Calls for UK sweet academy to salvage confectionery skills

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Britain is in danger of losing the confectionery skills that have satisfied the nation’s sweet tooth for generations, according to one confectionery consultant.

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

The former product development manager for Chewits, who now works as a consultant for firms across the UK, fears that without support those skills will disappear forever.

Baxendale, who is one of the TV team of onscreen confectioners featured on BBC series The Sweet Makers, 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 without help, he fears more of the country’s favourite sweets will come from Germany, the global power in the industry. He notes, “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, while the UK comes in at number 11 in the global export table just ahead of Colombia.

Baxendale 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. 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 customers in paper bags.

He adds, “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.”