Recent statistics released by market development consultancy Food from Britain (FFB) show British bakery exports are booming, with sales of bread, biscuits and cakes increasing by nearly 7% over the January-September 2006 period, reaching £351 million. And with UK companies respected for their high-quality products, there has never been a better time to look to new markets overseas.
"The UK baking industry is acknowledged as being among the most innovative in the world," says Chris Brockman, research manager at FFB. "This reputation gives British companies an excellent advantage when it comes to developing a sales network in foreign countries. International markets differ considerably, with consumer tastes and trends varying from country to country. However, our extensive research can accurately pinpoint the various opportunities that exist for specific product types in individual markets."
The recent research has identified the biscuit market in the USA as a key growth area for British products, with exports to the country rising by more than 21% between 2004 and 2005. According to Pavel Kolarov, senior consultant at FFB North America, this is largely due to the excellent reputation of British products in this sector, partly fuelled by the large expatriate communities and a strong tourist market.
"With the country as large as it is, it’s difficult to generalise trends and opportunities on a national level," says Kolarov. "For instance, British biscuits are understandably more popular in areas with large expatriate communities, such as Florida and the East Coast, and California.
"We have established, however, that there are certain types of biscuit that are proving increasingly popular with US consumers, leading to opportunities for British exporters." For example, British premium chocolate-coated biscuits have always been well-received by the American public. However, as UK chocolate is very different and a lot richer than American chocolate, these products are seen as indulgent, luxury items, not mass-market products as they are in the UK.
Growth in healthy snacking
The UK is now seeing increased consumer demand for healthy snacking and, according to Pavel, this trend is being echoed in the health-focused American snack market. Water crackers and crispbreads are proving popular, with British companies such as Carr’s and Jacob’s establishing themselves in the US market as the demand for low-fat and ’free-from’ alternatives increases, opening up new opportunities for British firms.
"Although numerous American companies are producing low-fat biscuits, there will always be room for British alternatives on supermarket shelves," says Kolarov. However, where British manufacturers have the real edge is in the production of snack products for allergy sufferers. Whereas the UK market has been quick to pick up on this potentially huge sector, American producers have been slow to react. British expertise in this area is widely respected, with American consumers now coveting the choice and quality of products enjoyed by their British counterparts.
"Gluten-free items are especially sought after, and I would urge any British companies manufacturing these products to seriously look into taking advantage of this opportunity."
According to FFB’s Nordic office, opportunities exist for British bakery companies closer to home, too, with exports of breads, pastries and cakes to Denmark increasing by an impressive 17.7% between 2005 and 2006, reaching a value of £9.4m.
Jakob True, director of FFB Nordic, believes this increase can be partly attributed to the growth in popularity of in-store bakeries in large supermarkets and hypermarkets. "Many more large food stores in the region are following the British trend of having in-store bakeries," he says. "This has created a huge opportunity for British own-label companies who can now supply ready-to-bake products.
"In-store bakeries are proving very profitable for the supermarkets, as they provide a good image and an enticing aroma and Danish firms are looking to capitalise on British expertise in this sector."
opportunities for Own-label bread
Speciality bread from Britain is also highly regarded in Denmark and across the Nordic region. UK producers are seen as being at the forefront of this product segment, whereas many speciality products, especially of ethnic origin, are relatively new to Nordic consumers.
"The introduction of speciality breads into Nordic markets has been tremendously popular," says True. "Nordic stores have been, and still are, looking to British companies to help develop this new segment in the market, and many producers are taking advantage of that opportunity."
Honeytop Speciality Foods is one such company. The firm, which was recently named ’Cereals Exporter of the Year’ at the annual Food from Britain Export Awards, exports naan breads to several countries across Europe, with Denmark and the wider Nordic region representing more than 40% of its total export sales.
After researching the market, the company identified own-label as the best way to get its naan breads to market and, in 2005, it was awarded a contract to supply supermarkets Bilka, Føtex, and Netto, all part of the Dansk Supermarked group.
"Supplying Dansk Supermarked stores has given a tremendous boost to our export business," says Pauline Ball, business development controller for Europe at Honeytop. Multilingual packaging had to be developed and a suitable display carton had to be designed to suit the stores’ automated warehousing and on-shelf display requirements. Recipe changes had to be made, due to legislative requirements, but some changes were also made to the flavour profile to suit Danish consumers’ tastes.
"It has been a very successful exercise that has now led to us expanding into other Nordic markets, including Finland, where we have now secured a listing in Kesko, the largest retail store in the country." n
? For advice on exporting bakery goods, contact Food from Britain on 0207 233 5111 or visit [http://www.foodfrombritain.co.uk].