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The brands seeing significant gains in bread are mostly small and artisanal

Britain’s bread is no longer rising. The end of lockdowns has meant fewer at-home sandwich and toast occasions – which in turn has put an end to the short-lived boom in sales of wrapped loaves. The category has lost £52.0m, wiping out the £51.0m gain reported in last year’s Top Products.

The category’s loss is largely down to the performances of Warburtons and Kingsmill, ranked at number one and three respectively. They’ve shed £56.7m between them, and are among the 14 brands in decline in the top 20.

Bucking the downward trend in everyday bread, however, is second-placed Hovis, which has made an extra £13.6m. That’s down to “a combination of enhanced consumer product experience, distribution gains and the fact that in times of difficulty it is normal consumer behaviour to revert to brands they trust and products they can count on” says Hovis commercial director Alistair Gaunt.

The brand also boosted its premium credentials in April, launching the four-strong Bakers Since 1886 range – including white and seeded half-cob loaves – and enlisting chef Tom Kerridge for a TV push.

A month later, Warburtons unveiled George Clooney as the star of its latest ad. As such, Warbies is confident in its fortunes, despite the £17.4m slump. “Relative brand performance was strong, with value share of total wrapped bakery remaining stable while competitors saw their shares decline” says its category development controller Carl Pickett.


Allied Bakeries joint MD Chris Craig is similarly bullish. He insists Kingsmill is performing well on a like-for-like basis and would be up 5% year on year in the top six retailers if compared with 2019.

Category volume sales “also remain higher than we had forecast at this point, had the pandemic not occurred” he says.

Both Warburtons and Kingsmill are betting on healthier, posher launches to return growth – like Warburtons’ recent Half White, Half Wholemeal range, for instance. The brand also intends to splash £56m on ramping up production of non-bread lines such as bagels and crumpets – which Pickett says are a key area of growth – and in April it launched a range of soft pittas.

But with the exception of Hovis, the brands seeing significant gains are largely small and artisanal. Take Black Sheep, up 22.1% in value, and Crosta & Mollica, up 26.7%, both of which have a considerably higher average price than the category’s big three names.

The boom in smaller brands is indicative of shoppers fleeing the middle ground of loaves for either cheaper own-label bread – up £1.3m – or posher suppliers, says NielsenIQ analyst Danny Branigan. “This bimodal growth will continue, with everyday brands likely to suffer more.”

Top Launch 2021

Superloaf | Modern Baker


Is this the future of wrapped bread? Superloaf is the world’s first ‘smart bread’, claims Modern Baker. It’s a hi-tech seeded loaf that promises to promote gut health and support normal immune function. Plus, it’s lower in calories. The result of five years’ R&D in partnership with several scientific organisations, the sliced loaf (rsp: £2.50/800g) contains 208kcals per 100g – about 23% fewer calories than standard seeded bread. Superloaf launched in March exclusively via Amazon Fresh.

The Grocer’s Top Products Survey 2021: who’s up, who’s down – and our overview of the key trends