Industry Voices

UK needs its own sweet academy to salvage country’s confectionery skills

By Andy Baxendale

- Last updated on GMT

Consultant Andy Baxendale fears UK confectionery production fall behind unless government supports national academy of sweets. Photo: AB
Consultant Andy Baxendale fears UK confectionery production fall behind unless government supports national academy of sweets. Photo: AB
Britain is in danger of losing the confectionery skills that have satisfied the nation’s sweet tooth for generations, writes sweets consultant and former Chewits development manager Andy Baxendale.

In my view the government has to set up a national academy of sweets, to protect the industry and teach a new generation the art.

Without that support I fear those skills will disappear forever.

Andy Baxendale Factfile

The Sweet Consultant​ – more than 23 years’ of experience in the confectionery industry and a Master’s of Science in Advanced Food Manufacture

andy2
Photo: AB
  • Product Development Manager at Chewits from 1994 until 2001
  • Worked with Rosetta Brands to develop sweets such as Tikka Curry Candy, Bacon Candy and Crystal Menth (listed in Harrods).
  • Former R&D manager at Leaf and then worked with Cloetta, Toms, Glisten Confectionery, Stockleys Sweets, Bonds Confectionery, Big Bear Confectionery, Sweet Dreams and Tilleys.
  • Formed Connie’s Kitchen confectionery as nanaging director
  • Based in Wigan, Greater Manchester, UK

Government help required 

I recently featured in a BBC 2 documentary called The Sweet Makers, where confectioners from across the country recreated the treats of the past and discovered the roots of our national sweet tooth.

The show highlighted the UK’s proud tradition of sweet making but it also brought home to me that the people with the skills to create the nation’s favourites are disappearing.

Without UK government help, in future more and more of our sweet treats will come from Germany, the global power in the industry.

As the bigger companies have grown and consolidated a lot of sugar boilers have disappeared. It is a skill we are losing and it is a real shame

Matching skills in Germany 

Automation hasn’t helped either and we now have a real shortage of confectioners in the UK

Germany has a national confectionary school with a training course that leads to an actual qualification. It prides itself on being the world’s most prestigious training establishment for the confectionery industry.

I’d like to see something similar set up here, the creation of a National Academy of Sweets.

How would it work?

Initial courses could be up to a week giving a basic overview of current confectionery techniques including basic ingredient legislation and would be funded directly by the participant or their employer.

More in-depth courses would cover individual confectionery manufacturing methods for a couple of weeks, again participant or employee funded.

A year-long diploma would look at the whole industry, including legislation, nutrition, labelling, manufacturing methods and ingredients.

And a three-year BSc degree would involve a really in-depth look at the whole industry.

I would anticipate running the diploma with a university degree awarding body and funding them in a similar manner to current degree courses.

Interaction with the industry/trade bodies etc. could be via sponsorship, utilizing their staff to teach/train/lecture and asking them to undertake to give graduates work experience and jobs.

Keeping skills alive

Germany is the world’s number one exporter of sweets and half the confectionery produced there is sold abroad, whilst the UK sits 11th​ in the global export table just ahead of Colombia.

Britain’s love affair with its traditional treats such as humbugs, pear drops, aniseed balls and sherbet lemons is as strong as ever.

And as a result we have seen the revival of old-fashioned sweet shops with their rows of jars and purchases weighed out and handed over the counter to eager customers in paper bags.

People love the fact they can pick what they like, the smell when you walk into these shops is also fantastic and reminds them of their childhood. It’s a fantastic experience.

My work as a consultant for the sweet industry takes me across the country but I still find time to make and create my own sweets, including Lancashire Mint Cake to rival the Kendal variety and bacon flavoured fudge.

We need more people with the same attitude to keep these skills alive – but they also need the help and support from a national academy to encourage them and teach them all the tricks of the trade.

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1 comment

Confectionery Skills.

Posted by Martin J. Mizen,

A few years ago, in conjuction with a Master Baker we tried to set up a course for all branches of the Catering trade including Confectionery. This was to help the situation in Cornwall, where there was nothing similar. Sadly, due to several reasons including lack of local and Government support this idea never got off the ground.However much work went into this and even got to the stage where premises had been found.
I have been in the sweet trade for over 60 years and am in the process of retiring, I would love to be able to pass on my knowledge and would be pleased to help Andy in any way that I could.

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