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Tackling skill shortages on the agenda at second Welsh Baking Conference

Welsh Baking Conference

Over 130 members of the Welsh baking industry have come together to discuss key issues facing the sector at the second annual Welsh Baking Conference.

The event, which took place in Cardiff on Wednesday 13 March 2024, was organised by ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University, and focused on the theme of the ‘Past, Present and Future’. Bakeries of all sizes, industry bodies, students, and equipment and ingredient suppliers met to share their perspectives on the issues facing the sector in Wales.

The conference was opened by Patrick Wilson, President of the Craft Bakers Association, and other speakers included Dr Hulya Dogan, Department Head of Grain Science at Kansas State University, and Martin Sutherland, Commercial and Marketing Director at ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre.

A recurring issue discussed throughout the day was tackling the skills shortages facing the sector. John Lamper, Bakery Specialist for Tesco, talked about the digital training platforms utilised by the company to remotely upskill members of staff who work in their in-store bakeries. John also discussed how Tesco are driving the growth of in-store bakeries across their retail estate by adopting new technical solutions such as baking on the shop floor.

Dr Sara Autton

Dr Sara Autton, Technical Baking Consultant, and Terry Fennell, Chief Executive FDQ Ltd talked about how bakery skills shortages in Wales can be eased through the growth of apprenticeships. A recent increase in Welsh Government funding and a revamped baking apprenticeship framework in Wales have been launched to expand their uptake.

Robb MacKie, former President and CEO of the American Bakers Association (ABA) looked at macroeconomic challenges facing the baking industry, including inflationary pressures resulting from a continued increase in labour costs, the repercussions of 2024 being the biggest election year in global history, and the potential impact on demand for baked goods resulting from the launch of weight loss drugs like Wegovy.

Robb discussed strategies which bakeries could adopt to secure growth including developing partnerships throughout the supply chain from farm to customer, empowering and upskilling existing employees, and the necessity of engaging with government agencies and industry organisations to ensure businesses have a seat at the table.

Finally, John Foster, Managing Director of Fosters Bakery shared his experiences of appearing on the BBC’s Victorian Bakers and how the baking industry rapidly evolved during this time period. John stressed how it’s still just as important now for bakeries to continuously evolve or risk being left behind by the competition.

Professor David Lloyd, Director at ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre, said:

“With speeches focusing on future trends impacting the baking industry, tackling current skill shortages in the sector, and how learnings from the past can be applied to bakeries today, the second Welsh Baking Conference very much lived up to its Past, Present and Future theme.”

Lee Pugh, Head of Baking at ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre, said:

“The Welsh Baking conference is only in its second year but it’s great to see the support for this event which is being shown by businesses of all sizes from across the sector. We believe this conference provides an important opportunity for Welsh bakers to come together and discuss the collective challenges facing the sector and how they can be solved.”