"The closure of the two biggest bakeries in the Channel Islands has been blamed on the import of cheap bread from the UK. Cimandis has announced the closure in the autumn of CI Bakery in Jersey, which employs 44 staff, and Warry's Bakery in Guernsey employing 36 staff." (BBC News)
I remember when it was just Le Brun's Bakery before it was snapped up by the Sandipiper Group in 2007. It was first established in 1824 and for many years operated from premises at Brighton Road, St Helier. It was bought by Old Victorian Ralph Le Marquand, brother of Senator John Le Marquand in 1938, and the bakery was expanded after the Second World War. After his death in 17th July 1974 , the firm was continued by his only son, Brian Le Marquand. It become "Island Bakery" first before becoming its final incarnation of "CI Bakery". It is sad that such a slice of Jersey history (excuse the pun) will shortly disappear.
As a number of people have noted, including BBC Radio Jersey, the cost of other loaves, even imported ones, is often considerably less than those produced by CI Bakery. You can even buy a budget load in Pound Magic.
Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly that bread functions very often as a "loss leader". As Melanie Miller explains:
"One of the best examples of loss leaders are the bread and milk at your local supermarket. They are high selling items often offered at a discounted price. If your supermarket loved you as much as their marketing suggests they do they would position the bread and milk at the entrance to the store. This would make that 5 pm 'Oh crap, we have no milk or bread' dash to the supermarket much easier for you wouldn't it? Yes, it would."
"Have you noticed that bread and milk are rarely positioned in close proximately to each other? They aren't on opposite sides of the store as that would just piss you off and you would go elsewhere. They are however strategically placed to entice you to go deep into the supermarket and pick up random non-necessities along the way. The supermarket knows that if they place milk at the back of the store there is a good chance you will fill your arms with high margin goodies on the way back to the till."
It is noticeable as well that one of the common features of loss leaders featured at Iceland, where CI Bakery bread competed with the Iceland import. There was very cheap "budget" bread sold within a day of expiration; a sure sign of a loss leader.
Most of the bread that is produced cheaply and non-locally uses the Chorleywood Bread Process. This was developed in 1961 by scientists at the Chorleywood Flour Milling and Bakery Research Association laboratories; it revolutionised the way bread was made and produced. It makes use of intensive high speed mixers to combine the flour, improvers, vegetable fat, yeast and water to make the dough:
"The Chorleywood process is able to use lower protein wheats to produce bread, this development has enabled more bread to be produced in the UK where our wheats don't normally have a high protein content."
This is now used to produce 80% of the bread in the UK. But as David Sillito points out in a BBC Magazine, it has its problems:
"The Chorleywood loaf has twice the amount of yeast of a traditional loaf, it has enzymes and oxidants added and while certain chemical additives such as potassium bromate have been banned, Paul Barker and other bread campaigners believe it is behind the growth in the number of people who struggle to digest bread."
The Baker's Federation, however, takes a different line, quoting Celebrity chef, Anthony Worrall Thompson who said "Whilst it's great that there is so much choice when it comes to bread products on the market, sliced bread is the first choice for families who are looking for a versatile and healthy foodstuff. Toast it to make a quick breakfast, use it to make sandwiches, or as an ingredient in puddings. There are so many different ways to enjoy bread, so why not get creative in the kitchen."
And Nutritionist Fiona Hunter commented, "Toast is the ideal post-school snack as it's speedy and can be served with a range of toppings. What's more white bread is fortified with calcium, iron, and the B vitamins (niacin and thiamin) so children are receiving the nutrients they need for growth and development."
But is this true of the very cheap breads, where the campaign group Sustain warns about problems with obesity and high blood pressure:
"Standardised bread is not only contributing to the erosion of variety in baking, but is also often unhealthy, being high in salt and saturated fat, and stripped of many of its nutrients. One reason it may be so popular is its low price, with many supermarkets selling this bread as a loss leader i.e. at prices below its cost of production. This disregard for quality over cost is emphasised by one of the interviewees, an Italian Home baker who commented, "People are obsessed with the price of food. Here you want everything cheap."
CI Bakery is now closing this September. But other specialist bakers, such as Vienna Bakery still continue, albeit on a smaller scale that CI Bakery, supplying quality bread for Islanders. The island is not yet completely bereft of island-baked bread.
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