hovis white bread

Sales of white sliced bread are not going stale as once believed, but on the rise in 2023

The death of white sliced bread has been greatly exaggerated. So suggests this year’s performance, which marks a turnaround on its long-running demise. It’s now enjoying something of a resurrection, as cash-conscious shoppers alter their bread buying habits.

“Households are increasingly moving towards pre-packaged white bread, which can often be the cheapest loaf and is most likely to satisfy the needs of multiple people,” explains Alistair Gaunt, Hovis commercial director.

But brands haven’t been the ones to benefit from this money-saving shift. Janette Chow, NIQ senior analytic executive, says “branded volume shifted to private label white bread”.

Branded or own label – which bread sells more? 

Price is a key factor here. “Private label remains at a lower rsp and has benefited from non-loyal branded consumers switching,” says Karen Smith, Roberts Bakery marketing controller.

The effect has been polarising. Own label bread has delivered a 4.6% unit gain – the equivalent of 18.6 million packs. On the flip side, brands are down 8.5%, or 73.3 million units. Just one of the top 10 brands, Jason’s, has recorded an increase in volumes. It’s up 127.7% thanks to distribution gains.

Jason’s has also recorded a robust value gain of 153.3%. It isn’t alone in this regard. Seven of the top 10 have grown their top lines, with price hikes playing a key role. Prices have risen 17.9% on average, making branded loaves 38p dearer than own label ones.

But price isn’t shoppers’ only concern, Warburtons insists. Quality remains a key purchase driver, says sales director Colin Bebbington. “Quality is essential, and innovation can make the difference for brands. For example, our Tiger Bloomer is now the fastest-growing branded loaf in the market.”

Certainly, Warbies has outperformed the market in volume terms, with a 2.4% loss versus a 4.4% decline in the total category.

Kingsmill hoping to get a sales rise out of brand investment

Closest rivals Hovis and Kingsmill have fared less well. Their volumes are down 13.2% and 21.7% respectively.

Plus, Kingsmill is one of the three top 10 bread brands to record a decline in value, too. But owner Allied Bakeries remains “extremely positive” about the future for the brand, says marketing head Emma Eggleton. “We are excited at seeing our long-term investment in the brand and our supply chain come together to make sure our products remain at the heart of bakery aisles.”

Allied is also investing in its struggling Allinson’s brand, down by double digits. “We’ve worked hard to maximise in-store visibility and following some well-positioned promotions,” says Eggleton. “September saw an improvement of the brand’s fortunes with sales of Champion Wholemeal and Scandalous Seeds up 55% in the month.”

Top Launch 2023

Soft Naans | Warburtons

Warbs Naans

Warburtons has spent £400m on innovation in the past decade. Most recently, that’s culminated in the summer launch of this convenient naan. The square Soft Naans (rsp: £1.50/4x57g) can be popped in a toaster and warmed in under two minutes. As well as being an accompaniment for curries, they work well as a pizza base or as a snack, Warbies says. And they’ve gone down a storm with shoppers, adds sales director Colin Bebbington. “There is a real appreciation for their versatility.”

Face off: Top Products Survey 2023 pits brands vs own-label