Media at the mill
Published:  01 December, 2006

There is no doubt that one of the reasons the British became so effective at dismissing the Atkins diet is the hard-hitting media information campaign put out by the Flour Advisory Bureau (FAB).

They had little need to tackle the nutritionists, but they did need to target the national media, including the consumer health writers and food writers. They needed to keep them informed about the goodness of bread.

And it did not all end with Atkins. One fad can soon be replaced by another, or a food such as bread can be quickly demonised.

That is why it is so important to have a factual response at the ready, but also to keep consumer magazine editors continuously informed about the goodness of bread.

So the FAB invited a host of consumer editors to Wright's Flour Mill at Ponders End, Middlesex, and I joined in to see what the consumer journalists would be learning about the natural goodness of breads and flour.

The audience included BBC Good Food Magazine, BBC Easy Cook, and others who write for the national press.

We began with morning coffee over a fabulous display of bread made by Chris Wylie of Wright's. There were white breads, mixed grain breads, soda breads, organic breads.

It was a display of bread in all its glory - and the journalists cooed.

Next we were broken up into three groups for a tour round Wright's flour mill, with MD David Wright leading the posse.

As I look around, it is so evidently a family business. A glance at the walls shows a family history with portraits of forbears.

But a reminder of how modern the mill is comes when you see the pictures of David's sons - the new generation - and, synonymous with their era, the computerised controls for the mill, the modern testing laboratory and the very up-to-date range of flours.

Indeed, it is lovely to see the distinct fusion of family history combined with modern entrepreneurship and forward-looking products.

Wright's makes flour for bakers, biscuit makers and cake creators. It also makes small bags of flour for consumers, which can found on the shelves of the biggest supermarkets throughout the land.

Our mill tour takes us from farm delivery of wheat on massive trucks through to milling, sifting and end flour production.

The consumer journalists ask lots of questions, but just in case they forget the answers, Claire Donnelly and Eva Neary of the FAB have ready a 'Think Facts' sheet, with questions and answers about wheat, flour and the thorny issue of genetic modification, emphasising that GM wheat is not commercially available in the UK.

After a delicious lunch, featuring mixed grain breads, tomato breads, parmesan breads plus white and wholemeal breads, all with nutritious fillings, we set off to a marquee, where celebrity baker of cable TV fame, Paul Hollywood, demonstrates the art of breadmaking.

Paul is a baker and son of a baker. Highly skilled at both presenting and baking, he puts the 12 journalists in front of 12 bowls and soon has us making bread. We have a choice to make white or a seeded wholemeal.

Some of the journalists have never kneaded or knocked back a loaf in their life, but they have great fun and gain a new appreciation of the goodness of bread.

While we wait for our loaves to bake in Wright's deck ovens Claire and Eva from the FAB are available to talk though faddy diets, myths about bread or we can learn more from the fact sheets about flour milling, the use of salt in breadmaking and what the Glycaemic Index really is.

But the crowning moment, as any baker will know, is when the hot loaves come out of the oven, with the aroma and crust to be admired by all. 'Ahhh', it's like the old Bisto ad, just follow that scent!

As an education process for consumer journalists, the day went really well. Miller David Wright and his friendly staff were always on hand for questions as they arose.

Chatting to my consumer colleagues they said they had learned a great deal, while having really good fun. But the pride they took in their loaves told its own story.

Most importantly, it also engendered a new respect for bread. And I have to say, modestly of course, that I was er... rather pleased with my own effort of a wholemeal seeded loaf, which they all nicknamed 'Duchy', after a much more famous brand.

Anyone need an amateur baker?




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