LANCASHIRE SWEET CONSULTANT CALLS FOR UK SWEET ACADEMY TO SALVAGE COUNTRY’S CONFECTIONERY SKILLS

A star of the BBC’s hit cookery programme The Sweet Makers is warning that Britain is in danger of losing the confectionery skills that have satisfied the nation’s sweet tooth for generations.

Andy Baxendale, who has 23 years’ experience in confectionery, is calling on the government to set up a national academy of sweets, to protect the industry and teach a new generation the art.

The 51-year-old from Orrell, near Wigan, Lancashire, is a former product development manager for Chewits who now works as a consultant for firms across the UK. He fears that without support those skills will disappear forever.

Andy is a respected national consultant in every aspect of confectionery production, with extensive knowledge of regulation and legislation in the industry.

He is one of the TV team of onscreen confectioners that entertained and informed BBC2 viewers in The Sweet Makers, a series that was a summer hit.

They recreated the treats of the past, from a Tudor sugar banquet to giant Easter eggs, and discovering the roots of our national sweet tooth through Georgian and Victorian times.

Andy, 51, says the show has highlighted the UK’s proud tradition of sweet making but reveals that the people with the skills to create the nation’s favourites are disappearing.

And he says that without help, in future more and more of our sweet treats will come from Germany, the global power in the industry.

Dad of two Andy said: “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.

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

“Germany has a national confectionery 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.”

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.

But Andy says that despite those fears over lost skills. 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 there has been a 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.

Andy, whose own sweet favourites are strawberry bon bons, said: “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.”

Andy is a respected national consultant in every aspect of confectionery production, with extensive knowledge of regulation and legislation in the industry.

His career has seen him work for many of the biggest names in UK confectionery production and advise companies on everything from recipes to staff training.

But he reveals he got into sweet making totally by accident, although his background in chemistry proved a big advantage.

Today he continues to make and create his own sweets, including Lancashire Mint Cake to rival the Kendal variety and bacon flavoured fudge!

Andy was recruited to the four-strong team of experts for The Sweet Makers after answering an advert.

During the series, filmed earlier this year, they used original recipes to create a Tudor sugar banquet, a Georgian dessert course and a Victorian sweet shop. The last in the series was shown earlier this week.

Andy said: “I really enjoyed doing it and it seems to have gone down well with the viewers. The final viewing figure for the first of the programmes was 2.2m I’m told.”

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