People. Process. Systems.

Ryan Feely
26th May 2024

Challenges Facing Baked Goods Manufacturing in the UK Header Image
The baked goods industry in the UK is encountering numerous challenges that are affecting profitability and sustainability. These headwinds stem from a combination of economic, environmental, and market factors. Understanding these challenges and implementing effective strategies is crucial for businesses to navigate this tough landscape.


Rising Costs of Raw Materials

One of the most significant issues for baked goods manufacturers is the increasing cost of raw materials. Ingredients such as flour, sugar, and butter have seen substantial price hikes. This can be attributed to various factors, including poor harvests due to adverse weather conditions and increased global demand. Additionally, supply chain disruptions have exacerbated these price increases.

A recent report by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) highlights that the price of bread, biscuits, and beer could rise due to months of wet weather in the UK. The analysis suggests that harvests of crops, including wheat, barley, and oats, may fall by more than 17% this year compared to 2023. The wet weather has left many fields too wet to be planted with new crops, leading to a potential shortfall in UK production by four million tonnes in 2024. This shortfall could necessitate increased imports, further driving up costs.


Energy Costs

The cost of energy is another critical concern. Bakeries are energy-intensive operations, relying heavily on gas and electricity for ovens and other baking equipment. Recent spikes in energy prices have put additional financial strain on these businesses. Energy costs are often one of the largest expenses for bakeries, and fluctuations can significantly impact their bottom line.


Labour Shortages and Wage Increases

The industry is also grappling with labour shortages, a situation worsened by Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. Many skilled workers have left the UK, and there is a lack of new entrants into the profession. This shortage drives up wages, increasing operational costs. Furthermore, attracting and retaining skilled labour has become more challenging, necessitating higher wages and better working conditions.


Regulatory Changes

Changes in regulations, particularly those related to health and safety, packaging, and environmental standards, add another layer of complexity. Compliance with these regulations often requires significant investment in new equipment and processes. For example, there is a growing push towards reducing plastic packaging, which means finding and implementing more sustainable (and often more expensive) alternatives.


Consumer Trends and Competition

Consumer preferences are also shifting, with a growing demand for healthier options, gluten-free products, and items that cater to specific dietary requirements. Keeping up with these trends requires innovation and sometimes costly adjustments to production lines. Additionally, competition from large multinational corporations and artisan bakeries means that maintaining market share is increasingly challenging.


Practical Steps for Maintaining Profitability

To counteract these headwinds, baked goods manufacturers can adopt several practical strategies:

1. Invest in Energy Efficiency

Upgrading to more energy-efficient ovens and machinery can reduce energy consumption and lower costs. Additionally, exploring renewable energy sources such as solar panels can provide long-term savings.

2. Optimise Supply Chains

Building strong relationships with suppliers and diversifying sources can help mitigate the risk of supply chain disruptions. Bulk purchasing and long-term contracts can also secure more stable pricing for raw materials.

3. Innovate Product Lines

Developing new products that meet current consumer trends can open new revenue streams. This includes healthier options, organic products, and items catering to specific dietary needs.

4. Enhance Workforce Management

Investing in employee training and creating a positive work environment can help retain skilled workers. Offering competitive wages and benefits is essential in a tight labour market.

5. Leverage Technology

Implementing advanced baking technologies and automation can improve efficiency and reduce labour costs. Data analytics can also provide insights into consumer preferences and optimise production schedules.

6. Sustainable Practices

Adopting sustainable practices not only helps comply with regulations but can also appeal to eco-conscious consumers. This includes reducing waste, using recyclable packaging, and sourcing ingredients from sustainable sources.

7. Marketing and Branding

Strengthening brand identity and investing in marketing can differentiate products in a crowded market. Highlighting unique selling points, such as locally sourced ingredients or artisanal methods, can attract a loyal customer base.



The UK baked goods industry is facing numerous challenges, from rising raw material and energy costs to labour shortages and regulatory changes. However, by investing in energy efficiency, optimising supply chains, innovating product lines, enhancing workforce management, leveraging technology, adopting sustainable practices, and strengthening marketing efforts, businesses can navigate these headwinds. By implementing these strategies, baked goods manufacturers can maintain profitability and thrive in a competitive market.


If you would like support to optimise your ways of working and bolster your technology to defend profitability, then get in touch with our team today to learn more.

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