With nearly half of shoppers’ buying bread more than once a week and 41% buying weekly, the category has the highest purchasing frequency that Visuality has captured since conducting its shopper research for The Grocer.

Customers in this category exhibited positive shopping behaviours, knowing what they wanted and looking to find the brand through recognition of the pack colour. A high percentage briefly checked to see they had the right pack, due to confusion over white, brown and wholemeal.

In all the stores we visited, the display was divided into fresh bread baked in the store and pre-packed bread. We included rolls, pitta bread and the like in our observations. We also studied the instore bakery separately from the pre-packed fixture.

It was notable that the bread displays were difficult to keep neat. Once a shopper had put back a loaf in the wrong place or on top of the shelf, the displays began to look rather untidy.

Checking date codes and selecting the loaf from the back also added to the difficulties of keeping shelves looking neat.

We oberved high levels of footfall at both pre-packed and fresh. One issue to watch is the question of hygiene - the fresh bread was felt to be exposed to all the germs and dust found in the store. We know in other categories that shoppers do not like to buy a food product they have seen another shopper touch. Some shoppers we interviewed were very aware of how easily bread fell into this.

Shoppers are quite particular about their bread needs and buy to meet usage, for example thick sliced for toast, fresh for sandwiches or pitta bread for kids school lunches.

You might have thought the task of buying bread was simple but some shoppers have a lot to consider when buying. Choices and preferences of family members can make the task quite complex.

One female shopper had to buy a farmhouse bloomer for her husband, Nimble for herself and white rolls and pitta bread for the children’s school lunches.

Not one single shopper had been drawn into the category by the appeal of the display or the smell of fresh bread. These customers were all frequent shoppers of the store and bread was on the mental or written shopping list.

Once at the display, a few shoppers were encouraged or tempted to buy an additional bread but they were in the minority.

Over 50% bought own label (pre-packed and/or fresh) while 47% bought branded products.

Shoppers have a repertoire of bread, driven quite often by the different usage occasions, and are willing to vary the ones they buy. When asked whether they always bought the same type/brand, 43% said no. There appeared to be a degree of switching across the different leading brands rather than from own label to brands and vice versa.

The shoppers were not heavily influenced by deals, with only 8% saying they had bought a product as it was on offer. The fact they and their families liked it was of the greatest priority, with 43% citing this as the reason for selection.