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Nigel BENNETT, NABIM: “One of the most technically advanced industries in the world”

13 September 20165 min reading

“The UK flour milling industry is one of the most technically advanced in the world. A continuous process of restructuring over many decades has produced a lean and efficient industry capable of meeting the challenges it faces. Milling companies in the UK are vigilant in making the investment in technological advances that is needed to meet their customer’s requirements efficiently and effectively.”

nabimThis month, Miller Magazine interviewed Nigel Bennett, Company Secretary and Employment Affairs Manager of NABIM, National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers. Representing UK flour milling industry for more than a hundred years, NABIM has now 30 companies ranging from subsidiaries of multi-nationals to small enterprises. Stating that the UK milling industry is one of the most technologically advanced in the world, highly automated and capital intensive, Nigel Bennett also added that milling companies are vigilant in making the investment in technological advances.

We talked about UK milling industry, approach of the milling companies towards the new technologies, ongoing projects and future plans of NABIM. We take the details from Nigel Bennett.

Mr. Bennett, firstly could you please give us some information about NABIM? How many members do you have and what are your activities as an association in the industry? What can you say about the members that you represent? NABIM was founded in 1878, its first task being to organize an exhibition of the new rollermilling equipment in use in Hungary and elsewhere in Europe. For many years we have had virtually the whole of the UK flour milling industry in membership; this currently numbers 30 companies, ranging from subsidiaries of multi-nationals to small enterprises. Could you please give us some information about UK milling industry? What can you say about the number of the mills, milling capacities, technology usage level, and manufactured product groups? There are 48 commercial flour mills in the UK. Each year, the industry mills around 5½ million tonnes of wheat. We produce white, whole meal and brown bread making flours, as well as flour for biscuits, cakes, food ingredients, home baking, starch manufacture and more besides. White breadmaking flour accounts for around 50% of production. The UK milling industry is one of the most technologically advanced in the world, highly automated and capital intensive, staffed by a total workforce of around 2,500. How is the approach of the milling companies towards the new technologies? Is there any increase in the recent milling and technology investments? Milling companies are vigilant in making the investment in technological advances that is needed to meet their customer’s requirements efficiently and effectively. Do all of the millers in UK & Ireland realize their productioncompletely for domestic consumption? If there are, which countries are the export targets and, if you have the information, what is the amount of these exports? The bulk of UK flour production is for domestic use. However, around 5% is exported, mostly to other European countries.

What is the level of raw material in your country? How much of the raw material processed in the mills is produced in your country, and how much of it is imported? Which countries do you prefer for import? Depending on harvest quality, more than 80% of the wheat we mill is grown in the UK. Wheat is imported from Europe (principally Germany, France and, in some years, the Ukraine), Canada and the USA. Could you please give us some information about flour consumption amount and consumption culture of UK & Ireland? What are the preferences of your consumers in bakery product consumption? In the UK each day, the milling industry’s customers produce 6½ million loaves of bread, 5 million biscuits, 4½ million cakes and buns, and 2 million pizzas.

What do you think about your position when you compare your country to other countries in the world in terms of milling and grain processing? What do you aim in order to strengthen the position of your industry throughout the world in the future? The UK flour milling industry is one of the most technically advanced in the world. A continuous process of restructuring over many decades has produced a lean and efficient industry capable of meeting the challenges it faces.

As an association, do you have any ongoing projects for your industry or what are your future plans? 1. One of the main challenges is to prepare for the UK’s exit from the European Union. 2. We continue to develop new training resources, aimed at maintaining and improving skills levels within the milling industry. 3. We are working with others in the cereals supply chain to maximize its cost-effectiveness, introducing new technology to improve efficiency as well as to assist traceability and due diligence. 4. We are continually monitoring potential threats to food safety (eg mycotoxins) in order to minimize the risk whilst producing flour to specification. Our active membership of the European Flour Millers Association aids this work in terms both of data collection and analysis and of lobbying against ill-conceived legislation. 5. nabim engages in promotional activities on several fronts, including a consumer PR campaign to promote bread; and www.grainchain.com, which delivers educational resources for use in schools. The various actitivites target different audiences: for example, younger women, teachers and home-bakers. However, all activities project a consistent message about the nutritional value of flour, bread and bakery products.

Finally, what would you like to add about your association and flour milling industry in UK & Ireland? We are proud of our role in running a distance learning programme, studied by hundreds of students around the world each year, helping to raise milling knowledge and understanding both in the UK and globally. This seven module programme, developed and delivered by millers for millers, has been running successfully for many years but is kept right up-to-date; the study material is reviewed annually and at least one new textbook edition is produced each year, all through the expertise of, and time given by, a team of UK millers. Readers can go to www.nabim.org.uk/training/distance-learning-programme for details of our courses.

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