Economic downturn leads to surge in baking, says Lakeland

The number of people baking at home in an effort to save money during the economic downturn has risen sharply, according to Lakeland, the kitchen gadgets retailer

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The company, based in Windermere, in the Cumbrian Lake District of North England, close to the Scottish Borders, has seen sales of baking-related products, such as icing bags, piping equipment and muffin cases, etc., increase by a third over the last year.

Young people in particular have taken to home baking as they look to neutralize the effect of rising food prices in supermarkets. Home bread baking is on the rise for sure, as is reflected in the sale of Bread Makers and bread flours.

Julian Rayner, who owns and runs Lakeland with his two brothers, said that the company has been surprised at the number of people who have reverted to traditional and time-consuming home cooking techniques.

“You would have thought that things like baking go out of fashion. You assume that people are cash rich and time poor. But more and more people seem to be doing this themselves,” he said.

Strong sales of baking products helped Lakeland report a strong rise in sales over its last financial year. According to accounts just filed at Companies House, sales rose by £6 million to £148 million over the year to January. Profit before tax increased by £600,000 to £10.7 million.

Lakeland specializes in selling innovative and, at times, quirky gadgets for the home. It has 55 shops across the UK and Middle East, although almost half of its sales come via its mail order division. The stores are, in fact, only a very recent addition to the Lakeland “empire”.

On other fronts strong sellers include biodegradable oven-cleaning gel and non-stick washable oven-lining that can withstand temperatures of up to 260C.

Lakeland was founded in 1963 when Alan Rayner set up a mail order business with his wife Dorothy. They sold freezer bags and other products from their garage. Their three sons, Julian, Sam and Martin, now own and run the company.

Over the most recent year the brothers paid themselves a dividend of £1.92 million, up from £1.59 million the previous year, according to the company's accounts.

While this increase in home baking, whether break, cakes or what-have-you, in the same way as cooking also, might be due to the economic downturn it could also have, yet, another reason. Namely that people want to know where their bread comes from and what is in it.

When you buy flour no flour improver – whatever that may be – is on the ingredient list. It says all but flour on the packet. When you buy bread from the stores, however, all too often it does say “flour improver”, “flour enhancer”, and such on the list. And this is even the case with bread from real bakeries at times.

That is, amongst others, the reason that I bake my own bread, whether loaves or rolls and have no intention of going back to store bought bread.

Whether it is really that much cheaper than store bought remains to be a question that has not, as yet, been answered. It is better though, that much is for sure.

© 2011