Catering giant Compass is to pay £40m to settle two lawsuits alleging it obtained United Nations foodservice contracts through rigged bids and fraud.Two competitors – Es-Ko International and Supreme Foodservice – brought US law suits over alleged wrongdoing, relating to Compass subsidiary Eurest Support Services’ contracts with the UN.ES-KO alleged Compass obtained food and water deals in nine countries, including Sudan, Lebanon and Syria, after obtaining sensitive information on rival bids, enabling it to undercut competitors. The two groups filed for £600m worth of damages.Compass has not admitted liability and CEO Richard Cousins explained that while any claims would have been resolutely defended, he believed it was in the best interests of the business and shareholders, and good management “to avoid the uncertainties and costs associated with prolonged litigation”.Said Cousins: “My focus is on the future and this settlement is a major step in putting the matter behind us. Moreover, I am determined to ensure that our reputation for the ethical treatment of clients, suppliers and competitors, over and above any issues of legal liability, is underlined.”
(Evesham, Worcestershire) has developed a seasonal Christmas recipe card, using standard Dawn Foods mixes.Maggie Dagostino, marketing director at Dawn, says: “We know that bakers want to offer consumers Christmas-themed treats, but are worried about buying festive products that will be wasted if not sold over the Christmas period.”The recipe sheet is based on standard mixes that they can use year-round, meaning that there is no need to increase the basic inventory. They are simple, straightforward recipes that produce seasonal indulgences.”
In his 11th Budget speech, Chancellor Gordon Brown talked about continued growth for the economy, increased business investment, incentives to save, and support for families. Brown confirmed his intention to modernise the corporate tax system and announced measures to help combat climate change.Corporation tax ratesThe Chancellor announced a reduction in the full rate of corporation tax for companies with profits above £1.5m from 30% to 28%, taking effect from 1 April, 2008, coupled with an increase in the small companies’ rate of tax from 19% to 20% from 1 April, 2007. The small companies’ rate is set to increase to 21% in 2008 and 22% in 2009. This move is an attempt to align the tax treatment of small companies with that of individuals running their business as a sole trade or partnership.Capital allowancesSignificant changes were announced to the capital allowances system, some of which were unexpected. These will affect most businesses, whether sole trade, partnership or company, and are as follows:l The temporary rate of 50% for first-year capital allowances for small businesses’ expenditure on plant and machinery has been extended for another 12 monthsl From 2008/09, there will be a 10% writing-down allowance for certain fixtures integral to a building. This is a decrease from the current rate of 25%l From 2008/09 the writing-down allowance for expenditure on plant and machinery will be reduced from 25% to 20%l From 2008/09 there will be an increase in the writing-down allowance for long-life assets from 6% to 10%l The introduction of an annual investment allowance on the first £50,000 spent on plant and machinery from 2008/09l With regard to industrial business allowances (IBAs) and agricultural buildings allowances (ABAs), in most cases, balancing adjustments on balancing events are no longer available from 21 March, 2007, and the writing-down allowance for the second user is now based on the ex-owner’s written-down value before sale (rather than after). The aim is for IBAs and ABAs to be phased out over a period of four years.The reduction in the general writing-down allowance to 20% and the larger reduction to 10% for the allowance available for fixtures integral to a building will be very unpopular with businesses and is likely to cause much debate within industry.EIS and VCTsChanges have been announced to the rules in respect of Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS), Corporate Venture Schemes (CVS) and Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs), and the companies attracting investment under these schemes. A new employee test is to be introduced, so that the company (or group of companies) raising money under EIS or VCT must have fewer than 50 full-time employees at the date on which the shares are issued. Changes have also been made in respect of subsidiaries. Under current rules, where a qualifying trade is carried on by a subsidiary, that company must be a direct 90% subsidiary of the parent company. Changes announced will allow the trade to be carried on by indirect subsidiaries, provided the 90% test is met.At the moment, the amount of funds that can be raised by EIS, CVS and VCT companies is not limited. The only test that has to be met is in respect of gross assets, which cannot exceed £7 million before the investment and £8 million after. Under the new rules, no more than £2 million can be raised in any scheme in the 12 months ending with the date of the investment.The employee test and investment limits will not apply in relation to investments made out of funds raised by VCTs raised before 6 April, 2007, nor to EIS or CVS shares issued before the date on which the 2007 Finance Bill receives royal assent. All the remaining measures will have effect on or after 6 April, 2007.Income tax ratesOne announcement made by the Chancellor, which will prove popular, is a reduction in the basic rate of income tax from 22% to 20% from 6 April, 2008. At the same time, the 10% starting rate will be abolished for earnings and pension income. This will, however, continue to be available for savings income and capital gains. The rates for dividends will remain unchanged.Self-assessment windowIt has been confirmed that the enquiry window for income tax self-assessment and most company tax returns will be one year following the submission of the return, rather than the filing deadline. The changes will apply to income tax self-assessment returns for 2007/08 and subsequent years and for company tax returns for accounting periods ending after 31 March, 2008.The introduction of different filing dates for paper and online self-assessment tax returns has been confirmed following lobbying by accountants and other agents on original proposals. These new deadlines will apply to tax returns that are issued on or after 5 April 2008 and will relate to the 2007/08 tax year and subsequent years. For paper returns, the new filing deadline will be 31 October. For returns filed online, the deadline will continue to be 31 January. For taxpayers filing paper returns, who want HMRC to calculate their tax liability, the filing deadline will also move from 30 September to 31 October.VAT fuel scale chargesThe fuel scale charge system has been changed and the revised charges, which apply to tax periods beginning on or after 1 May, 2007, are based solely on the CO2 emission levels of the car, mirroring the system used for benefit-in-kind purposes. The new table has 21 bands with 5g/km increments and is intended to broadly replicate the charges arising under the old system.Overall, the Budget will result in increased complexity with the tax system for owner-managed businesses. These seem to have lost out once again – this time with an increase in the small companies’ corporation tax rate, which is unlikely to be compensated for by the changes to capital allowances. n? Paula Tallon is director and head of direct tax at tax specialist company Chiltern.
F irst there was the iMac. Then came the muggers’ favourite, the iPod. Soon, if you take a long run-up and leap across the supermarket from electricals to in-store, you may find i-Bread. But far from being a bizarrely-conceived bready gadget – you can’t, or probably shouldn’t, walk down the street with it stuffed in your ears – this is actually a new concept in artisan-style functional breads.Founder of The Cotswold Food Partnership Carl Le Neveu explains: “i-Bread is about intelligent foods, it’s about ’I’ for me. You feel good buying it because it’s good for you, or because you’ve made an informed choice – for craft, for artisan, for premium. We believe, in time, it will be a recognisable brand in grocery.”The functionality comes from, for example, a crusty white loaf with the fibre and mineral content of wholemeal. Old hat to the plant bakers, maybe, but an idea still largely untouched in in-store, high street bakeries and foodservice. Cotswold is looking to bring its concept to market as a premix or as part-baked products for bake-off via wholesalers. “Consumers are now smarter about what they’re digesting. That, coupled with the huge change in UK demographics, presented an opportunity I couldn’t ignore,” says Le Neveu.One tactic will be identifying markets for the breads on a local level. “There are almost 750,000 Polish migrant workers in the UK. Part of our model is to offer speciality breads regionally, where there are strong pockets of communities.”Le Neveu spent the firm’s first few months securing ingredients supply from the continent. The company will be built around outsourcing. “In fact, we’re taking outsourcing to the extreme! But we’re not agents – there’s far more value to our business. We’re all about NPD and building brands.” n—-=== The pros and cons ===BIGGEST CHALLENGE:I went into this knowing I was prepared to invest in the business personally. I identified the opportunity within premium bread markets and I was ready to grasp it. I could take the financial risk and all of the set-up costs were funded by myself. I don’t take a salary – I want as much income as possible going back into the firm.BIGGEST SATISFACTION:Being at the sharp end of any major company has its stresses and strains – you’ve got budgets to hit and timelines to meet. I expected being self-employed, building a company up from the dust, from an idea to a business plan to implementation, not to be easy. But I’ve never felt so refreshed or satisfied. The biggest thing for me would be looking back in three to five years’ time and saying, ’We made a difference.’—-=== Going it alone ===The firm: Evesham-based Cotswold Food Partnership, launched September 2006The brief: a three-pronged business plan, starting with ’artisan’-style part-baked bread and premixes made with ’functional’ ingredients. Hand-held food-to-go bakery snacks and premium cake will followTypical customers: in-store bakeries; high street bakers; foodservice channelsStaff: five; PR and production is outsourced; a brand development agency has been employed to build the brandBackground: Founder Carl Le Neveu, a fourth-generation baker from South Wales, was educated at The National Bakery School, where he won Student Baker of the Year. He has worked for RHM, Dawn Foods, Kluman & Balter and, latterly, as commercial director with Anthony Alan FoodsFinance: £80,000 – self-financed, not using any grants or loansThird-party manufacturers: Scottish firm Fords, plus one unnamed north-east baker
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has decided not to class goji berries as a novel food, which means food manufacturers can continue to use them in products.The berries, which are used in bakery products from companies such as The Village Bakery in Melmerby and Daylesford Organic in Gloucestershire, were investigated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in reference to the EU Novel Foods Regulation (EC) 258/97.Goji berries, also known as Chinese wolfberries, are small red fruits which grow on the vine in China, Tibet and other parts of Asia. The goji berry is one of the latest so-called ’superfoods’ because it is high in beta-carotene, B vitamins, anti-oxidants and iron.Beta-carotene in the fruit is thought to help fight heart disease, defend against cancer and protect the skin from sun damage.The regulation (EC) 258/97, says that new foods must be shown to meet three criteria before they can be authorised for sale: they must not be unsafe; their labelling must not be misleading; and their nutritional quality must not be inferior to other similar foods that they could replace.A food is judged to be novel if it was not eaten in a significant quantity in Europe before May 1997, but the FSA decided that there was sufficient evidence to indicate that goji berries were being consumed in significant amounts before this time.This means that the requirements of the novel food regulations do not apply and goji berries can be sold without the need for authorisation.
The cost of petrol is expected to rocket, due to the price of crude oil reaching record levels, pushing up costs for bakery distributors. The price of oil recently broke through the $80 (£40) a barrel for the first time. These price increases are expected to be passed on to road users.”As the recent financial market turbulence remains unclear,” according to the Oil Market Report by the International Energy Agency, “falling stocks in August underscored higher prices.”Released on 12 September, the Oil Market Report highlighted that world oil supply fell by 430kb/d (thousand barrels a day) to 84.6mb/d in August, on North Sea and Mexican outages, plus lower Iraqi exports. And while concerns that a fresh wave of hurricanes could hit American oil installations, demand is rising sharply in China and India, the world’s fastest-growing energy markets. These factors are adding to the uncertainty of future petrol and energy pricing.Despite this current pricing environment, the government’s Commission for Integrated Transport’s (CfIT), said that if it put up the price of petrol in the UK, this would help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. James Hookham, MD of policy and communications at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), said in response: “The FTA has long argued that escalating fuel duty robs smaller businesses of much-needed cash to invest in efficiency measures.”The FTA argued that rising world oil prices already influenced road user behaviour and said that the logistics sector had already been focusing on carbon dioxide reduction and improvements to operational efficiency.
Independent retailers in the Republic of Ireland are set to feel the squeeze from large international players tempted by the market’s impressive growth rates, according to a new report.Published by Verdict Research, part of Datamonitor, the report said that the Irish Republic’s E24.4bn retail market has grown by 34% over the past five years.Retailers are attracted to Ireland because of strong economic growth and a favourable demographic profile, with purchasing power in Ireland among the highest in the EU, said retail analyst Daniel Lucht. As a consequence many Irish independents operating across various sectors are set to disappear.”The likes of Tesco, IKEA and Home Retail Group will aggressively grow their market share over coming years,” he said.
have recently graduated from a three-month foundation course in the skills of baking that is open to 14 to 16-year-olds. They attended Warburtons Bakers Academy at Birmingham College of Food and Tourism.College bakery tutor Ross Jones said: “It is a wonderful opportunity for young people to gain some real practical experience.”Warburtons is in its third year of sponsoring the course. Mike Ewing, manager at Warburtons’ Wednesbury Bakery, said: “This course continues to be popular. It’s great to see people enthusiastic about baking.”
“We were very pleased to be named Baker of the Year last year. It was great to communicate the win to our customers – we published a leaflet highlighting our success, which we handed to the public. Also, when we refurbished our shops, we put ’Baker of the Year’ on the bottom of all our posters. They look great and we are honoured to have won the title.”The industry is very different now from 10 years ago and we’re trying to evolve the business to encourage younger people in. We were up against two very good businesses [Warrens and Dumouchel] on the night, so I wasn’t confident of winning. It’s a real honour to have won.”
Premier Foods’ interim management statement has revealed sales of Hovis are up 11% for the four months to October. According to the company, consumer response to the relaunch of its Hovis brand has been positive, and market share in October has improved, “despite intense promotional activity by some of our competitors”.In the statement for the 17 weeks ended 25 October 2008, the company said its group trading profit was “in line with expectations”, with group sales up 9% for the four months to October and up 8% for the year to date. However, the company is undergoing an ongoing review of its capital structure, which includes continuing discussions with lending banks, in order to “accelerate the reduction of Group debt”. The discussions are expected to continue into the first quarter of 2009 and the decision has also been made not to pay the 2008 interim dividend.Chairman David Kappler said that Premier would “consider the future dividend policy as part of the long term capital structure review”, but added: “It is the Board’s intention to resume dividend payments when debt levels permit.”“Premier and the lending banks have agreed that, with the review ongoing, it would be appropriate to defer the date of the next covenant test from 31 December 2008 to 31 March 2009,” said Kappler.It has recently been reported that United Biscuits (UBUK) made a secret £250m bid for the Premier Foods brand, Mr Kipling, which is thought to have been rejected.Premier said its sales expectations for full year remain unchanged.