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Bakers: Let’s talk energy

Sourdough Sophia Handschuh sums up the plight of many bakery owners and calls for action.

What will the government do to help save small bakeries?. Copyright: Sourdough Sophia

What will the government do to help save small bakeries?. Copyright: Sourdough Sophia

If I told you that our energy bill when we started the business a couple of years ago was about £1500 a month you’d probably have a heart attack right? Well, what if I told you that when the energy crisis began our energy bill overnight went up by 300%? Shocked yet?

That’s right, unlike domestic bills, energy prices for businesses in the UK are un-capped. The bills bakeries are facing at the moment are absolutely astronomical. The energy cost a bakery faces in comparison to its income is far higher than other sectors and, therefore, rises in energy prices hit us much harder than many other businesses.

I’m actually unsure how I’m going to afford to pay these bills. I’ve gotta pay my staff. I have to pay for my ingredients - some of which have doubled in price. 

I’m very concerned about how I can afford energy bills going forward. My contract ended recently and the company is trying to block me from moving to a better tariff with someone else as there is one outstanding bill I cannot afford to pay all at once!

I am scared to raise my prices too much because I know all of my customers are facing price rises at home! So where am I supposed to find an extra few thousand pounds a month? I feel embarrassed that I can’t figure it out and I’m scared to tell others in case I’ll get judged. 

After speaking to lots of bakers in the UK, we’re all absolutely bricking it but no-one is speaking up. We are all going through this problem together and something needs to change. Who knows if our government are going to do anything, right? I’m sceptical. I’m also hopeful that if we stick together, we can manage it!

This article is a revised version of an Instagram post by @sourdoughsophia

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What other bakers say

This is just a small sample of the comments left on Sophia’s original post. 
(Some have been edited.)

@msbakeryuk: I have not a clue what we’re gonna do.

@karma_bread: It’s a bloody scary situation. For the first time ever I fear for my business. Bakeries risk losing goodwill from customers by raising prices to meet these expenses. 

@thesourdoughbakery: We’ve had to stop production because it’s just not making sense.

@mor_bakery: Ours is moving from £12k annually to over £60k in December. Lots of thinking to be done where we can save energy. Good luck to all small businesses out there.

@Littlevalleybakery: Our bill doubled in January which was a shocker. But looking back, 28p a unit seems a bargain now. Our cafe and bar is not so lucky. Quoted £2.60 a day standing charge, and 90p a unit. Gone from £1k a month to £5k. Oh, and £1k a year in standing charges before we even open.

@thecakeshop_inv: Staring my first winter with the shop straight in the face and I am TERRIFIED. 

@chatsworthbakehouse: We don’t want to scrimp on produce or quality because that’s the core of our business - and we don’t want to increase prices as it’s hitting our customers hard too. So who the hell is gonna absorb the costs @elizabeth.truss.mp?? Small biz is the beating heart of the UK and you’ll see more and more businesses close because of this. Do something fast before there’s a riot on your hands. 

@raised_in_rampton: I have just closed my microbakery for that very reason.

@minimissbread: I’m just waiting nervously for the next bill to come through. The cost of ingredients seems to be going up by the day but like you I’m so tentative to raise prices. I just don’t know what to do.

@mabakerbakes: For me, this is worse than Covid. Already businesses are closing. All run by incredibly hard working, talented people. I feel people have lost the Will to fight having been ground down for so long by this appalling Tory government. It’s exhausting. Why are business rates uncapped? It makes no sense. Why are they SO high?

@eszterszalayfaulkner: It’s so difficult to manage this situation - I’m only a microbaker so I don’t have the huge overheads and staff costs. However only yesterday I made the decision to cut down on my bake days and go back to helping out in my husband’s business.

@batardmcr: Not to mention the super increase in base ingredient costs because of Brexit etc. Flour, sugar, dairy, it’s all increased so much and yet we can’t increase our prices to match because people don’t have the funds! 

@Hobzbakery: How the hell are small businesses expected to pay that much in bills when we can’t put prices up, ‘cause that’s just not fair when everyone’s in the same situation and want to pay above the real living wage! We’re all fucked.

@thenakedsourdough: We're a small artisan bakery with two outlets, one in Jedburgh and one in Kelso Scottish Borders. Both places are small but our electricity bills have increased beyond anyone's comprehension. I, as a business owner, can no longer prioritise what to pay first - my electricity bill to allow me to continue baking, my staff which will allow me to keep both places running or my ingredients without which, of course, there would be no sourdough bakes etc!

@Bigbearbakery: We’re in the same situation as everyone else. Bills are rocketing yet we can pass this on as we are already at the upper levels of what I believe customers are willing to pay.

@flout.pizza: I'm pretty much a one person band and the shop is open for 9hrs of service a week because I'm doing it all. I absolutely love it, but scaling to build a reserve of cash for this nightmare scenario is so, so difficult. 

@fika_chester: You have articulated our daily worries. We are continually looking at what we can do to ease the cost; do we only bake certain days? how can we utilise the residual heat from the oven with it off. The brain ache is real.

@berrystearoombrampton: Although I’m a lot smaller business than you I’m terrified after 6 years of trading this may well be the end for us. 

@purekneadbakery: I feel as though we've jumped through so many hoops over the last few years, and I'm tired, mentally exhausted and don't know how our future is going to pan out. We've just renewed and I can't believe I keep thinking how lucky we are because it ‘only’ doubled. Mad, right??

@Thetempleharris: We have the same problems as you - energy prices soaring, flour and ingredients going up and up. However we bake in the Outer Hebrides so we have also had a massive hike in delivery charges. It’s also cold here so not heating isn’t an option for 9/10ths of the year. Add to that massive ferry disruption and reduced visitor numbers and it looks very grim. 

@Cornercottagebakery: I was told by my energy company yesterday and they said, because I’m a business I can search are a better deal and leave “without any penalties”. Better deal??? Where will I find that then?

@earlybirdbakes: No idea where that kind of increase can possible come from. We need action fast or hundreds of small businesses will just disappear. Clinging on to the hope that someone somewhere recognises that.

@_leavened_ I am currently holding off moving into an independent unit for the very same reason. Our production is small and limited now but our energy bills is included in the rent. I can’t imagine how much work we will have to do to make enough to cover the bills.

@Elsiemayselectriclounge: We opened our café/bar back in 2018 and then the bakery in January this year and I have no idea how I’m going to get through the next few months yet. The challenges the industry is currently facing are immense - surely it shouldn’t be this hard to do something that you’re truly passionate about and make bread right?

@Thethreebeesbakery: Am dreading October. I put my prices up on Jan to cover the increase in flour, which went up again in June. Don’t feel that I can put them up again. Depending on the costs, I may have to cut down the days I’m open - and I’m only open 1 day a week.

@Acerqueiro: I am starting a home based microbakery and am so scared right now. I  feel I picked the worst time to make a career change!

@Thepastrybench: So worrying especially as a new small business. Although business has been great, it feels like you’re up against a inevitable tidal wave … with no life boat. Just trying to be as efficient as possible with our usage of not only energy, but ingredients, time, packaging. 

@thecollective.caversham: It’s a nightmare. Ours is up 300% already too - out of contract now so they want me to sign a fixed contract that’s 700% from £5k to £35k!!!!!! I can’t sign that it’s financial suicide. Have no option at the moment but pray the government steps in. What a bloody mess. The alternative – well, there isn’t one on top of all the other price increases in, well EVERYTHING.

@tuckers_bakery: We posted just the other day admitting to a partial defeat. Our solution is to have a day off bread but that’s NOT the solution. It doesn’t save much money, if at all ANY. Very hard times at the moment 

 

Similar comments have been posted by bakery owners in countries including Mexico, Belgium, Italy, USA, Australia and the Netherlands.

Published 7 Sep 2022

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