Inter Link said it was set for solid growth in 2007, after admitting it had “bitten off more than it could chew” in 2006.Speaking as it released its interim results for the six months ended November 4, chief executive Chris Thompson told British Baker that the company had made “important strategic moves” in overhauling its infrastructure in 2006.These included moving to central distribution, doubling capacity at the Soreen plant and preparing for the closure of its Hoppers Bakery site in Herne Bay, scheduled for February.However, Inter Link was now in a solid position and set for organic growth and a possible acquisition later in the year, he said. Its plans for 2007 include relaunching the Mrs Peaks Christmas pudding brand in time for Christmas and expanding the Polish factory from 70,000sq ft to 85,000sq ft.An acquisition could be on the cards after Inter Link’s share price had recovered from a “rocky ride” in 2006, he said.Thompson also suggested that there may be further opportunities for consolidation in the UK during the year, although the company had no immediate plans for closures.Inter Link said sales were down 6.8% to £62.6m in the six months to November 4, and pre-tax profit was down 47.8% to £1.93m.
The Cotswold Food Partnership (CFP) has launched a ’concept to shelf’ product development service. iBrand will develop the recipe, source ingredients and manufacturing, develop branding, packaging and marketing, and assist with sales, said the firm.CFP founder Carl Le Neveu said: “We’re here to help companies with limited NPD expertise, or larger manufacturers whose NPD team is overstretched because of extra demand.”The company said it was already in discussion with several potential clients regarding a savoury pastry line and a range of luxury cakes.
Sandwich chain Pret A Manger has confirmed it is being courted by a number of private equity firms since revealing plans to float the company to fuel expansion in the USA.Simon Hargraves, commercial director, said: “The shareholders have not ruled anything out at the moment. People are putting other deals on the table, but they are still working towards an IPO (initial public offering) later this year.”On the prowl are thought to be Lion Capital, Bridgepoint and PPM, all of which have a track record in buying and selling food firms. Lion was involved in the bidding war for Cadbury’s Soft Drinks and Brakes, while Bridgepoint, a joint owner with PPM of Lyons Seafoods, also owns a stake in ethnic brands producer WT Foods.Pret, which was expected to be valued at more than £300 million, has 150 stores, including 12 in New York.Hargraves said: “We struggled in New York, but over the last three years we have tailored the offering to the US market while still keeping the integrity of the Pret brand. We are now in double-digit growth and the potential has expanded dramatically – hence the need to finance quite a rapid expansion plan. We are looking for 40 stores in Manhattan, then perhaps moving towards Boston and Washington.”
T he great thing about using malts in breads and cakes is that they can replace quite a bit of the salt and sugar.” That statement, from Andy Janes, general manager – marketing, Muntons Malted Ingredients, should have the Food Standards Agency beating a path to its door to find out more.It should at least make the FSA’s ears prick up, because it fits neatly in with the road of no return, down which all in the baking indus- try are being guided – towards perceived ’healthier’ products.A supermarket buyer was recently overheard saying: “Soon, we want all additives out, all E numbers out!” That’s very commendable, particularly if you read recent press reports on how they affect children’s moods and concentration, but in most cases these need replacing with something else. And even before consumers get around to reading the label, they need to find the product appealing enough to pick up in the first place.Consider the humble chocolate muffin. It needs to be dark, delicious and draw you to purchase. There is no doubt that most consumers would choose a velvety dark brown muffin over a mid-brown version. Just compare the two pictured below. But the one with most eye-appeal – surely the one on the right – is not full of extra chocolate, artificial colouring or flavourings. It contains simple, clean-label malt.Muntons, based at Stowmarket in Suffolk and Bridlington in Yorkshire, has been making malt for over 80 years and exports all over the world. In this quite clever muffin test, carried out by the company, Muntons introduced its latest product, Torrax, which, as the firm’s technical expert Jonathan Pritchard explains, is an ultra-dark malt, providing just the right colour, hue, texture and flavour – not only to muffins but also mincemeat and breads.Pritchard says: “Malt is a hugely versatile product. We are very proactive, looking for solutions to customers’ needs and then working closely with them. Torrax has arisen out of the desire for darker breads and muffins, which have a ’healthier’ look and the need for totally clean-label goods.””In many cases, malt can be used to replace some of the salt and sugar,” he stresses. “We have a great deal of knowledge about malts and make sure our customers obtain the best results from that knowledge, which can also improve the colour of breadcrumb, the texture of crust and the sweetness of the products. Muntons can work with them to achieve the desired results.”Torrax malt is made from 100% pure roasted, malted (sprouted) barley. It is naturally resistant to high temperatures, as well as freeze-thaw instability and extremes of pH. It is available in liquid and powder form and in convenient package sizes to suit large craft bakeries, as well as wholesale, plant and in-store bake-ries, explains Janes. “We believe it makes good products great and that can be reflected in the price to consumers, as well as on the label.”In the past 10 years, Muntons has spent £35 million on expanding its production plant. Janes says the company buys barley and wheat seeds that are grown under controlled conditions of heat and light. This releases natural enzymes that convert starch to sugar and these naturally produced sugars make for a naturally sweeter product.Wheat malt can be cut – or ’kibbled’ – so you get the goodness of whole grain, which can be added to the loaf to give texture. The grains can also be steamed and squashed between rollers. This makes wholegrain flakes, which are tasty, easy to digest and add texture and sweetness. Says Janes: “We also make flour by grinding the malted grain. The inclusion of malt flour at a rate of 5% is a total flavour-enhancer.”The flakes and kibbled products were developed for in-store and wholesale bakers to be used as a finishing product on the crust – for example, nutty malt which is said to add a soft sweet nutty finish.With Torrax, the new ultra-dark product is formed by taking roasted malt extracts, then putting them through an ultra-filter and extracting the concentrate for use in breads, cakes muffins and mincemeat. A substance that claims to add or reduce sweetness, add colour, add flavour, add texture and even reduce the need for salt almost sounds too good to be true. “Yes, Muntons malt extracts do all that,” says Janes, “and they are also wholesome and completely clean-label.”Well, if you had showered with water, then soaked in a bath, before being steam-cleaned and then dried off, you’d be squeaky clean too. n—-=== Malted flour ===process? Soak grains in water? Germinate? Spray with water and heat? Put in a kiln (oven)? Heat to dry—-=== Extracts process ===? Make mash by crushing grains of wheat or malted barley.? Cover with warm water, while starch converts to sugar. The sugars range from glucose to complex sugars that are broken down in the body not the mouth. The end result is called a wort (used by brewers as the basis for beer).? The wort is boiled in a vacuum to give a sweet brown syrup with a beautiful flavour. Muntons then sells it as a syrup or powder.? As a syrup, it is added to the dough as a natural flavour enhancer and it also helps bakers reduce the amount of salt needed.? As a dry powder, it can be added to lots of different baked products and is therefore suited to the smaller (not plant) user. n
Walkers brand ambassador Gary Lineker returns to TV screens this month as part of the crisp brand’s latest promotion. The ad will see members of the public going to extraordinary lengths to suggest new Walkers flavours to the former England footballer.It supports Walkers latest stunt – asking consumers to submit their new flavour ideas for Walkers Crisps. A panel of judges, led by Heston Blumenthal, will pick six finalists from all the entries received, which will then go on sale and the public will get to vote for their favourite. The winner will receive £50,000 plus 1% of future sales. Five runners-up will win £10,000 each. Radio advertising, online activity, consumer media PR and POS will support the promotion until the overall winner is chosen in May 2009.
Ireland’s food safety body has advised against the mandatory fortification of bread with folic acid.The implementation group on folic acid fortification said there would be no benefit to public health, because food manufacturers were now adding it to dairy spreads, fruit juices, milk, yoghurts, soups and cereal bars.England’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) now has the results of two studies looking at the effect of folic acid on cancer and heart disease, and is likely to make its recommendation following a committee meeting in June. It had previously agreed flour should be fortified, before being encouraged by the chief medical officer to consider more studies.
Spooner Industries has announced it is to extend its products and services for the UK baking industry. The company, which specialises in forced convection technology, will now offer a range of air conditioning and ventilation systems to complement its existing work in the design and manufacture of ovens, provers and coolers. Services specific to the industry, include: bread cooling plant, developed especially for optimum efficiency in controlling product cooling and weight loss; steam, gas or electric heated bread-proving equipment; and air blast systems, developed to control dough piece quality for use with either steam, gas or electric. Spooner has also introduced a technical services division to offer full service and support for new and existing customers.www.spooner.co.uk
Barton Fabrications is promoting the use of its high-specification sugar and flour silos to bakeries in the UK.The silos can feature a penthouse design, where the top of the silo has a built-on enclosure an element that used to be much more popular before ATEX legislation came into force.”The use of explosion vents, required for ATEX compliance, meant that silo design and construction became more complex,” explained MD Mark Barton, speaking about the penthouse feature. “Because of our company’s robust silo design and construction, we have been able to produce an ATEX-compliant solution, which provides a duct for the explosion vent within the penthouse. This means that inspection or maintenance of the explosion vent or filter unit can be carried out within the safety of the penthouse.”Barton Fabrications said it believes it is the only manufacturer in Europe currently able to produce silos that incorporate a penthouse design and are ATEX-compliant.Barton added that the penthouses can be produced at little extra cost.www.bartonfabs.co.uk
Almonds: Prices on almonds have continued to firm since the last report and this despite the Californian new crop being as big as it is. Although there remain some doubts as to whether the 1.65bn lb objective estimate could be correct, the response to this number, of weaker prices in July, was extremely short-lived and, from then on to date, prices have continued to rise.Walnuts: In the short term, until we either see China back off from buying, or good quantities of unsold stocks coming out of Eastern Europe and California, then prices are likely to increase and remain so until at least early 2011.Cashews: Firmer prices have continued. Unsold stocks in India and Vietnam are running down quickly, and attention has been focused on Indonesia for its uncommitted ’in-shell’ stocks, and Brazil for any surplus that might find its way into Europe.Pecans: With China once again actively buying into the early US new crop availability, prices have risen even higher, despite the fact that the new crop appears better than predicted.Pistachios: Prices to date remain at the exponentially high levels reached at the height of this past season and look likely to remain there until there is a sizeable replacement volume to come in from the key origins.l Based on information provided by RM Curtis
Commercial catering equipment manufacturer Lincat, has improved the performance of its FilterFlow automatic water boilers, by extending the life of its in-built filter cartridges by 33%.This means the new cartridges will only need to be changed every 4,000 litres, instead of every 3,000, or every six months, whichever is reached first. The new filters will also be offered at the same price as the old, therefore reducing operating costs for the user.Nick McDonald, marketing director at Lincat, said: “As more outlets realise that a good hot drinks offer will drive food sales, we’re pleased to have been able to find a way to improve FilterFlow’s performance at no additional cost to our customers.”The firm said the built-in filter cartridge improves water flavour, and also prevents limescale build-up, which can damage performance over time.