Daily bread? Not so much. As the long-term fall in consumption continues, there’s no relief for sliced loaves, unable to sustain growth as volumes slip further into decline. Own label, last year in respectable growth, has had a bad time of it, with The Co-op particularly losing out - something Nielsen senior client manager Angelos Georgiou attributes to consumers shifting away from the retailer for top-up shops.

It’s not necessarily a case of consumers eschewing all bakery products, more that they’re simply not using their loaves. Georgiou blames the category’s fortunes on “a change in habits, with consumers switching to alternative bakery products or in-store baked bread”. And it’s certainly true that vigorous NPD, especially in the sandwich alternatives market, has continued to pose stiff competition to sliced white (and wholemeal).

That said, there’s also been NPD within the sliced loaves arena. Take second-placed Hovis, which rolled out a premium British Farmers loaf in soft white and wholemeal variants in April. Unfortunately it wasn’t universally well received, and was delisted by Asda in the summer. And with October’s news that Hovis’ branded and own-label lines will be axed from The Co-op by mid-2013 after it lost the £75m contract to rival Allied Bakeries, the company can’t afford too many such setbacks. The one positive is that after the 2011 Tesco fallout, value sales are back in growth, though volumes have yet to follow suit.

Top-placed Warburtons, meanwhile, extended its range of sandwich alternatives this year, introducing easy-to-fill Sandwich Pittas in March, followed by square naan breads in April. And Warburtons has been investing in morning goods, too, launching a range of brioche in January.

Breakfast has also been paying off for Kingsmill, whose Fruit & Fibre range of sliced loaves, muffins and bagels won The Grocer’s top bread launch of 2012 (see below). Made from a blend of wholemeal and white flour, it taps into the shift away from white bread, which has “had a rather bad year”, says Georgiou. “Healthier options such as Warburtons’ Half & Half are stealing consumers and free-from is doing particularly well.”

Indeed, Genius is one of only three top 10 brands in volume growth. And as stablemate Allinson continues to decline, the trend for ‘healthier’ products has kept Burgen - which launched its third variant, a sunflower & chia seed loaf, in April - looking healthy in both value and volume terms. But it seems demand for better-for-you breads doesn’t extend to diet brands value sales of Weight Watchers bread have fallen markedly and low-calorie Nimble, although it has clung on to 10th spot, continues to decline.

TOP LAUNCH 2012
Kingsmill Fruit & Fibre Allied Bakeries

Kingsmill Fruit&Fibre

Breakfast products are the fastest-growing segment of the ambient bread market - and it was with this in mind that Kingsmill launched, in August, the Fruit & Fibre range. Designed to be less sticky and dense than conventional bakery products, the range features a sliced loaf, bagels and muffins, all of which contain berries and pieces of fruit. It will compete with rival breads and fruit loaves - as well as breakfast biscuits - for a share of the burgeoning ‘healthy breakfast’ market.

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