Warburtons has said it is hoping to reinvigorate the sandwich thins market following a sharp drop in overall category sales.

Volume sales of sandwich thins have fallen 18.4% year on year, according to IRI data, with price deflation driving value sales down more steeply, at a 23.6% decline to £53.9m (52w/e 5 November 2016).

The decline in the thins category - once one of the fastest-growing parts of the bread market - has been attributed to factors including slowdowns in product development and promotional activity.

Existing sandwich thin shoppers are spending less in the category and buying the products less often, according to analyst Kantar Worldpanel, which said around 280,000 shoppers have left the category altogether, with some switching to bagels.

And IRI data highlighted a move towards bagel thins, with sales more than doubling in value to £11.7m.

Thins sales performance (IRI)

Warburtons, which launched the first sandwich thins in 2011, said thins had contributed 60% of the growth in the ‘sandwich solutions’ category in the past five years [Nielsen], and remained an important part of the bakery market.

“Shoppers are constantly looking for newness and innovation, so thins growth may not always be constant or exponential,” added a Warburtons spokesperson. “With more brands and competitors entering the market, there has been some duplication and a lack of retail standout in the category, which may have contributed to a recent decline in sales.”

Warburtons added there was significant opportunity to reinvigorate the thins category, flagging up its recently launched Protein Thins as an example of innovation that could bring excitement back to the market.

The company added it was already planning “the next stage of thins development innovation around health and taste”, adding it would “bring entirely new concepts to the sandwich solutions segment”.

Hovis market strategy & planning director Edward Milner said there was a slowing and settling of the sector as a result of a reduction in NPD and promotional displays.

“In addition, some shoppers have switched back to other sectors, including pre-packed loaves as a result of quality improvements and interesting NPD,” he added.

Meanwhile, Allied Bakeries said that, despite the recent decline in category sales, those of its own Kingsmill Thins had risen 48% (Nielsen Scantrack 52 w/e 8 October 2016).