Day in the life of a Kentish artisan baker
PUBLISHED: 12:27 13 June 2017 | UPDATED: 12:27 13 June 2017
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Simon Cannell on supplying the athlete's village at the London 2012 Olympics, launching Baker's Bicycle and his new scone-cum-brioche
Tell us a bit about you
I was born in Lancashire, moved to the Lake District when I was in my early teens then went to university in London to train to be a teacher, which was as much about experiencing city life as anything else.
I worked in pubs and restaurants to help pay the bills, which was how I first got into food and ended up enjoying that more than university, so I left education to work in catering. I met my wife at uni, however, and had a great time so it wasn’t a complete waste!
My end game was always to run my own business, but you need to be at the right time of your life, with the right experience and backing behind you, and that varies hugely from person to person.
What kind of business is it?
Speciality Breads started in1994, with many of our staff having worked here from day one. We turned over £6.5m last year but the real turning point was in 2012, when we were selected as the only bakery to supply the athlete’s village at the London Olympics. This was a huge catalyst for growth and cemented our credibility within the foodservice market.
We sell more than 100 different varieties of breads, both sweet and savoury, which are all Red Tractor assured (meaning that we only use 100 per cent British wheat), but we’re very different from most bakeries in the UK. We don’t have lots of machinery and equipment. Our bakery is full of people, which enables us to be very flexible.
We produce high-end artisan, hand-finished breads that are freshly frozen straight from the oven. As a customer, you then simply thaw the breads and in a couple of hours you have the taste and texture of freshly baked bread with none of the associated waste. We don’t use any artificial preservatives as freezing is nature’s way of preserving.
There is a huge issue with waste in this country with the estimate currently at 44 per cent of bread in the UK being thrown away. Buying frozen massively reduces this number and can really help businesses keep a handle on their wastage without compromising quality.
We’ve also just launched a new business, The Baker’s Bicycle, which sells the same great quality artisan breads but via a number of concessions in premium farm shops and garden centre food halls. We’re hoping to revolutionise the way that people buy bread for the home. It’s basically bread how it used to be, just frozen.
How do you promote?
We use Twitter, print advertising and Facebook but most of our business comes from word of mouth or sampling. We’re always sampling our breads as people don’t believe that frozen can taste as good as fresh. We often have people tell us that we must have baked them off in the oven that day and sometimes it’s a struggle to convince them that we’re telling the truth!
What about training?
I’ve had over 20 years of experience in the food industry and I can’t think of one certification that could encapsulate all the knowledge I’ve gained over the years. I couldn’t have done this job 20 years ago, but everything leads you to a point when you know it’s the right time. We employ around 75 people, most of whom are bakers and based local to the bakery.
How do you market?
We sell into foodservice via a nationwide network of independent wholesalers, but our Baker’s Bicycle outlets are currently opening in Dobbies Ashford and Gillingham, Macknades in Faversham and Jempsons in Peasmarsh.
A typical working day?
I know it’s a bit of a cliché but every day really is different. With the Baker’s Bicycle launch, I’ve been dealing with everything from branding, website design, packaging, freezers, distribution, marketing, planning our production schedules, working out pricing and of course finding outlets in which to sell our glorious breads. It’s very challenging but immense fun.
The business in five years?
We’ve just started export so I’m hoping that international sales and the Baker’s Bicycle will form a significant proportion of our future sales. Our most exciting new launch is a product called Scioche®, a cross between a scone and a brioche. In all my years in bakery, I’ve never found a really good-quality, fully baked scone so we set about solving the problem. We take the best elements of our brioche and then combine that with fruit and a few other secret tweaks to create a brand new product. It tastes fantastic and has none of the downsides associated with frozen scones, such as the dryness. We’ve taken a lot of pre-orders so I think it’s going to be a big seller. It’s also available in the Baker’s Bicycle range.
Marks out of 10?
I won’t say 11 as it drives me mad when people supposedly give 110 per cent. I do find, however, if you love your job, you work much harder but with less bad stress as you’re having fun doing it.
There aren’t many things in life more exciting than launching a new business and hopefully watching it succeed.
Get in touch
Speciality Breads, Unit J2, Channel Road, Westwood Industrial Estate, Margate CT9 4JS
01843 209442, www.specialitybreads.co.uk