"We had such a great response last year with an amazing number of entries. The standard of entries was so high, that we found it very hard to narrow it down to a shortlist of six and then three finalists," says Stephen Bickmore, UK commercial manager of Vandemoortele's Lipids Division.
"We are really keen to get a similar level of entries this year, both in terms of numbers and quality. In these difficult times, it's even more important to celebrate the skill, commitment and enthusiasm of bakers."
Judges are searching for a baker that can show dedication and passion for quality finished products and the willingness to meet the challenges of the current business climate. Entrants can be from small or large companies and it is important to note that they do not have to be customers of Vandemoortele.
"Baker of the Year is not just about the business and the company. It is predominantly about the person. They must be hands-on and have an influence on the quality of the products being produced," says Bickmore.
"We are looking for someone who still uses their baking skills, as well as influencing the running of the business. It's a big ask, but one that many bakers manage with great success."
Judges will be looking at a range of criteria, such as quality control, consideration for the environment and how the entrants address health issues, but above all, they must show that they are making consistently high-quality products.
"To be Baker of the Year is a real accolade. Even reaching the finals is an immense achievement for any baker, because the standards in this country's baking industry are very high," says Bickmore.
Vandemoortele has been involved with the Baking Industry Awards since 1987 and is proud of its commitment to maintaining and developing the highest standards by recognising the skill, expertise and passion of bakers, he adds. "We would urge anyone who is proud of their achievements to take part in these awards."
=== Piero Scacco, chairman of Montana Bakery in Slough, last year's winner ===
"It was absolutely the ultimate accolade for me personally - I've been making bread in Britain since 1958 so it was lovely to be recognised in this way. The award is also an important tribute to all the staff at Montana. Our success is very much a team effort. I couldn't have won without them.
"I would highly recommend others in the baking industry to enter these awards. We will definitely be entering in a few different categories this year.
Winning at the Baking Industry Awards helps raise your profile. When we exhibit at IFE09, we will be using the Baker of the Year success to promote the company. It's also going on all our letterheads and on the website."