Birmingham bakery Loaf tells of cost of living crisis as energy bills double

Stirchley’s Loaf bakery and cooking school is facing double the energy bills since the cost-of-living crisis began. They are preparing for the worst.

Energy bills at the Loaf bakery in Stirchley have more than doubled amid the cost-of-living crisis, they said.

Despite the issues it faces the outlet - which operates as a co-op and a cookery school, as well as selling delicous baked goods - is providing local children with free packed meals throughout the summer holidays.

Loaf is a worker co-op and cookery school that opened its doors in 2009 and recently had to put their prices up “slightly” to compensate for their added costs.

All of their nine workers are also directors and one of them, Pete, spoke to BirminghamWorld. He told how the price of a large rye has gone up from £3.50 to £3.75, which has seen a sourdough focaccia now costing £2.50 instead of £2.00 among other goods that are now costing more (see below for the full price list).

Loaf, co-op bakery & cookery school in Stirchley

The increase in the electricity bill is also significant for them since it runs their ovens and all their food storage. “That has put a big dent but we are managing thanks to our very good customers but it’s making business harder,” said Pete.

“We are not aware of, or expecting, any aid from the government. I think whatever aid will be there it will go to individuals rather than businesses. It will be nice to get some support but we are not expecting any,” he added.

Despite the Birmingham bakery also offers free packed lunches for kids to cover the shortfall of free lunches when schools are closed during dates when the bakery is open with the latest batches being available from 31 August to September 2.

This has been made possible by cash donations from the community. Excess funds and food is being donated to the B30 Food Bank (see below to book a free lunch for your child).

The bakery is planning for the worst-case scenario at the moment since the situation is getting worse and worse, he said.

A woman holds on to loaves of bread

Could doing more business online help Loaf?

“Everything’s so uncertain. We always budget and plan for the worst-case scenario. We are just making sure we’re ready and have the reserves and the stability to survive those things.

“There’s things we can control and there’s things we can’t control. More than doubling of our electricty bill is something we cannot control so we have to adapt to it and be ready for it. It’s very frustrating because we try and do what we can and control as much as of our business as we can,” he said.

Pete explained that the team at Loaf are always looking for new opportunities to generate income but are not looking at online deliveries since they went through that during the pandemic. “We now know what works for us, we are not necessarily changing what we are doing but we will look for new income sources for certain. We are always doing that anyway,” he added.

Loaf cookery school in Stirchley

What other increased prices are affecting the business?

The co-op sources their grains locally from Cotswolds but said their suppliers are affected by the global market and prices have gone up when asked if the Ukraine conflict affected flour prices.

“Flour is not the most expensive thing for us so we have been able to absorb the price increase but shortage would be a major issues but we are not expecting any major shortages.

“Biggest cost for us is labour and energy and so when we put our wages up to reflect inflation that’s going to be an imapct and our electricty bill has already gone up.

“We peg our wages to the real living wage - the real one not the government one - and we will be following that in the new year,” said Pete.

The bakery is currently on their summer shutdown and will open on 31 August again. The new price list for Loaf can be found here. You can book a free lunch for your child at Loaf here.

How do co-ops work?

Co-ops contributed £38.2 billion in turnover in 2020 and provided work for 241,714 people, says a report. In 2020, they made up of less than 1% of the business in the UK, said The Co-op Economy report. Co-ops also have a better five-year survival rate than other businesses making them more resilient.

Is Loaf the only business in Stirchley affected by the Cost of Living crisis?

Meanwhile, Stirchley based eatery, Eat Vietnam, recently posted on their social media that their electricity bill has jumped up from £450 in May 2022 to £1680 now.

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