The volume of UK plant bread sold has increased for the first time in 35 years, announced Tesco, after TNS figures revealed marginal growth.
The latest statistics from independent retail analyst TNS Worldpanel, showed sales grew 0.5% (volume) from April 2008 to April 2009. For the comparable period the previous year, they had fallen 0.2%.
According to Tesco, previous statistics from Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show a 35-year decline to 2007.
"Although official records showing the decline in the UK bread market only go back 35 years, it is well known in the baking industry that demand has been decreasing steadily for at least 50," said Tesco bakery category director Scott Clarke. In a past Defra report, Family Food 2007, data showed that 695g of bread were consumed per person per week between 2004-05. This figure then dropped by 2.6% to 677g in 2007.
Tesco said that tightening budgets have resulted in a "massive sandwich revival", as more people are making their own packed lunches. And it has seen sales of white bread shoot up by 10% in the last 12 months.
Brendan Thomas, bakery category buyer (bread and morning goods) at Co-op, said it has also noticed plant bread sales have risen. "There has been a general resurgence in the market, and we’ve seen growth in areas such as white bread," he explained.
The Co-op’s most recent full-year figures revealed it has been outstripping the market in terms of plant bread sales - "15.4% versus 13.1% (market) in value terms and 2.6% vs 0.9% (market) in volume terms", said Thomas.
"From a long-term perspective the consumption of bread has been a very small, but gradual decline over many years, said Gordon Polson, director, Federation of Bakers. He said the recession has provided a bit of a "kick-back" and, over the last 12 months or so, there has been an increase as people have gone back to buying staple products.
Ian Cambridge, Sainsbury’s bread and rolls buyer, added: "For many shoppers plant bread can offer better value - something that is crucial during a recession."
Polson added that the rise in popularity of white bread was due to it being viewed as "an all-round family loaf".