As the first national lockdown forced high street sandwich chains to close their doors, housebound Brits took to making their own butties by the shedload.
The impact was evident in the supermarket bread aisles. Wrapped loaves are in volume growth for the first time in years, having shifted an extra 49.3 million kilos. Seven of the top 10 brands have upped their unit sales, after increasing production and deliveries to keep up with the rate of panic-buying seen in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Covid-19 initially encouraged consumers to purchase more, with consumers looking to purchase recognised brands they could rely on,” says Nielsen senior client analytics executive Danny Branagan.
“Some manufacturers altered focus to their own ranges, away from producing retailer private-label products while supply was an issue in the first weeks of lockdown.”
Warburtons can testify to the impact. In spring, volumes hit levels “that are only usually seen in our busiest period at Christmas” says Colin Bebbington, the brand’s sales director. “Things stabilised during the summer,” he adds, but the second lockdown saw volumes increase again and Warbies prepared “for another very busy period”.
Even amid this chaos, Warbies managed to keep supply going and even cranked out some NPD with the arrival of its Half & Half range. That helped it net an extra £9m.
Impressive that may be, but it still pales in comparison with the largest gain on this list. Hovis amassed an extra £26.4m amid an eventful year, having been sold in November by joint owners Gores Group and Premier Foods to equity firm Endless for an undisclosed sum.
The brand’s massive gains were driven in part by functional NPD, suggests a spokesman. “Looking after our health is of paramount importance, and we know 34% of consumers are interested in bread with added nutritional benefits,” he says.
To that end, Hovis launched Glorious Grains in July, containing natural sources of copper, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin B1 – said to boost energy, support heart health, help maintain teeth and bones, and support the immune system.
But healthy loaves aren’t a guaranteed formula for success, though. See number three brand Kingsmill, which gave its 50/50 Vitamin Boost loaf a £2m push this year. That wasn’t enough to avoid a 3.2% fall in volume sales, the result of reduced distribution across various retailers.
There was more bad news for the brand when it failed to agree commercial terms with Co-op. As a result, Kingsmill is to stop supplying the retailer with branded and private-label bread from April 2021.
Top Products 2020
In association with Nielsen
|Top 20 Bread Loaves|
|Total volume change:||4.3%||Total Category:||1378.1||51.0||3.8|
|Total Own Label:||292.4||10.1||3.6|
|This year’s rank||Last year’s rank||Brand||Manufacturer||£m||change (£m)||change (%)|
|7||9||Village Bakery||Village Bakeries||6.8||0.8||12.5|
|9||10||Mother’s Pride||Endless LLP||5.8||0.3||5.3|
|10||17||Black Sheep||David Wood Baking||5.7||4.3||304.8|
|11||12||Baker Street||St Pierre Groupe||4.9||1.3||35|
|13||14||Vogel’s||Nicholas & Harris||3.6||0.2||4.9|
|15||13||The Polish Bakery||The Polish Bakery||3.3||–0.2||–6.0|
|17||NEW||Abbott’s Bakery||Allied Bakeries||1.8||1.8||-|
|18||18||Crosta & Mollica||Crosta & Mollica||1.6||0.2||17.8|
|19||20||Country Choice||Country Choice||1.4||0.3||28.1|
The Grocer’s Top Launch
Jason’s Sourdough Geary’s Craft Bakers
The first branded range of loaves from Geary’s, Jason’s Sourdough launched exclusively into M&S just in time for lockdown. The trio – White, Grains & Seeds and Craft Beer (featuring Vixen Copper Ale) – are made from Geary’s proprietary Ciabattin bread, a combo of sourdough and ciabatta. Each is packed in a resealable bag, meaning the bread is “still great after several days”.
Top Products Survey 2020: How Food Came Home
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Bakery & bread: Loaves get long-awaited volume rise