Holiday park chain Bourne Leisure had just six weeks before the start of last year’s caravanning season to reinvigorate the bakery products sold at its 34 caravan parks in the UK.

The company had come to the conclusion that its existing offer was "old and tired" and failing to communicate the necessary warmth and freshness that should be associated with bakeries. "Bakery sales had become static," confesses Bourne Leisure’s retail trading controller, Caroline McKenzie.

So the company called in a new supplier, Cuisine de France, with a two-fold brief to boost business growth at Bourne Leisure’s caravan park shops. First, Cuisine de France, winner of this year’s Customer Focus Award, sponsored by BakeMark UK, at the Baking Industry Awards, was to help devise a new ’food-to-go’ brand that would appeal to caravan customers during the 32 weeks from March to October. Secondly, Bourne Leisure wanted "fresh thinking" on how to drive bakery sales upwards.

The outcome of the subsequent rebranding exercise and shake-up in products has seen a 17% surge in retail business on the sites since early 2006. McKenzie says the results were achieved by root-and-branch changes. "We restructured the bakery working day, turning it into an ’all-day’ operation rather than losing valuable sales during a key trading period in the late afternoon."

The total category split between food-to-go and bakery sales "has now been reversed," adds McKenzie, with bakery accounting for 62% and food-to-go taking a 38% share. "This has made the whole category more profitable, as more spend is coming from non-VAT products," says McKenzie.

She is confident that the tie-up with Cuisine de France can deliver even more improvements for the future. "By working together closely, we’ve identified further opportunities to drive sales and increase cash margins," she says.

On top of creating a new brand that would be easily understood by customers, there were three other challenges facing Bourne Leisure and Cuisine de France:

l to reduce the bakery range so that the more popular products could be baked little and often, to help them maintain all-day freshness;

l to supply a range of popular sandwich fillings from a frozen delivery network to give them a two-day shelf life, from frozen. The company says the "all-day snacking culture" at its parks makes chilled sandwiches a major part of its food-to-go offer;

l to create take-up among park managers and staff.

McKenzie admits that the changes met with some resistance at first, saying: "It took our management teams time to adapt to the change, but once they saw the success of the new way of working, they rose to the challenge. The other key ingredients that have contributed to our success are the equipment, branding and training support."

Cuisine de France was also aware of the challenge when Bourne Leisure approached them at the beginning of 2006. "As a new supplier to Bourne Leisure, we had to prove quickly that we could add value and drive a profitable business through innovation and a fresh approach," says a spokesperson. By combining our efforts, we’ve been able to unlock the true sales potential of the in-store bakery and food-to-go brand in the holiday parks.

"We have introduced a more hands-on approach, including weekly call coverage from the field sales team to ensure all opportunities are maximised, with particular focus on product quality and availability. The Cuisine de France national account manager and the Bourne Leisure trading controller visit the parks together to discuss opportunities at individual sites." n