system is now valueless. Too many examples now exist of Certificate 3 holders with no skills or knowledge. Now, there is no point getting into pointing the finger at who, where or why, many circumstances have us at this point. What’s important is what we do and how we do it from here.

The greatest change coming through is that the buying public is being educated like never before. Each day they are bombarded with myriad food educational choices through magazines, TV and radio. In addition to this, many are traveling and experiencing different food cultures and then looking to relive that experience back here.

This increased food knowledge and experience will see many things changing in food production to meet the demand. Bakery sector customers will become very aware of ingredient origin, flavour, texture, and nutrition. They will expect authenticity in international product design and production.

We have many examples of other products and sectors that have been through a metamorphous, coffee, beer and water are three standouts in this country. So if you think it won’t happen in bakery, or at least in some bakery products, think again.

Here are just some of the possible changes:

• A move away from many premix products; those that survive will need to provide uniqueness and flavour from natural sources.

• A greater return to scratch-method baking to identify a flavour and style that sets one business apart from another.

• An understanding and appreciation of artisanal production methods and nutritional value, allowing for further growth in sales in preferment style production products.

These changes won’t just be for 2012, they will continue into new generations. Children in this country are part of this food education revolution; they are the next generation of food buyers and what is currently a trend will become more of a lifestyle. Children will also be future bakery apprentices and this increased food knowledge will lead to greater expectations in training. For bakeries to compete, our current issues will need to be addressed.

Those that are unable or unprepared to move away from the generic products that currently make life easier may find themselves competing in a completely price-driven market.

It is the uniqueness of a product or business that allows for an acceptable difference in price. Having the best baked Danish won’t help you if it tastes the same as everyone else’s.

In many instances, though, we aren’t using these current premix or frozen products just because they make our life easier. They’re only easier when we don’t know how to do it any other way.

This is something I’ve said before in previous articles, and I’ll say it again. You need to get skilled up, and more than ever before, find opportunities to learn new things, whether you’re an employer or employee. Look for ways to make yourself and your products unique.

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