Availability is absolutely key to the bread market. It's a simple message but one that Warburtons is keen to hammer home to c-store retailers. Warburtons' customer category manager Kate Miller explains:
"Bread is one of the few items that people will rush out to buy if they run out so it's really important that c-store retailers have availability all through the day."
For years consumers have been able to go into shops in Lancashire and find Warburtons on the bread shelf, but its presence on shelves further south was patchy at best. Now, Miller says that's changed. According to TNS figures for the four weeks to June 17, Warburtons had a 44.8% share of bread sales in Lancashire but just 11.8% in London and 7.4% in the South East. The London and South East figures might sound low but Miller is pleased: "Those figures actually show huge growth for us," she says.
Warburtons is now a national brand but Miller says national presence comes mostly from the multiples, and she admits there's still a lot of work to be done in
c-stores. "Independents are just as important to us as the multiples but we've moved into the multiples first, built brand awareness and created demand."
Part of that awareness process includes Warburtons' first ever national advertising campaign, which kicked off earlier this year. This uses TV and print media and features the Warburton family talking about their products.
Availability is important but so too is stocking what consumers actually want. According to Allied Bakeries' director of category, Andrew Nicholson, it's vital that
c-stores offer shoppers a range that reflects their needs and tastes. "Everyday bread accounts for 72% of what customers want from a
c-store so it should be a major part of any bakery fixture."
However he adds: "There is a big increase in demand for premium and healthier bread. Convenience retailers can make the most of this profit opportunity by stocking products like Kingsmill Good as Gold, Burgen Soya & Linseed, Allinson Wholemeal and the new Kingsmill 50/50 with Omega 3, all of which generate strong shopper loyalty. Burgen in particular has already established itself in the convenience channel and is performing significantly ahead of the market."
Meanwhile, Warburtons' latest better-for-you loaf is the 400g Healthy Inside Oats. Oats have been included because they contain beta glucan, a soluble fibre which can help reduce cholesterol.
However, the wrapped bread category is about more than just bread; it also encompasses lines such as rolls, crumpets and pancakes. Warburtons' Miller says
c-stores should definitely not forget rolls: "Consumers like rolls because they're convenient for things like lunchboxes and they last longer than bread - for up to a week." And retailers should note that Warburtons' 12 sliced sandwich rolls are the best selling rolls on the market with sales worth £35m a year.
Then there are crumpets. If you thought that these were only eaten in the winter in front of a roaring fire, then you'd be wrong. Instead they are a year-round snack, eaten for breakfast and between meals. Miller says c-stores should definitely stock up as crumpets are bought as well as bread, not instead of it.
Kingsmill's crumpets are now part of its new Love to Toast sub-brand. As the name suggests, it brings together a range of products that are specifically designed for toasting, all under one umbrella. Kingsmill has recently added two new varieties: fruit bread in orange marmalade and apple-licious.
Says Nicholson: "The Love to Toast launch is set to invigorate the category by establishing a specific brand for toasting which includes a range of core products and new product development to extend usage occasions."
Nicholson believes that for value growth to be achieved, the bakery category needs to embrace the three key trends currently affecting the purchasing behaviour of UK shoppers: health, convenience and pleasure.
"With consumers increasingly concerned about healthy eating and taking a greater interest in the quality and origin of food than ever before, the 'healthier' bread sector has never been stronger, and is fuelling a significant part of the growth in the bakery category," he says. "However, the biggest challenges to healthier eating - taste and time - remain unchanged. For manufacturers, the provision of tasty, wholesome foods that are a convenient choice throughout the week is crucial to help improve the nation's diet. We have responded to this trend with the launch of Kingsmill 50/50 with Omega 3,
for example."
He adds that the 'healthier white' area also continues to grow well as shoppers, particularly families with children, are interested in products that look and taste like white loaves, but have extra goodness.
Nicholson says that bread is an inherently convenient product, used throughout the day - whether it's toast for breakfast, sandwiches at lunch or bread and soup in the evening. "It's in this area that packaged bakery may need to increase new product development, for example, versatile snacking products such as muffins, pancakes and crumpets that are quick to prepare and are consumed all year round. Such products are an essential part of any bakery display - as are more seasonal lines like hot cross buns - if the bakery fixture is to attract more impulsive shoppers.
"We can expect further innovation in this area of bakery. New products are likely to include on-the-go bakery snacks."
As for 'pleasure', Nicholson says: "An increasing number of shoppers are seeking out more premium 'farmhouse' and 'seeded' products to satisfy their taste expectations. This need can be met by offering a tight range of premium products to ensure they can 'trade up'. As a result of this behaviour the premium bread category is showing fantastic value growth, up nearly 13% year on year."
Both Warburtons and Allied Bakeries have websites aimed specifically at retailers, offering category advice.
Warburtons does not suggest a recommended range for all c-stores, but directs retailers to its trade website (www.warburtons-trade.co.uk) where there are suggested ranges taking into account regionality and brand strengths.
Allied has identified five key growth drivers that could add £80m to the overall convenience bakery category: in-store availability; impulse buying; healthier eating; premium offering; and shopper satisfaction. Visit the company's website at www.localkingsmill.co.uk for more details.

Bread basics

The total bakery market is worth £3.2bn with wrapped bread accounting for £2.4bn and
in-store bakeries £800m.
The total market is showing growth of 7.4%.
Within the £2.4bn wrapped bread market, sliced bread is worth £1.5bn
Warburtons is the number one branded wrapped bread brand with a 30.6% share; next is Hovis with a 24.7% share.
Warburtons 800g Toastie is the best selling bread SKU on the market, worth £93m.
C-stores sold around £394m-worth of sliced bread last year.
Sources: AC Nielsen/TNS