Bakers' bread basket venture plagued by theft

5 October 2017

Bakers Basco’s iconic baskets can be seen in supermarkets and bakeries across the country. 

The pooled equipment service gives its members access to strong, sturdy and stackable baskets and dollies, and was created in a bid to standardise equipment across the supply chain.

However, since it’s inception, the baskets have been a victim of their own success, and it turns out a lot of firms want a slice of the action. Thousands of the baskets have been stolen. Some have been repurposed into things including greengrocers' displays, general purpose storage and in one imaginative case, strung together to make a monkey bridge in an animal sanctuary.

But Bakers Basco is hitting back, and is on a winning streak against the companies using its equipment without permission. The latest culprit was Birmingham-based sandwich maker Authentic Bites, which was landed with £6,000 in costs and damages.

It has been estimated over the past year Bakers Basco has been awarded almost £64,000 in costs and damages from eight cases.

It has got the percentage of lost baskets per delivery down from double digit percentages, to less than 10%. There are 4m baskets and 500,000 dollies in circulation, so that provides an indication of the thousands that have gone off-piste.

An indication of the costs involved emerged during a trial in 2014, where two ex-Warburton employees alongside a third man were convicted of stealing around 150,000 Bakers Basco basket and around 4,000 dollies. The replacement costs were said to be more than £560,000, putting the cost of each basket at between £3 and £4.

Steve Millward, general manager of Bakers Basco, said: “We have no intention of allowing people to repeatedly take our equipment without consent, or trying to obstruct or intimidate our staff when they try to reclaim it.”

Bakers Basco is an equipment pool for bakeries that pay into the system. It was created in 2006 by an alliance of bakers, including Allied Bakeries, Hovis and Warburtons among others, to standardise the baskets and dollies used throughout the bread supply chain.

The baskets are modular, stack together, design to fit neatly into commonly-used delivery vans and fit into each other when not in use. All this reduces waste and improves logistics within the industry. 

Bakers Basco is employing new methods to track down lost baskets. The company has gone from low tech – marking baskets with glitter – to high tech, and is now developing a GPS tracking system. The company also has a team of investigators on the case.

The firm says it normally asks for its equipment back first before taking legal recourse – and that in many cases of people are unaware that the plastic trays are actually owned by someone. However, there are instances of repeat offending and it has been awarded costs and damages in a single case of up to £25,000.

Authentic Bites had already been ordered to pay costs of £8,700 for two previous cases involving the use of Bakers Basco’s trays. 

“If people use our equipment without permission, that’s a kind of theft in our eyes,” said Millward. “Anyone who says it’s a victimless crime couldn’t be more wrong.

“The bakeries that pay to license our equipment, the retailers that sell their products and the shoppers who rely on them for their daily bread all end up paying extra for the actions of a small number of thoughtless, selfish, greedy people.” 

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