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The in-store experience, merchandising and quality of products was assessed as part of this new category alongside the businesses’ wider strategies for growth.
Winner: Birds Bakery
The judges were wowed by the passion shown by Birds Bakery at every stage of the process, with a particular shout out to its in-store staff.
“The staff really impressed,” said the judges. “Every customer was given a warm welcome; the shelves were constantly replenished; and they showed great product knowledge – particularly around allergens.” All the products sampled were uniformly agreed as “exceptional” and “great value for money”. One judge simply couldn’t stop talking about the toffee apple slice they tried. “Outstanding,” they added.
Away from the in-store visits, the panel was impressed with Birds’ focus on NPD throughout the pandemic as it looked to make full use of existing butchery and chocolate capabilities to produce new product formats and larger pack sizes to maximise availability and sales.
The business, which has more than 60 stores across the East Midlands, was also praised for its operations strategy amid the pandemic which included the incremental opening of stores, using existing vans for home delivery and adapting the Birds by Post range. A complete review of store layouts was also undertaken, and Birds forged ahead with new store openings and refurbishments. Staff training and Birds’ apprenticeship scheme was also highlighted as worthy of praise.
Morrisons is a stalwart of in-store baking – one that is continuously striving for perfection. Notably, the judges said the level of innovation and improvement from a year ago was “significant”.
They also recognised positive change across the bakery offer including new ranges and new packaging to better showcase the products as well as ease consumers’ concerns about unwrapped foods during the pandemic. “Very tasty and great quality,” was the judges’ verdict on the products they sampled.
The investment in additional bakers to work in-store during the afternoons and maintain availability was applauded by the judges, as was the development of in-store doughnut shops which utilised staff’s doughnut making and cake decorating skills. Notably, total doughnut sales increased 40% year on year to top 1.8 million units per week.
Finalist: Paul UK
Paul UK’s impressive training programme was praised by the judges – and witnessed first-hand in one store – for its multi-level approach, as was the group’s commitment to environmental and charitable initiatives with the Felix Project and other organisations.
What also stood out for the judges was the focus on quality seasonal ingredients and the range of beautiful desserts baked daily, which were displayed nicely in store. In 2020 Paul UK partnered with The Food Medic Dr Hazel Wallace to develop a range designed to promote balanced nutritional choices for breakfast or lunch on the go. Products developed include a ‘Vegan Reuben’ sandwich, a jackfruit salad, and an open sandwich with nut butter options.
“We bake for the community, with honest, artisanal ingredients and methods at the heart of it,” the business said.
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