Ask Norman

Chill out – coping with the mid-summer heat


The summer brings a host of challenges to the bakery industry. Demand for baked goods can drop as the temperature rises, and seasonal bestsellers such as mince pies are still months away. New Britain Oils, the UK's leading producer of sustainable palm oil products, also reports that warmer temperatures over the summer months can play havoc with bakery fats. Norman Stark, technical support manager at New Britain Oils, explains.

Offering advice and support to customers, both on the phone and on site, is a key part of my role. At this time of year I prepare myself for an influx of calls from customers who can't understand why their tried and tested recipes are suddenly falling short. Norman explains that, invariably, this is due to an unusually high temperature in bakery and storage areas. The optimum temperature for storing fats is between 14 and 18C. As soon as the mercury reaches the mid to high teens outdoors, storage areas which are not temperature controlled become a real problem. Recent work at New Britain Oils in our Test Bakery has confirmed the importance of storing and using bakery fats at the optimum temperature, as exposing margarine and shortening to temperature extremes can permanently alter their structure and performance characteristics. 

The advice from New Britain Oils is to take action now or risk wastage as fats become unusable once the heat hits them. The organisation of the bakery production area can play a big part in keeping things cool. The positioning of air extraction units can draw warm air away from the source (ovens, or the back of refrigeration units), rather than across the production area where it would effectively heat up all the working areas within the bakery. If you are lucky enough to have a chill room with some free space, this can be used to cool bagged flour before use. In-line water chillers can be used to bring down the water temperature to a target level. Alternatively, commercial ice making machines are popular, but these have to be capable of supplying sufficient ice to allow dough/batter target temperatures to be achieved. Keeping bakery fats at their optimum temperature (16C) is often a real challenge in the warmer months. Storing fats in a chiller requires careful control, as allowing the fat temperature to fall too low will result in processing issues and a reduction in final product quality. Its not going to be easy, adds Norman, as our UK weather tends to change quite a bit from day to day but it does keep us on our toes. New Britain Oils field based Customer Support Team provides expert advice and support covering from selecting the best fat, through to storage, handling and processing into finished product. If you need advice over the phone or on site, the team is on hand to help. With a wealth of knowledge built up over many years of working directly with customers, products and processes, New Britain Oils is well placed to offer practical advice about the products you use and how to get the best possible results in your finished products. If you're looking for advice on storing or using fats, or would like to speak to New Britain Oils about your technical problems or fat use, call 0151 922 4875 or email