Catman: corteza superior
Author: Liz Wells
How did the word ‘bread’ come to mean ‘money’? Some say it comes from cockney rhyming slang ‘bread and honey’, others that it was first used to mean ‘livelihood’ and then evolved to mean ‘money’ during the 1930s.
Whatever the case, the relationship between the two words is certainly familiar to those in the independent retail trade, where the humble loaf has long been a core driver of both sales and footfall.
That clearly remains the case, even in today’s ever-changing retail landscape, with a total of 54.8 million loaves worth almost £71m sold in independent stores during the past year, according to data from analysts IRI. Although consumer tastes are changing, with shoppers looking for healthier options, premium products and alternative formats, the independent channel remains remarkably traditional. “White bread accounts for nearly three in four loaves sold by independent retailers, which is significantly more than we see in total grocery, where it only accounts for half of all loaves,” says Matt Whelan, sales director at Roberts Bakery.
White bread is declining by just 1.3% year on year within the independent channel, he adds, whereas in the total grocery sector, it is down 3.9%. Half-and-half also does better in independents, dropping by just 0.6% in the past year, versus a decline of 3.4% in total grocery. Rival baker Kingsmill says its 50/50 sub-brand has moved back into growth and is up by more than 14% since launching an ad campaign in February featuring nothing more sophisticated that a cheese and ham sandwich.
But while figures from Nielsen show the top sellers in impulse remain the big brand names such as Warburtons, Kingsmill, Hovis and Roberts, there is an increasing appetite for something a little bit different. “Among the most significant consumer trends are a growing interest in premium products and a positive response to growing choice down the bread aisle,” Whelan adds.
Jeremy Gilboy, managing director at Carrs Foods, says: “Changes in household sizes and eating habits are causing a shift away from some of the more traditional large loaves, resulting in greater demand for smaller pack sizes that last for longer. Consumers’ increasing focus on health is also changing their bread purchases by driving interest in seeded and benefit-related products.” In a move designed to satisfy the needs of independents in this area, Carrs has launched two rye breads: Baker Street Seeded Rye Bread and Baker Street Rye & Wheat. “Both products are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, an increasingly important trend that the bakery sector needs to maximise,” says Gilboy.
Whelan at Roberts says spending on premium breads across the whole of the grocery market is up by 40% as consumers look for higher-quality, artisan products. “Consumers are looking for a better bread choice. Sales of ‘bread with bits’ are driving strong growth within the category, with value sales up by 10.4%.”
This, he says, is a missed opportunity for retailers. “To grow their bread business, independents need to add premium and ‘bread with bits’ products to their range, but choose the brands that are best suited to customer requirements. Despite growth at total grocery level for this segment, value sales have declined by 13.7% within independents and it only holds a 4.9% share of the category, compared with 15.8% in total grocery. Close this gap and independent retailers could be achieving as much as a 21% higher price-point.”
Roberts has responded to the growing interest in ‘artisan’ products with the launch of its four-strong bloomer range – in Heroic Wholemeal, Seriously Seeded, Wondrous White and Mighty Malted variants. Similarly, Kingsmill launched its Super Seeds range earlier this year, made with a variety of seeds including linseed, sunflower, poppy and pumpkin.
On a roll
A further trend in the bread aisle in recent years has been the growth of ‘sandwich alternatives’. Although thins are now said to be in decline (down 57%), wraps are growing by 11.5%, albeit from a low base. Whelan says rolls too are on the rise, having added an extra £250,000-worth of sales within the independent sector in the past year. Sweet treats such as American muffins and doughnuts are also performing well and are up by 7.2%.
Kate Sykes, marketing manager at baker Lantmännen Unibake, says: “Gone are the days where the plastic-wrapped, white sliced loaf was king. Consumers are demanding both quality and choice. They want a range of shapes, sizes, textures and tastes.”