In case you’ve been living under a rock cake this past year, the Beeb has jettisoned the Great British Bake Off. When Channel 4 screens its first series later this year, there’ll be no Mary Berry, no Sue Perkins and no Mel Giedroyc. But apparently they are keeping the massive tent and the bunting. Oh, and Paul Hollywood. He came with the tent.
This: what’s on the box has a big impact on what Brits put in their shopping baskets. Or maybe that should be who’s on the box. Bake Off series three winner John Whaite reckons the annual baking bonanza that coincides with each series isn’t so much a result of the ‘Bake Off effect’, but the ‘Mary Berry effect’. “It’s all about Mary,” he said in our digital feature on home baking last week.
Berry certainly has a lot of fans. Prince William and family are said to follow Mary’s recipes from time to time and Theresa May has professed an adoration for the queen of bakes (their hairdos do have a striking similarity). Perhaps that’s not too surprising, given that two million more people tuned into last year’s Bake Off than voted Tory in the 2015 election.
As we revealed last week, Mary’s influence reached a new high last year, with the number of Brits shopping the supermarkets’ home baking aisles spiking by almost 10% during the series (see our short film on the ‘Mary Berry effect’ above). That’s the largest spike in recent years. With Mary now gone, some have opined that home baking is set to become old hat.
I don’t think it will. Our research shows that nearly half of Brits aged between 25 and 34 now bake at least once a week. As much as I love Mary, I think it will take more than her absence to turn this group off baking. I’d even suggest that Channel 4’s signing of oddball comedian Noel Fielding could elevate baking’s cool in the eyes of younger consumers.
It would also be wrong to suggest that last year’s spike in shoppers was all down to Mary. It’s worth noting that the series started slightly later than in previous years, at a time when more people tend to bake more in preparation for Christmas and Halloween. The timing of the news that Channel 4 was taking over the series (two weeks after the series began) also probably didn’t hurt.
For brands and retailers, the move to Channel 4 represents a massive opportunity in terms of advertising, sponsorship and product placement. The sector could certainly do with a hand; despite the home baking boom, sales of ingredients are down, with brands complaining of lost share to own label and lower promotional levels in store.
As Mary might say, home baking brands have developed rather soggy bottoms. Bake Off series eight could be just what they need.