F ollowing the dire lows of the late ’90s supermarket discounting of bread, the baking industry should award itself a pat on the back for restoring value to the industry with a renewed focus on NPD and premium sectors (pg 4); but as the latest Key Note bakery report notes, "the introduction of new premium and super-premium-branded products [has] suffered to an extent from discounting by multiple retailers." So no group hugs or high-fives just yet.
If even super-premium is gradually losing value, the next step will have to be ultra-premium ’foie gras and caviar’ loaves with platinum-lined Louis Vuitton designer bread bags. Whether the Co-op’s plans to make its bakery departments "more exciting" would extend to this (pg 6), remains to be seen.
A more sensible route might be a focus on the changing UK demographics. Households are getting smaller, with nearly half a million added between 2001-05. Plant bakers already offer half-loaves; in Japan, virtually all bread pack sizes are between three to five doorstop-sized slices.
Meanwhile, the population is getting bigger, as those of you who spend the rush-hour intimately acquainted with a stranger’s armpit on a packed train will be delighted to note. Our lands are swelling by an additional 350,000 people each year. But any population increase, however small, is likely to have a positive effect in the market, says the report.
Similarly, the rising UK over-50s population might point the way forward for NPD - or rather OPD (Oldies’ Product Development). And it’s sad to see the "decline of afternoon tea" cited as a reason behind less frequent bakery consumption. I’d urge you all to introduce "cream tea breaks" for your staff at 3pm to reverse this alarming trend.
Talking of tradition, the "traditional bread" sector, which Key Note says covers white, brown and wholemeal, saw healthy gains, up 6.2% in 2006, though white bread sales are unappetisingly described as "sluggish". Meanwhile, the craft bakery sector "changed dramatically" over the 2002-2006 period. Many now see themselves competing with coffee shop chains rather than ISBs. And, with the demise of Benjys (pg 5), there will be one competitor fewer on the high street.