From traditional sliced to fancy focaccia, the choice in bread and bakery is rising fast. Here’s how to make the category work for you

In convenience stores the bakery category is going beyond branded plant loaves to encompass every-thing from freshly-made sarnies from the food-to-go counter, to tempting homemade cakes. Since the sector as a whole is so versatile it’s not surprising that it’s currently on the up.

“The UK bakery market is worth a staggering £2.7bn, and with bakery products consumed by 99.8% of the British population, this category represents a huge opportunity for retailers to grow sales,” says Allied Bakeries category director Martin Garlick. “In fact, the bakery convenience channel last year grew 21.4% and is forecast to grow a further 24% by 2019.”

According to HIM Research & Consulting research director Blake Gladman, the appeal of bread and bakery is a big draw for getting customers in-store. He says that, in terms of driving footfall, the category is currently third overall, just behind tobacco and newspapers.

“That’s no mean feat and just shows the importance of getting this category right if retailers want to ensure that they keep customers coming through their doors and away from the ever-increasing competition,” he says.

“When we look at the bakery shopper and their missions, they over-index in the most valuable mission to a convenience store - the top-up mission. Some 60% of bakery shoppers are on this number one mission (compared with 31% on average). The top-up mission is worth £12.3bn to the convenience channel and therefore shows the value of the bakery category in driving growth.

“So, not only is this category important within its own right, but it can also act as a catalyst for the bigger basket shopper.”

So bakery may be a big hit with the market analysts, but how exactly does this trend translate to the average shop floor? At Barns Green Village Stores in West Sussex, Pippa Heritage says that bread and bakery is a vital part of her business.

“It’s very important,” she says. “Bread is the one thing people run out of every day so you have to have it in stock.”

The store has a multi-pronged approach to the category in order to meet the needs of different kinds of bakery customers. Deliveries from Warburtons keep customers who are looking for traditional sliced bread happy. Meanwhile, a Country Choice counter keeps the sausage rolls coming, while the team also keeps shelves filled with freshly baked bread and rolls from the local bakers.

“People really like the fact that the bread is local and fresh,” says Pippa. “It’s also a really well-known bakery round here, which also brings customers in.”

She adds: “We use the bread and rolls to make sandwiches at the deli counter, which also does well. At the minute we’ve got builders in the village and they’ll come in for a sausage roll for their elevenses and than have a sandwich at lunch.”

Pippa says that the only real issue she has with bakery is making sure she hits the right stock levels. “We do get it wrong,” she admits. “But it can be hard to judge. We’ve got a campsite down the road and if it’s a sunny day people will come to us to pick up their shopping and buy bread. That can mean stocks get low.

“It’s a pain because if someone comes in at the end of the day wanting bread to make their kids’ lunches in the morning and we haven’t got it, they’re not going to be happy.”

Research from HIM concurs that while availability in bakery might be tricky to get right, it’s essential for customer satisfaction.

“Availability is of major importance to shoppers in a convenience store,” says Gladman. “We asked shoppers to rate how important to them various factors were when shopping in a c-store, including speed of service, value for money and ease of shop. Availability came out top - so when you factor in the value that the bakery shopper brings and the extent to which it drives footfall, making sure you always have the right products in stock is critical to success.”

When East Sussex independent retailer Jempson’s launched its 4,500sq ft Local Store in Wadhurst last year the emphasis was firmly on food - especially bakery, which managing director Stephen Jempson describes as “one of Jempson’s USPs”.

He is particularly proud that all the cakes and bread in store, from traditional morning goods through to doughnuts, scones and Belgian buns, are made from scratch.

“The public will pay for quality,” he explains. “Our emphasis is on quality, quality, quality - and that means freshly baked products every day.

“The independents should invest in bakery because the multiples are taking out in-store bakeries. Bakery products like crusty bread and cakes do not travel well so they have to be made, or sourced, locally.”

A slice of originality

Stephen adds that producing its own baked goods gives his stores a way to differentiate from the multiples. He points out that volume is very good in plant bread, yet competitive pricing at between 75p and 80p per loaf strips out customer loyalty. “As such we major our focus on our own products,” he says.

According to research from HIM, Stephen’s relentless focus on quality homemade baked goods is a smart move in a sector that’s moving ever-more upmarket.

“When we asked shoppers to rate how important quality was within the fresh bread/bakery category, they rated it 7.8/10,” says Gladman.

“As we see with other fresh categories, there is so much competition around and the supermarkets and discounters are really pushing the quality side of their offer. There’s also the likes of Gail’s and other artisan style bakers on the high street, so it really is a matter of doing it well, or not doing it at all.”

Whether you credit artisan bakers, upper-crust sandwich places like Prêt à Manger, or the success of Great British Bake-Off, one thing’s for sure: in food-to-go bog standard bread just won’t cut it any longer. “Today’s customers are going bonkers for bakery,” says Mariam French, head of marketing and product at Aryzta Food Solutions. “But they’re looking for good quality as well as freshness. People know what sourdough is these days - it’s one of the reasons that sliced white bread is in decline.”

To cash in on this artisan mood among the public, Cuisine de France provides a c-store bakery solution that looks the deli part. “We’ve designed it with plenty of thought about the way it looks in-store,” she says, “so you’ve got rustic-style wood and faux slate. It allows some theatre in-store and gives retailers the chance to differentiate.”

French adds that this sense of theatre allows retailers to capitalise on evening trade - often considered a ‘dead time’ for bakery.

“With our baking table there’s the opportunity to cut up some speciality bread for sampling to meet the needs of customers on the way home. You can then cross-merchandise with salad, some nice olive oil and pasta sauce. To really succeed you need to inspire shoppers.”

Supplier’s view

Bread and butter essentials

“For bakery the absolute essentials are French bread (large and small baguettes), a bloomer and a selection of crusty rolls. You will also need a small range of cakes and pastries, such as croissants, Danish pastries, doughnuts, muffins and cookies. For food-to-go you should offer breakfast baps in the morning (bacon, sausage and a vegetarian option) and filled baguettes from about 11am. Beyond bread-based food to go you should also be offering a range of hot savoury pastries. While it’s important to ensure the fixture is fully stocked in the morning, afternoon availability is just as important, particularly from around 4pm to meet the school run and evening rush.”

Stephen Clifford, head of marketing, Country Choice

Skinny sarnies

With traditional white bread sales down across the board, clever alternatives are gaining ground with shoppers. At 99 calories each, Kingsmill’s Sandwich Thins offer c-store consumers a slice of healthy and convenient lunch-time inspiration.

Pigs in a pickle

As part of its range-wide rebrand Pork Farms has added a new product to its popular Branston Pickle-spiked meat selection, Ploughman’s Bites. Featuring 100% British meat, the new look includes colour coding for easier shopper selection in the chiller plus a stand-out Union Jack design on-pack.

Join the club

In order to give customers more meat for their money Ginsters has launched Ginsters Meat Club, its first ever snacking range. Look out for big advertising activity, some eye-catching POS material and a massive social media push online.

Tasty telly

Pukka Pies is sponsoring the hit TV show Friends on Comedy Central for three months.

Friends on Comedy Central reaches seven million individuals a month.

The campaign, all about sharing experiences and food, is also being supported with logo accreditation on promos for the show.

On a mission: 60% of convenience bakery shoppers are simply topping up. Retailers need to make sure they maintain good stock availability throughout the day - particularly in the afternoon and evening for after-school and after-work shoppers

Impulsive customers: Compared with other shoppers, bakery shoppers are more likely to buy on impulse (23% vs 15% HIM CTP average). Retailers should capitalise on this by making bakery highly visible. Try off-fixture displays for goods such as crumpets, muffins and pancakes

Healthy options: The healthier bakery sector has grown 10.6% in the past five years, while white bread is in decline. Keep white bread as a main feature of your fixture but offer a healthy option too, as well as more sandwich alternatives like Kingsmill Thins.

Source: Martin Garlick, Allied Bakeries