Reflecting on the highs and lows of the Campaign trail this year.
The lingering effects of the pandemic, post-Brexit realities, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and other factors have conspired to create another tough year for many people. Fuel, food/ingredient and other prices have shot up for bakery owners and their customers alike. In addition to a worsening of the perennial problem of being able to find enough people with the right aptitude and attitude to be great bakers, owners of a number of previously profitable bakeries have seen no choice but to lock up for the last time.
As you can see from our news section, the Real Bread Campaign has had the usual busy 12 months. Here are just some of the highlights…and lowlights.
Even when things might seem quiet, there’s always plenty going on behind the scenes at Campaign HQ gearing up for our next initiative, event, magazine, or steps in our ongoing project and campaigning work.
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January to March
We ran the baker’s dozenth Real Bread Week. During the 10 days, 194 people either joined us as Campaign supporters or renewed their support. 54% of survey respondents who don’t own or work in a bakery said the week inspired them to make bread. We saw more than 8500 hashtagged posts from people in more than 40 countries on Instagram alone, where we gained more than 1000 new followers.
Real Bread For All is our first specific initiative since the initial phase of the Campaign to find and share ways of making Real Bread more affordable to more people. We began by asking bakeries for examples of schemes to bridge the gap between what it costs them to produce Real Bread and what people hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis can afford.
With the most recent (and, to date, last) meeting of the Bread and Flour Technical Working Group receding into the distance, we continued conversations with Defra around improving loaf marketing and labelling legislation. and also contacted the Food Standards Agency to ask for their support.
April to June
On 1 May, teamed up with Small Food Bakery and YMCA Front Room @ Malt Cross to organise a day of UK Grain Lab fringe events in Nottingham city centre. These included a sourdough baking workshop, microbakery business Q&A; Real Bread For All discussion; non-commodity grain talk; and conversations about diversifying the Real Bread movement.
In June, we began an investigation into Aldi, Hovis, Iceland, Jacksons and Warburtons products named or marketed using the word wholemeal, despite the fact that half of the flour in each isn’t wholemeal, an apparent breach of the Bread and Flour Regulations.
We also started work to establish a network of Real Bread Campaign local champions.
July to September
We co-hosted a Real Bread For All event at e5 Bakehouse, inviting people to help us explore questions including: “how do we work to fix the problem that access to delicious, nutritious Real Bread tends to be an ‘us’ and ‘them’ situation, divided along socio-economic lines, including income, class, culture, colour and ethnicity?” and “Who will pay for the shortfall between what it costs a small bakery to make and sell Real Bread, and what people in that community on lower incomes are able to afford?”
On 16 August, we sent a letter, signed by more than 150 bakery professionals from around the UK, to the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs. It urged the government to include our Honest Crust Act proposals for comment in the imminent public consultation on the current, once-in-a-generation review of bread composition, labelling and marketing regulations. Defra chose not to.
Bread lovers around the world once again rose together for the 10th Sourdough September, with people in more than 50 countries joining the annual, international celebration of the oldest way of leavening a loaf. As part of Real Bread For All (see above), we suggested that bakers trial discounted loaf schemes in September. A third of the people who responded to our call for feedback said that they’d benefitted by learning more about sourdough and sourfaux. Of the business owners, 60% told us they’d gained social media followers; while 40% took the opportunity to run a sales promotion.
We teamed up with Matthews Cotswold Flour and The School of Artisan Food to offer six subsidised places on a five-day microbakery course run by The School, building on our Knead to Know...more handbook. These places went to people who otherwise would be unable to attend the course and/or whose starting a microbakery will help to increase the diversity of people who own bakery businesses.
Having consulted bakery owners in our network, on 21 September, we sent a letter to the Prime Minister and Business Secretary, calling for governmental support for small bakery business owners facing up to the cost-of-everything crisis.
October to December
On 7 November, we ran Not all Real Bread is White, an open-to all celebration of Black bakers and Real Bread bakery owners, designed to help inform and inspire more people to start their own businesses and join the Campaign. Hosted by Campaign ambassadors Aba Edwards Edun and Marcia Harris, the conversations explored issues including barriers to becoming a business owner, and what the Real Bread Campaign (and wider Real Bread movement) can do to help more Black people feel welcome in our networks.
On 9 November, The Open University published a study based on a survey of 202 small bakery business owners in the UK conducted by the OU, with support from the Real Bread Campaign and Craft Bakers Association. It reported that the number of small bakery businesses in the UK has increased over recent years but that they are threatened by rising costs and a skills shortage.
As part of our Real Bread for All work, we began finding and sharing examples of bakeries running community/communal oven schemes, inviting local people to use their ovens when not being used by the business.
The latest step of the support we offer to bakers was again asking business owners what support they need. We also sent our submission to the public consultation on the governmental review of the Bread and Flour Regulations, and joined more than 60 organisations signing a letter urging supermarkets to say no to GMO deregulation.
Awards season once again saw Campaign supporters stocking up their trophy cabinets, notably Campaign ambassador Peter Doughty-Cook, who was named Baker of the Year by both the Baking Industry Awards and Slow Food in the UK Awards.
Looking ahead to 2023, we extended an open invitation to friends and supporters to participate in helping to decide what steps we should take next.
Published Wednesday 21 December 2022
Real Bread Campaign: The Real Bread Campaign finds and shares ways to make bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet. Whether your interest is local food, community-focussed small enterprises, honest labelling, therapeutic baking, or simply tasty toast, everyone is invited to become a Campaign supporter.
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