Confession time…my baking skills pre-pandemic were zilch.
If you had said milk cake to me a year ago, I would have looked at you quizzically. Now? I am somewhat of an expert at creating the indulgent soft sponges soaked in a milky mixture.
Fancy some delightful balls of gulab jamuns bathed in sweet saffron-infused syrup? I’m your woman. Luscious Lotus velvety cheesecake shots? Hit me up!
And my newfound skills are all thanks to generous, amazing baking souls on Instagram sharing their recipes and tips.
Discovering the joy of baking with their assistance, really helped me to manage lockdown life. The whirring of a whisk, folding in flour – there is something very soothing and satisfying about home-baking.
It’s a helpful distraction from everything else and clearly it’s not just me that finds it a tonic.
Mintel, the experts in what consumers want and why they want it, believe food and drink brands can balance a person’s need to feel unique and special with the desire to be part of communities of like-minded individuals.
“The events of 2020 caused a fundamental reset in human behaviour,” according to Mintel’s 2021 Global Food and Drink Trends report.
Perfectly proved baguettes. Decadent doughnuts. Insta is awash with people sharing images of baked creations with communities globally.
Last April, 45,000 new photos of banana bread popped up on Instagram in just that one month (actually a recipe I’ve not tried yet!). At my last look #quarantinebaking had hit 328k posts on Instagram.
I am still very much an amateur with lots to learn and happy just dabbling in the kitchen exploring my new-found passion. But lots of talented souls on the platform have turned their passion into a career, with lockdown giving them the push/motivation they needed.
My assumption that the pandemic has spurred on a whole new set of bakery businesses, using platforms like Instagram to sell, was confirmed in a chat with Hilary Centeleghe, Growth and Startup Lead at GC Business Growth Hub.
Each year, The Hub’s ‘Recipe4Success’ programme supports small food and drink businesses across the Greater Manchester region.
Hilary said: “Food brings people together and one of the biggest things we’ve seen from Covid-19 is the explosion of people, stuck at home in lockdown, turning their hobby into a business.
“People have been furloughed, made redundant or have been re-evaluating their career choices and decided to turn to what they know and love.
“Turning your passion into a business requires dedication and drive. We have helped people develop their marketing and sales plans using social media as an ideal platform for growth.
“This has proven successful as more and more food and drink clients have told us that platforms like Instagram can make a big difference.
“Without a doubt social media is the best way to get your brand noticed and it has a huge part to play in your success. It is a brilliant way to build your customer base and the reviews you get are invaluable.”
Recipe4Success is a tailored series of food and drink specific workshops helping businesses who want to grow. It covers a range of issues such as pricing and insight about what major retailers expect from suppliers.
The programme also provides a platform for businesses to get in front of buyers from the likes of big supermarket chains such as Morrisons and Tesco.
Hilary said: “Greater Manchester is brilliant at making spectacular things and this should be celebrated.
“We’ve had all sorts of businesses on our workshops including bakers. The ones I really love are those creating something that has been handed down the generations – from grandma or grandpa’s recipe.
“We all love trying new foods, especially something which has some sort of heritage about it. I like really well-made sourdough. I’m prepared to go far and wide to get that.”
A woman after my own heart! Just because I have discovered I enjoy baking, does not stop me from scouring social media for the best bakers to buy from.
I have ordered plenty of delicious baked goodies from local entrepreneurs. And I’m certainly not the only one doing this. Mintel research from 28 May to 3 June 2020 found that more than a quarter of UK consumers were shopping more from local businesses since the outbreak began.
Something which Matt Townley, the owner of artisan One Mile Bakery in Hale, has certainly benefitted from.
Matt, who is also on the Recipe4Success programme, told the Hub that enquiries for his bread deliveries and requests for online baking tutorials have risen exponentially.
“Lockdown gave people the opportunity to slow down and revert back to simple pleasures, such as food,” he said.
“People have been reminded of how good fresh baked bread can be, and also had time on their hands to learn a new skill.”
Note to self: must learn how to bake bread!
If you’ve turned your passion for baking into a business and want some help or advice, the Hub is here to help. Recipe4Success is already underway, but advisors are still on hand to support you. To register your interest in a future programme or to find out how the Hub can help you, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.businessgrowthhub.com
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