The volume of wrapped bread may be down but the value of this sector rose by 2% and is now worth more than £1bn [Taylor Nelson Sofres]. Reflecting on the past 12 months, the Federation of Baker's director John White says there has been a significant move into the premium end of the market, and that what the industry should really be shouting about is that it's growing very well. "There has been a lot of investment by companies in their brands, terrific npd, and retailers ought to be getting in and supporting it. Two years ago there was almost a lack of belief in plant bread across the board. You almost got sucked in by the publicity that we were making 24 slices of cardboard. But we are making the best value product money can buy, with almost total penetration, so let's start looking at the positive." While pricing isn't as big an issue as it was, there is still the problem of loss leadering which, White says, is still there. "The problem for the federation is that it's up to retailers to price as it sees fit. But from an industry point of view, bread sold at 19p devalues the whole product. "We now want to communicate to retailers and consumers that it's a really good product and good value." A chance for the whole industry to rally behind bread is in October when the federation will stage its first British Bread Month to coincide with World Bread Day. Plans are afoot to turn it into a promotional arena providing an opportunity for both manufacturers and retailers which, says director John White, will allow us to shout about bread. Allied Bakeries, British Bakeries and Warburtons claim equal responsibility for the revival of the bread market amid the battles for brand supremacy. British Bakeries says all its hard work last year paid off and claims that latest figures for the year to March from TNS Retailer Scantrack show that year-on-year Hovis was the fastest growing non alcoholic brand and the second fastest growing brand. It says it beat Allied Bakeries in the white bread stakes with a 19.9% share compared with Kingsmill's 18.6%. British Bakeries brand director Paula Moss says bread as a category is not known for high growth anyway, but "with half decent marketing, you can make a difference with a brand and make it perform". "People tend to think of us as a brown bread manufacturer, never a white bread performer," says Moss. "On the relaunch we went unashamedly for the family with white bread and our audience has increased. "We have driven growth of the core range and the Best of Both, attracting people from a lower price point product to our products. Growth has come from Best of Both, as well as the new look cucumber and baked bean image packs on shelf at 65p which appeal to a mainstream audience." Moss says Best of Both is now a £30m brand, while in the core range Hovis baked beans' white square cut bread is the company's bestseller, striking the right note by reflecting a basic kids' meal of beans on toast. It has grown 127.6%," says Moss. Moss believes in keeping up the momentum and new for 2002 is the company's first foray into functional bread with the launch of Mothers Pride V-Force, a vitamin, calcium and folic acid packed bread range specially developed for kids. Using Mothers Pride's heritage as a family-orientated brand, the company hopes to appeal to modern mums. Moss says it is aimed at households which buy a lot of standard and value bread and who, it hopes, will be encouraged to trade up. "By putting in the vitamins, a lot of mums will buy into it," she adds. Allied Bakeries too takes credit for the new improved bread market citing last year's launch of Kingsmill Whole White to rival British Bakeries' Best of Both as a notable example. The last 12 months have been exciting but pressured, says commercial director Bart Dalla Mura. "It was hard to get a price increase through the trade but we did it. We shut three bakeries in 2001 and there has been consolidation. "But we are driving the value of the products as it's the only way to get value back into the market. It's about improving quality. "The economy loaf solves a need for some consumers, but if you compare premium bread with other foodstuffs it's great value at 59p." Kingsmill, he says, goes from strength to strength, up 8% year-on-year in March, and, while British Bakeries continues its assault on the white bread sector, Allied Bakeries has its sights fixed on the brown. Dalla Mura says that, according to ACNielsen, Allied Bakeries is number one in white and growing in brown. "There is a real opportunity in the wholemeal sector. That's why we relaunched Allinson which is still known for traditional wholemeal goodness." Allied Bakeries upgraded its Allinson range in January, added Allinson Golden Oat to it, and introduced new packaging. The rejuvenation of its products also includes the relaunch of Kingsmill Gold, a new white seeded loaf, new 400g versions of Kingsmill White Gold and Kingsmill Malted Wheat aimed at single person households, plus Queensmill, a loaf to mark the celebrations of the Queen's golden jubilee. An upgrade of its crusty products will follow. Warburton's business development director Roz Cuschieri says the price movement across the board was good to see. It reflected a willingness to put additional value back into a category which hadn't seen it for years, she says. "And it reflects the shoppers' move away from value products into premium and super premium. If you look over 24 months, the successful products have been in the upper end of the market. "The industry's move from value to super premium is the key message to get to consumers. Many fmcg areas are looking for variety and help to provide something for their families that's tasty and nutritious." Cuschieri says its strength is the depth of its range which now consists of 54 lines. Its share of the £74m 400g wrapped bread sector it claims is 66%, its biggest success being the launch in September of its small crusty loaf which achieved £1m sales by January. Last month it added an oat batch and a malted batch to its 400g premium line up. "When you see how many single households there are and the growing grey population, you can see how that is affecting the demographics of the bread market. "Should the 400g be appropriate for you then there should be something in the Warburton's range." Another of Warburton's successes has been fruity loaves. Category marketing controller Maggie Quinn says: "The one that surprised us last year was the Hot Cross Bun Loaf. All did well but that one doubled its sales in 2002. It attracted the greys' who have it in the traditional way with a cup of tea, but we are also attracting pre family and young families." The company's only glitch was the failure of Bake & Share, its continental style ready-to-bake flat bread and tear-and-share rolls. "It was important for us," says Quinn, "because it took the brand into a new area of the market. "But it didn't achieve the volumes we hoped for. It has only just come off the market and we are taking time out to review it." Last month the company opened its second plant at its Wednesbury site which will produce 800g loaves enabling it to increase capacity and to go after more business. Meantime the company is continuing its new product development programme, and there is some "exciting" activity planned for the summer. All three major players are vigorously supporting their brands this year. Allied's spend is in excess of £6m. "TV ads for Allinson have just finished, but we have press and poster coverage which will go on throughout the summer," says Dalla Mura. Meanwhile British Bakeries' brand support has been upped by £2.5m to £9.5m for 2002 and, Moss says, will include brands being on television for 48 weeks out of 52. V-Force is planned to be on air in June, while at the same time a new ad campaign kicks off for diet brand Nimble. Warburtons is also continuing its marketing activity around the Respect the Bread campaign it created in 2001. The brand has just come off regional TV and has now moved to poster ads. "Respect the Bread embodied everything Warburtons is and we are happy with that campaign," says Cuschieri. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}