An epic year for the big bread brands

Rumours that Wayne Rooney would be the new face of Hovis didn’t transpire, but 2008 was definitely the year bread marketeers spent big. Epic adverts and NPD marked a year of astonishing change, as the tumultuous rise in wheat prices played havoc with the market.

Unfortunately for Hovis, its September relaunch arrived too late to prevent a paltry year for growth but bread overall enjoyed an impressive 16.2% leap to £1.8bn. As well as being one of the last staples likely to be sacrificed by cash-strapped consumers, bread’s value growth was bolstered by higher shelf prices, up 20% over the year because of continuing inflation of ingredients costs. Volumes fell by 0.4%.

But with Premier forced to put up its prices a lot earlier than rivals as its contracts were shorter, Hovis was in the wrong place at the wrong time and sales volumes plummeted. Pledging an end to the problems, a healthier recipe for Hovis’s standard white loaf was introduced in the spring. Happy with the taste, the entire Hovis range was relaunched in September, with new 400g loaves, new logo, retro packaging and a £30m blockbuster ad that set out to celebrate the brand’s 122-year history.

Top Launch - Hovis  Little Brown Loaf 
Premier Foods had to look back 122 years to find the loaf that would champion the heavyweight revival of its iconic bread brand in September. The Little Brown Loaf was first introduced in 1886. It was the perfect product to spearhead Hovis's nostalgia-heavy marketing campaign. Transparent packaging makes the most of the fresh baked crust and it tastes really good, too.
The celebrations will have to wait for now: Hovis’s meagre 1.9% growth to £388.8m is dwarfed by Warburtons and Kingsmill. Hot on Hovis’s heels with a 24.8% growth to £321.9m is ABF-owned Kingsmill. ABF had the burgeoning health market in mind when it spent £3m to relaunch its Kingsmill Gold range in February and added Soft & Crunchy and Wholesome & Nutty lines.

But with £105m in extra sales, Warburtons has almost doubled its lead over Hovis. As well as adding a Wholemeal Fibre Boost loaf to its range, Warburtons introduced a new 600g loaf. And with new southern plants aided by a £22m ad spend for 2008, it recorded a year-on-year brand share increase of 96% in southern England.

But Hovis was still the stand-out launch for Paul Batchelor, business manager at Nisa-Today’s. Just as Kingsmill’s February 2007 relaunch took several months to take effect, he predicted better times ahead for the number two brand.

“Hovis has clearly had the most significant launch and the nostalgic advertising really captured the imagination of the consumer,” he says. “The campaign was well planned, well executed and almost certain to reinvigorate the brand. With Warburtons now practically national and big money being invested in Hovis, things are really hotting up in bread and one can only assume that the next salvo will be fired by ABF.”

Meanwhile, the £2m Biblical art-inspired ad campaign for Allinson in April led to a 11.5% growth to £23.7m. But the public’s demand for healthy products saw low-calorie brands Nimble and Burgen shrinking.

View The Grocer's definitive Top Products 2008 survey