The bakery category continues to benefit from consumers choosing premium options, as they look for ways to treat themselves well at home, and on the move – which creates opportunity for wholesalers to enable local stores to capitalise on both shopper missions.

The move towards premiumisation shows no sign of slowing and quality brands give consumers an opportunity to ‘trade up’ and elevate everyday meals, such as gourmet burgers, hot dogs, and French toast.

In the current economic climate, our desire for affordable treats is even more pronounced, and indulgence is another trend gaining traction as many embrace the little pick-me-ups that we all need from time to time.

Hence local retailers’ bakery sales will continue to benefit from offering a mix of indulgence and impulse buys. Food is more than just a meal on your plate, and there is a strong argument for ‘everything in moderation’. “Retailers’ customers are increasingly looking for products that deliver simple indulgence,” comments Louise Reynard, Customer Development Director, UK at St Pierre Groupe, on behalf of the St Pierre brand. “Wholesalers can help their retailers cater for this demand by stocking ranges that ‘upgrade’ their bakery offerings from traditional staples to something more premium. Consumers know that consistent quality that elevates a meal to restaurant-quality is worth it, especially when the additional cost is a pound or less. Brioche is one key way to do this, and St Pierre’s bestselling brioche rolls and buns range is an ideal base for enhancing burger and hot dog recipes, while their morning goods are perfect for enhancing retailers’ food to go sweet treat selections.”

A further trend is the wish to reduce food waste, in depot, in store, and at home. St Pierre products also offer extended shelf life and help wholesalers, retailers and shoppers alike reduce wastage.

“Offering a full range of brand-led bakery items will continue to be a sure way for wholesalers to help their retailer customers keep shoppers coming back,” adds Reynard. In these tough times, people need treats.” St Pierre’s morning goods are designed to help shoppers recreate the café culture wherever they are – at home or on-the-move, so they can be merchandised on a bakery fixture, in a food-to-go area or alongside other sweet treats, like cakes.

Meanwhile brioche adds something special to burger buns and hot dog rolls, and when shoppers are thinking of having a BBQ or a big night in, seeing the market leading St Pierre Brioche Buns and Hot Dog Rolls there on the bakery fixture will prompt them to buy.

“To maximise sales in the barbecue season, cash and carry depots should dual-site St Pierre Brioche Buns and Hot Dog Rolls with the other barbecue products, as well as in the primary location, the bakery section,” says Reynard.

“Looking at specific bakery subsectors, wholesalers should dedicate extra space in depots to two major growth areas, croissants, and rolls, especially from St Pierre. In addition, they should feature these high performing products in their online offerings, and stock up ready for unpredictable sales uplifts.”

Wholesalers should also make sure their bread and bakery ranges cater for the growing numbers of vegans and vegetarians. St Pierre is achieving outstanding year on year brand growth because it is offering products that meet demand. The brand is continuously reviewing its product formulas, so it offers the best quality products. Hence, it has launched a new recipe on its 8 pack of St Pierre Croissants and Pains au Chocolat. Not only is the recipe a new, improved formulation, but it also means that these breakfast treats cater to vegans.

Wholesalers wanting to minimise waste in bread and bakery should stock the St Pierre range of morning goods and brioche rolls and buns. These offer an extended shelf-life, which helps stores reduce wastage with time-sensitive products and is resulting in growth across the board, as they are increasingly popular with retailers watching their costs and margins. Such products also enable retailers to provide a strong bakery offering throughout the year, minimising the risk of wastage.

“Wholesalers should focus their sweet bakery, rolls and buns offerings around St Pierre’s bestselling lines and put our brand power to work in their depots with our merchandising material and talk to us about running promotions and online activity on their ecommerce websites,” suggests Reynard.

Offering a full range of brand-led bakery items will continue to be a sure way for retailers in all locations to keep customers coming back. In these tough times, people need treats. Wholesalers should dual-site morning goods in depots in bakery sections and food to go areas.

Brioche adds something special to burger buns and hot dog rolls, and retailers wanting to enhance their BBQ and big night in offerings will see the market leading St Pierre Brioche Buns and Hot Dog Rolls in the bakery section and be prompted to stock up. For best results in the barbecue season, wholesalers’ depots should dual-site St Pierre Brioche Buns and Hot Dog Rolls in bakery sections and dedicated barbecue areas.

“Consistent brand building in trade spaces plays a key role, as wholesalers want to offer trusted brands. We support our wholesale customers with a strong promotional calendar backed by high-profile marketing campaigns. St Pierre also provides stand-out branded packaging that helps increase in brand awareness in depots. This helps to drive margins for wholesalers, whilst its longer shelf life protects them from wastage, which is all important in the current climate,” adds Reynard.

“Clearly, there is opportunity for wholesalers to drive interest in the bakery section with innovative merchandising which increases our products’ visibility and ultimately, sales. We work with our wholesale partners in 2024 to further improve merchandising, taking our learnings around cross-merchandising and dual-siting and applying them to the UK market.”

The clear trend in bread and bakery is that shoppers are continuing to buy at scale, making this category very important for wholesalers supplying local retailers, both in sales terms and as a driver of store traffic for their customers.

With shelf space under pressure to perform, retailers are looking for products that will sell well and give good margins. Meanwhile their shoppers are increasingly looking for breads for everyday eating that offer a point of difference, as well as innovative products that enhance meal occasions. A further key point for retailers to be aware of is that during their visit, these shoppers also purchase across other categories.

The cost-of-living crisis means people are being more careful with their money and seeking out bakery products that deliver simultaneously on interest, quality and value. The winning combination of Baker Street’s ‘fakeaway’ appeal and its fresher for longer proposition means it delivers on all counts to cash-cautious consumers and strengthens the attraction of the bakery section in stores with a large element of shoppers from the local community.

At the same time, shoppers on the go are also major buyers of bread and bakery from these retailers, and they in turn are seeking bread and baked goods that offer a point of difference, as well as innovative products that enhance their meal occasions. The Baker Street brand’s extended life benefits make it especially important to both out of home customers and consumers shopping local.

“Wholesalers can boost their core range sales, and at the same time minimise waste, by stocking the Baker Street brand. Our Sliced White and Sliced Brown and our Seeded Rye and Rye & Wheat loaves and bread products meet the need for everyday bread that delivers convenience, taste, and health. Our range of Mega Burger Buns and Hot Dog Rolls can be used for a host of tasty breakfast meals, stretching into brunches when people have more time, including bacon and egg baps and sausage rolls. Increasingly, shoppers are using these bakery staples outside of the traditional ‘burger’, ‘hotdog’ or BBQ season,” comments Louise Reynard, Customer Development Director, UK at St Pierre Groupe on behalf of the Baker Street brand.

“The Baker Street brand offers long-life bakery products, and attitudes towards extended life products are changing. As the difficult economic climate continues, convenience shoppers will continue to appreciate great tasting bread, that they can rely on to be there when they need it, and this is benefiting wholesalers. With increasing pressure on household budgets and growing concern for the environment, bakery, and sliced bread, particularly, is a key offender when it comes to waste.

“It’s all the more reason for wholesalers and their retailer customers prominently displaying brands like Baker Street, which is cleverly packed to stay fresher for longer and guarantees a minimum life of 35 days. This will benefit wholesalers, who are looking to navigate unpredictable sales variations, whilst also providing the retailers they serve with a continued supply of quality bakery products for multiple meal occasions including breakfast.”

Samantha Winsor, Marketing Manager, Schulstad Bakery Solutions, comments: “The OOH bakery market is worth £2.5bn (Lumina) and the UK is the biggest driver of NPD in sweet baked goods within Europe, holding a 13% share (Innova). This is fuelled mainly by the cakes, pastries & sweet goods sub-category which leads 45% of NPD, followed by sweet biscuits/cookies (25%, Innova). Private label penetration is highest across sub-categories.”

Retail value sales for bread and bread products soared to over an estimated £4.5 billion in 2023, driven by high inflation. As inflation eases in 2024, the rate of growth will come down gradually, but a slight increase is forecast over the next five years to 2028 (Mintel).

Changing lifestyles and an ever-increasing desire for convenience and choice have all played a significant role in the way we consume food. This includes the UK food to go market, which is booming and expected to grow by 3.5% to a value of £23bn in 2024, outpacing its pre-pandemic value by 9.3% (Lumina). Just a few years ago, the food to go category – as a solution to meal and snack needs – was growing at double the rate of other food channels (MCA) and today, food to go is no longer a trend but a lifestyle shift.

Desserts are a key flavour trend impacting sweet bakery NPD – and this is influenced by a rise in the popularity of nostalgic foods, too. What’s more, visible pieces of fruit are being seen across artisan bakeries and this trend is now seeing strong growth in retail in-store bakeries (ISB). Retailers have been premiumising their ISB Danish ranges using fruit pieces as a visual quality indicator and nostalgic retro fruit dessert flavours to tap into the nostalgia trend. This is also making its way into wholesale, too.

Another trend to keep an eye on, at the time of the rise of nostalgia, is the Portuguese Custard Tart, being reported on by consumer press as a ‘UK staple’ (The Guardian).

Consumer interest in Speciality Bread remains strong despite price increases ahead of other sub-categories. Retailers’ own label offering is achieving this by adding flavours such as sourdough or baking dried fruits, nuts and seeds into bread and adding them as toppings to boost visual interest.

“Wholesalers should also take note of how retailers are also using different types of grains such as rye, oats and spelt to leverage consumers’ desire for the inclusion of ‘natural’ ingredients, whilst experimenting with shapes and sizes to offer a variety of formats,” adds Winsor. “Wholesalers can extend the Speciality Bread trend into the breakfast occasion by tapping into OOH trends, for example providing breakfast bundles to operators and convenience outlets, such as the popular avocado topped sourdough toast through signage, socials, promotions and merchandising.”

The reason for this growth is that consumers want to spend on occasions or discretionary items that improve their mood and quality of life – and ISB is perfectly placed to deliver on this need. We are also seeing commuter levels increase, driving grab-and-go purchases in convenience, and the popularity of the weekend treat breakfast is here to stay, with around 70% of all croissants consumed before 11am. Wholesalers should make sure to capitalise on this increase in interest in grab-and-go by ensuring they are providing pastries that can be sold by retailers as individual products.

Wellbeing is also a top consumer concern (Lumina) and has prompted a shift towards a more considered way of living, where people want to look after and have more of a balance between working hard and looking after themselves with self-care, indulgent moments. This is driving the me-time treat occasion within sweet bakery.

“By tapping into consumer trends to inform your range of products, this can help generate increased sales,” says Winsor. “For example, the rise of nostalgia has had a huge impact on innovation within the category, as well as an increased demand for dessert flavours within bakery. It has led to an increased desire for comfort foods – brought on by cost-of-living challenges – while providing the excitement of novelty. Classic pastries with a twist encourage consumers to try something new without the risk of radical flavours. Seasonal innovation is also a great way for retailers to drive shopper engagement in the Sweet ISB category and stay on trend.”

“Wholesalers should stay informed on the latest food trends and seek out products that reflect consumer interests,” suggests Winsor. “Looking to artisan bakeries for inspiration is a great way to trend-spot – for example, what is a consumer favourite that hasn’t changed and is therefore a must stock for your range? Or what is new, seasonal, or re-invigorating a classic product by putting new twists on it to keep their customers engaged? – as this is often where trends start. Also, monitor what products are in the retailers as this demonstrates mass consumer appeal; you will then see new products start to filter through to wholesale. By offering the right range mix of classic favourites and new products that align with current trends, wholesalers can attract more customers and increase sales.”

This is coupled with the changing nature of treats and rewards, and what consumers value most – taste is a top purchase motivator at present; if consumers are going to spend on a treat, then they want to know it is going to be worth the money. So, with continual personal finance pressures, value and quality are key for wholesale customers if they want to drive food to go purchases.

Dan Butt, MD of Baked Earth Bakery, comments: “There’s always exciting innovation in the bread sector. We specialise in authentic flatbreads, which remain popular both with food service operators and with consumers. This means there’s significant demand in both the retail and food service categories for flatbreads.

“The trend for plant-based eating is very much here to stay, and we’ve ensured that our breads are certified vegan to make the most of this opportunity. Flatbreads really lend themselves to veggie sandwiches and wraps, as well as meat fillings.”

Another trend is for cleaner label products – breads that are low in salt and high in fibre with no E numbers. Baked Earth Bakery’s new fully baked, round Turkish and Greek style wraps are both vegan and clean label, plus they tap into the latest trends in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.

Sourdough remains a popular product. Baked Earth Bakery sourdough naans in various sizes and shapes are made using an inhouse starter and are authentic, clean label and baked in bespoke ovens that replicate a tandoor. The brand’s best-selling frozen product is the Oval Sourdough Wrap distributed to the food service sector via frozen food distributor Central foods.

Flatbreads are a super ingredient to have in any professional or private kitchen, due to their versatility. They can be turned into posh pizzas or shapes that can be cut out for canapé bases, as well as using them more traditionally as accompaniments to dishes and for alternative carriers. Frozen flatbreads are useful because they help to avoid waste. They just need cooking or reheating from frozen in an oven or under a grill according to demand. It means that ‘fresh’ bread is always available.

“We have marketing plans in place to promote our two new Turkish and Greek style wraps to the foodservice sector – helping to encourage interest from food service operators,” adds Butt. “This will also raise awareness more generally of the Baked Earth Brand, which includes a wide range of flatbread products.”

The Nottingham-based family business has been baking naans and flatbreads for more than 50 years. The Butt family is a fourth generation family that first begun baking authentic naans and flatbreads in the early 1970s – originally from a small restaurant which was Nottingham’s first curry house and since 1990 from a purposely designed factory, using bespoke ovens that replicate a tandoor that were developed by the family. The company has grown to become a leading producer of naans and flatbreads, supplying to the retail and food service sectors.

Andy Smith, Retail Sales Manager, Brioche Pasquier, comments: “There is no doubt that bakery has evolved into a much more complex sector than it once was. Bread used to occupy a fairly stable corner of the market dominated by big brands and wrapped loaves, but bakery has recently undergone the sort of transformation that the brewing industry experienced years ago in the craft beer revolution.”

There are of course still big bakers and dominant brands, but the idea of craft has been re-introduced into the industry, with artisan bakers at the independent end of the market delivering sourdough, seeded, rye and numerous other loaves that are attracting the attention of consumers and putting the pressure on the large bakeries to follow suit. In recent months the supermarket shelves have expanded with sourdough and rye even from the big, market leading brands who usually stick to traditional white and wholemeal.

Breads from other parts of the world and different cultures have also become more widely popular. Brioche is now very well established as a desirable alternative to traditional bread in any scenario, from barbecue to breakfast.

Still a regular on the trend agenda is health and wellbeing which has fuelled a strong lean towards products with clean labelling. Preservatives have been given a rap on the knuckles and so bread products with a cleaner label are proving more popular.

Clean labelling is an increasingly important factor for bread and wrapped bakery products and consumers are concerned about their health and wellbeing and that of their family. Additives like preservatives, unhealthy fats, artificial flavourings and colourings all signal a red light to those who want to eat simple, clean bakery products.

“Brioche Pasquier is a family-owned company with a focus on baking quality, clean label products,” adds Smith. “The Brioche Pasquier range offers wholesome family food and is baked with simple ingredients such as butter, flour and fresh eggs and is free from preservatives, artificial colours and flavours.”

Key to the ingredient list of Brioche Pasquier products is the natural ‘levain’. This starter dough enables products to be fresher for longer without the use of preservatives, and gives the unique taste. Brioche Pasquier respects the traditional baking methods using the savoir-faire passed down through generations from Gabriel Pasquier in his small French bakery over 80 years ago.

“In these times of rising prices, the longevity of our products is a really strong point of difference for shoppers,” says Smith. “Not only can they be confident that they are buying quality, preservative-free products, but also they know that the packs will last for up to three weeks cutting waste to a minimum. This is not only good for the pocket but also for the planet, another cause close to consumers’ hearts.”

Customers look to the bakery category for reliability and consistency. Bread is, after all, one of the most important store cupboard staples. However, consumers are increasingly also looking for a change from the ordinary. This could be in the form of bread subsectors, such as tortillas, bagels, and pastries, though these alternatives do not deliver the exact same functionality of bread itself. Different styles of bread are seeing an uptick in popularity, as consumers become more adventurous when looking for different tastes but require the consistency that traditional bread offers.

Brioche Pasquier brioche bridges both types of buyers. It offers good value, high quality, convenient and family friendly varieties. It also is a step away from the traditional sliced loaf and white bun, offering a slightly sweet and softly textured variation which consumers are increasingly enjoying.

“Retailers need to keep their bakery shelves dependable while at the same time adding interest with new and different bakery products,” suggests Smith. “Brioche Pasquier offers the comfort of a familiar, well-established brand with a sprinkling of continental glamour to make the offering more exciting.”

Gordon Lauder, MD of frozen food distributor Central Foods, comments: “Bao buns have been a huge success in the food service sector in recent years. They have been flying out since we first started stocking them and are now one of our most popular products. Everyone seems to have latched onto them as a great addition to any menu.

“They are light and fluffy and can be steamed or deep fried. They are also suitable for sweet, as well as savoury, fillings. They are like no other bread product and are, in my opinion, one of the true heroes of the bread world currently.

“Our food service customers love our frozen bao buns because they are convenient, so versatile, and very easy to use. Their customers love them because they are simple to eat as a hand-held option.”

Bao buns can be packed with all sorts of fillings to suit all tastes – and they have a delicious soft and pillowy texture when steamed and a crisp outside and soft filling when deep fried.

Central Foods’ KaterBake bao buns are also suitable for vegans and vegetarians, which means they’re suitable for customers with dietary requirements too.

Bao buns have benefited from the street food trend, which continues to be popular in the food service sector. Restaurants, bars, pubs, cafés, and other venues have all taken a shine to this particular type of food – not just street and market vendors.

Central Foods’ 50g KaterBake bao buns – also known as Hirata buns – have been so popular with the food service sector that some NPD has been added to the range with a 30g version and also a 40g Menuserve bao bun, filled with Hoisin flavoured jackfruit and vegetables.

In order to maximise sales of the bao buns Central Foods has been running advertising campaigns in key trade service publications across the whole catering sector, to raise awareness and encourage pull through. Promotions are also running with wholesalers to encourage customer trial and reward loyalty. These promotional actions are on-going and helping to keep bao buns in the spotlight.

Delice de France’s range for spring and summer 2024 includes 55 new products available for retailers and foodservice businesses.

The new products include classic offerings such as sweet and savoury rolls, ciabattas, cakes, scones, doughnuts and butter pastries. The launches follow impressive year-on-year growth across Delice de France’s range, with sales of sweet bakery, doughnuts and viennoiserie growing at +14%, +14% and +15% respectively (Delice de France – Internal sales figures 2023).

The business is catering for world flavours with two Middle Eastern-inspired Khobez-style Flatbreads and a three-strong range of Taquitos, tapping into the rise in Mexican cuisine, which analysts have tipped to be one of the main food trends of 2024.

Delice de France is also catering for alternative diets with a trio of vegan products; Pain au Chocolat, Croissant, and Orange & Hazelnut Crowns.

There are also on-trend viennoiseries, such as New York Style Cacao Croissant – a topped round croissant that enables coffee shops, catering customers, and hotels to tap into this viral trend and Chocolate Babka, which is taking London bakeries by storm. Gail’s and Bread Ahead already serve a variety of Chocolate Babka, but Delice de France will be the first UK distributor to launch this product for independent outlets, which is individually wrapped making it suitable for retail.

Delice de France is also remaining faithful to its traditional French viennoiserie expertise with a new Palmier in 80g & 20g formats, Tartiflette Quiche and Macarons.

Particular attention has been paid to the business’s afternoon tea offering. Delice de France has added a Strawberry & Vanilla Battenberg, Mini Lemon Meringue & Chocolate Tart, Lemon Posset & Coffee Eclair, and Traditional Fully Baked Scones to its range.

Following Delice de France’s Macaron Mixed Case sales growing by 30% year on year (Delice de France – Internal sales figures 2023), the business is launching single cases of pistachio, raspberry, and lemon flavours.

Convenience retailers are urged to stock a core range of treats from the new range, such as the Butter Pastries, Doughnuts, Pain Suisse au Chocolat, Taquitos and New York Style Cacao Croissant.

Stéphanie Brillouet, Marketing Director, Délifrance, comments: “While there’s plenty of operators introducing innovative solutions in line with the key trends across the bread category, suppliers are also tapping into the UK’s dynamic bread market. Looking to bring something new to the category, we’re seeing suppliers draw inspiration from international formats, flavours and regional specialities. This is enabling out-of-home operators – sandwich shops, coffee shops, bakery chains, independents, forecourts etc – to tap into the sandwich market, where 56% of consumers actively seek breads of the world. This is a huge opportunity, given that sandwiches account for 64% of the bread eaten out-of-home at breakfast time and 78% of the bread eaten out-of-home at lunch time.”

One of the key out-of-home trends is that micro bakeries are making a macro impact. Small bakeries are influencing mainstream flavours and formats through the power of social media and catering to consumers who value quality and community above price. And, with quality coming out on top as the most important factor when purchasing bread out-of-home (45%), operators are increasingly offering handcrafted and higher-end bread products. This has led to the rollout of authentic long-fermentation bread, usage of a variety of grains and flours, premium inclusions and the introduction of less common formats and bread styles.

Délifrance’s new bread report – Prove It: Breaking Bread – reveals that consumer health concerns – both positive and negative – have a big impact on bread consumption. Almost a third (30%) of consumers who are eating more bread at-home and out-of-home are doing so for health reasons. Meanwhile, 40% of consumers who are eating less bread at-home and out-of-home cited health as the reason.

“When it comes to the bread market, we know from our research that at-home health-conscious consumers are more likely to be buying sourdough, especially brown, wholemeal, seeded and rye varieties,” adds Brillouet. “Whereas out-of-home health-conscious consumers are more likely to be buying wraps, tortillas and ciabattas.”

Bread with added benefits offers a big opportunity to attract health-conscious consumers, and there is no sign of a slowdown in launches of functional loaves.

Délifrance recently developed its newest bread range, PanItaly, in line with strong demand for specialty Italian bread. Not only does PanItaly offer versatility with an extensive range of products, including firm favourites ciabatta, focaccia and panini, but it’s also made in Italy, using traditional processes such as the biga fermentation technique. This enables wholesalers to offer a range of breads with exceptional flavour and true authentic taste.

“The UK bread market is both varied and vibrant, and there are many opportunities for wholesalers and retailers who operate in it,” says Brillouet. “Health concerns loom large for many consumers, but bread is well-placed in this regard. Authentic products, such as sourdough and breads of the world, are gaining traction despite carrying a premium for wholesalers and retailers, highlighting how consumers value quality, taste and freshness just as much as they do price. Therefore, suppliers offering considered ranges that cater to a plethora of differing needs and budgets, will benefit most.”


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