High street bakers need to target young consumers, adapting range and approach, to ensure long-term survival, according to new independent research supplied exclusively to British Baker.

Currently, retail bakers have a loyal but ageing and low-spending customer base, says the report from Management Horizons Europe, commissioned by ingredients supplier BakeMark UK.

The typical customer in a retail bakery falls into the over-50s age group, visits once a week (74%) and buys something every visit (94%), with an average spend of £2.85.

Those aged 18-30, who often fall into the ’cash-rich, time-poor’ bracket and are willing to trade up to high quality, convenient products, account for just 21% of customers.

The findings, based on exit surveys, one-to-one interviews with bakers and discussion groups, suggest that bakers need to develop more food-to-go ranges, speciality breads, healthy breads, innovative shop interiors and promotions.

’Eat now’ lines were considered crucial to attracting younger consumers, with 89% of younger (18-24) consumers surveyed saying they would eat their purchase from the bakery immediately, while older customers were more likely to take it home.

The report says sandwiches are now bakeries’ most profitable line and that bakers have 20.2% of the sandwich market.

Consumers surveyed had a high opinion of sandwiches from the local bakery. Many said they would also welcome the opportunity to select from chiller cabinets displaying freshly made sandwiches.

Meal deals were popular among lunchtime shoppers, yet 76% of people said they did not see any special offers or deals in their local bakers - underpinning a perception that bakers do not always offer value.

Bakers also need to improve their in-store advertising to ensure consumers take advantage of deals - and encourage repeat business, the report suggests.

The research found that bakers are shying away from putting a premium on prices, despite superiority in freshness and quality. Those that have, often find a positive reception. One baker noted: "People will pay twice the price of a supermarket for my product."