Meet the buyers…

Meeta Jassi, buyer for home baking, Budgens

Meeta has been working in buying for many years. She joined Budgens two years ago in chilled food before moving to her current position in ambient grocery. Her favourite part of the job is seeing NPD come to life and taking something ”genuinely exciting” to the consumer.


Keith Parkinson, buyer, Booths

Keith is celebrating his 10th anniversary at the Booths central office, having worked across a wide range of categories. He moved to the ambient team in the later part of 2014 to be responsible for home baking as well as bakery and preserves. Being part of a “great team of characters” is one of his favourite parts of the job.

Is the Mary Berry effect slowing? How much growth is their left in the home baking category?

KP: I’m sure this will return with the new series and, if anything, I think it will encourage more experimentation as Home bakers become more adventurous and confident.

MJ: No I don’t think it is, the Great British Bake Off has been a phenomenal success, I don’t think anyone expected it to turn into a seriously on-trend show, but it has and it shows no signs of slowing. Mary and the team really got people interested in baking again and during each series there’s usually a spike in sales. People are now trying all kinds of baking so there is certainly still room for growth.

What impact is the war on sugar having on the home baking category?

MJ: I don’t really think it is making a difference here. People are aware that baking and cakes involve sugar and these items are intended to be for treats rather than every day. Also, there’s still a lot of scepticism surrounding artificial sugar.

Of course there’s always room for ‘healthy’ baking alternatives, we have a range called Cookie Crumbles that offers healthier baking kits for kids including gluten free options, lower sugar and fat which are great for those people who are looking for an alternative.

KP: More and more people are watching their sugar intake. However, what better way is there to control it than to bake yourself and control the ingredients that go into your treats?

What was the best launch in home baking in 2014 and why?

MJ: Last year was all about the accessories and decoration; it was about taking regular baking and adding that extra touch of sparkle for a professional finish. We added a lot of new lines from Dr Oetker which enabled our customers to take their baking to the next level such as gooey cupcake fillings, different types of frosting and decorative pieces.

KP: We have recently launched some lines from Sugar and Crumbs – flavoured icing sugars that we are hoping should be very successful with our customer base. My predecessor saw this company at one of our meet the buyer events which are proving very successful at finding some great products and companies to deal with.

How will the home baking market shape up in 2015?

KP: I think volumes should be ok, although I think as the age base for home baking gets younger maybe customers will look to be more adventurous while being heath conscious. Portion control may be high on the agenda with a move towards making small treat size cakes and bites. I expect the free from categories to grow as things like gluten free become more mainstream.

MJ: It will continue on its current path – adding more choice for consumers who have a renewed passion for baking and who are getting increasingly proficient in it. We’ll continue to see developments in the technical end as consumers get more scientific, are keen to experiment with more unusual flavour combinations and more advanced techniques. 2015 is about people moving on from just making fancy cupcakes and flexing their skills on breads and more complex bakes, and making their own accompaniments too like jams and conserves.

What’s the best way for a supplier to approach you with a new product?

MJ: For me it’s all centred on the USP; they have to approach by clearly identifying what’s great about the product and bring something genuinely new and not something that’s just a duplication of something we already have. It also helps when they show how the product fits into a complete solution rather than just being a standalone product. It’s also essential to hear how they think their product will add to incremental sales and how it will excite the consumer.

KP: The meet the buyer events for new suppliers is a great way of getting in front of the relevant buyers.

What’s your pet hate when approached by a brand with NPD?

MJ: When the supplier can’t articulate how the proposition is going to add something new to the current range, if they haven’t done their research they won’t be able to do this. But, if they haven’t done their research then they really shouldn’t be pitching to me.

KP: I find it very frustrating when a supplier hasn’t visited our store to have a look at the Booths offer, or start the meeting by attacking other brands – let your product do the talking!