Working with bread can lead to many roles from making bread by hand, owning your own bakery business, to developing bakery ranges for producers. There are lots of possibilities in bread baking which can lead to many career paths. Here I have tried to build the ultimate guide to working in the baking industry, with ideas and solutions to get your dream baking job.
“Bread is a never-ending challenge of improvement, learning, concentration and visual satisfaction.”
I think the best way to answer this is why I want to work with bread. I’ve been in love with baking bread for years, there’s no better feeling than pushing yourself to divide and shape a table full of dough before it over proofs or nailing a new recipe the first time. If you’ve decided that bread is for you, let’s look at the options in bread baking:
Not sure about baking?
Read the 15 reasons Why I love being a professional baker
Getting a job as an artisan baker is the chosen path for many. Your duties will be learning the recipes and philosophy of the company you work for. You will work with dough throughout your shifts, honing in your skills and gradually becoming quicker and more accurate as time goes on. You don’t need experience in bread baking for many of the several jobs posted each month though to get ahead of other applicants some experience, even at home is going to help you get a baker job.
Some baker jobs do desire professional experience however there is a shortage of willing bakers in many areas so it’s still worth applying with some experience and some technical knowledge. It is worth becoming qualified as a bread baker, you can choose to take a course in baking before you start applying for roles.
It’s a hard, physical job to be an artisan bread baker, you’ll be working at pace, often at night listening to the radio. It’s not the job for everyone though it does give you the best hands-on experience in bread production than any other role listed.
What is bread baking like and is it the right job for me? How do I get my first job?
The majority of bread is manufactured in modern, production style bakeries. These roles are more hands-off. You’ll be overseeing the production of thousands of pieces of bread made a day. Depending on the equipment the business uses you might not even touch the dough, what you will do is check that everything is working, the dough is not getting jammed and enter the recipes into a computer to propagate ingredients and mix times for subsequent dough mixes.
Not as elegant as an artisan baker role, working in modern bread production does have a few bonuses:
In this role, you are accountable for the production of the bread to be baked on time and to the right standard. You’ll coach your team to play to their strengths whilst driving performance to ensure your team can withstand the often challenging amount of work needed every day.
Bakery manager roles are in the decline as many supermarkets in the UK have decided to merge these roles with other retail departments or reverted to reducing the amount of scratch-made products made on site. This has lead to an influx in trained bakery managers looking for fewer roles in the market.
There are regional baker manager roles available from time to time. Here you will be the go-to person for technical and operational difficulties so having extensive experience in bread making and being a good coach is vital in a regional manager role.
To become a bakery manager you’ll need experience as a baker in a similar environment and be good and managing people, ingredients ordering, health and safety plus in many cases, good customer service skills.
To get a better insight, I asked one! Here’s Mark Longhurst who worked with me at Sainsbury’s about how he became a bakery services consultant and what role he plays in the industry:
Following 30 years in the Baking industry, 12 as a highly respected and successful Bakery Manager for Sainsbury’s I then spent 18 years as an Operations and Equipment Specialist for them at the Store Support Centre. I have a huge amount of understanding in what makes Bakeries work, the operational and safety requirements and the equipment available to make great products.
I can help Equipment Suppliers and Independent Bakeries alike. I also help ingredients suppliers understand the requirements of the supermarket industry and also help by completing in store support and demonstrations/training.
There is an opportunity to support smaller Bakeries by being able to take an objective view from the outside of their business, how it works now and what opportunities there are for them to improve efficiencies and sales to generate profit:Working smarter not harder
If you are in need of a bakery consultant to help grow your business, you can contact Mark on his Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-longhurst-66441139
Imagine designing bread products that will be available in thousands of retailers across the country. You could design the next 50-50 loaf, crustless bread or the juiciest hot cross buns of the year. A product developer has a massive challenge to create bread products that sell and fit the bakery’s brand image.
You are likely to need extensive knowledge of food production techniques and a degree in food or bakery science. Some companies will promote from within or allow applications from bakers with suitable experience.
These roles can include entry positions to extremely high paying consultant positions. You will need to be talented in engaging people, listening to briefs and above all being able to learn and adapt to client and customer demands. If you are successful, be prepared to be poached by other companies that see your role as integral to their success.
Whether it’s a small bakery, selling to friends, local businesses and local markets or you are thinking about taking on a more industrial scale there are a few things to consider.
There’s plenty more too, there are a few articles that you may want to read on here, plus my book explains the stages of starting up a bakery business. Why most people get it wrong and how to plan a successful bakery or any other business.
Having a bakery will give you the ability to share your personality to others through bread. It’s sure hard work with tight margins but if it’s what you love doing then, why not start your own bakery.
You’ll need experience in writing business plans, managing people, baking bread, creating recipes, creating marketing campaigns and health and safety. Though you can always hire people to support you if you don’t have these skills yourself.
Designing, manufacturing, selling and supplying equipment to the baking industry is a very rewarding job. It’s a very challenging industry to set up in so getting a role in an already established company is the most likely route. Manufacturers listen to user needs and create products that are long-lasting and reliable.
You may start with a role on the production line without any previous experience or with a degree in design or engineering you could go straight in as someone designing or upgrading equipment. Plenty of scope for progression here!
To start a wholesale supply business you’ll need decent-sized premises that will be able to grow with you, and some contracts to get started. Consider hiring a bakery for a day to create some test products to give to potential customers before you get started. The skills are the same as the standard bakery owner but you have to be able to deliver consistent products on time from day one.
Wholesale bakeries often get stuck in the growing stage, either they get too big and lose profitability or they lose a large customer and the business takes a turn for the worst. To set up a wholesale business you need to have a long term plan that’s flexible to meet the constantly changing market. A good reason to start a wholesale business is the regular income from contracts makes it much easier to manage workload and knowing you have guaranteed income each day is better for stress levels!
All bakeries need equipment and that needs sourcing. Working in procurement you’ll build relationships with equipment manufacturers to select products used in production. You’ll need a good understanding of the process of bread baking and be able to work with food technologists to choose the best products for the job.
Some companies have their own procurement team, many outsource to a trusted firm to make the decisions for them.
You’ll be working in an office, on the phone for most of the time though you will also make visits to bakeries and suppliers from time to time to check on progress.
The AIB run courses across the world so they are worth taking a look at, as are these universities and colleges if you are planning to study baking in the UK or USA.
List of schools in the UK
There are several colleges and local bakeries that teach bread baking in the form of workshops. These include introductions to bread baking courses, along with advanced technical workshops depending on what is around and how far you are willing to travel.
If you are looking to start a bakery business, I’m going to give you some of the most detailed advice on the web. You can also get my book which expands on the information mentioned in this section. We are going to look at how to plan a bakery, how to make a budget for your bakery, how to cost your bread so that you generate enough cash, plus how to source suppliers to get your bakery off the ground.
The difference between a micro-bakery and a small bakery is a micro is produced using mainly home equipment in low quantities. A small bakery has commercial equipment and the volume of loaves is important to generating a profit. Micro bakeries are often based at home so costs are almost non-existent. Small bakeries will have utilities, rent, tax, rates, insurance… Loads more, so they have to pump the volume through to pay the bills.
Further reading: How to start a bakery business
Bread can be such a simple product to make, yet we can also make it more complicated by adding processes and ingredients to improve it. That said, making things more complicated doesn’t necessarily make them better. Bread made from the basic 4 ingredients can be better than one made with more.
Different loaves of bread call for different needs and it is an almost impossible challenge for a bread baker to know how to find the recipe that suits the bread intended, the needs of the customer and cost of production.
If you get to the point where you decide that you want to start a bakery business. See my guide on how to work out how much you should charge for your bread products.