Warburtons' dominance of the British bread market is set to expand across Hovis-dominated south west England following the opening of its £45m Bristol bakery this week.

The Bolton-based business has opened the hi-tech plant with the intention of providing fresher-quality loaves to south west England through faster and more localised van deliveries.

Its rival Hovis currently has a majority share of 18% in this region [Nielsen 52w/e 16 May 2009] while Warburtons has 15%. However, data indicates Hovis's volume growth has slumped 7% in the past year there while Warburtons' sales volumes have risen 29%. It could be "a few years" before the brand knocked Hovis off its top spot in the region, but sales would be boosted by the fresher quality of loaves, predicted Brett Warburton, executive director.

"We have only been down here five minutes and are growing like the clappers," he said. "Previously our bread in the south west has come all the way from our Enfield bakery in north London or Wednesbury just north of the Midlands."

He also expected incremental sales in London and the south east. "The Enfield plant will no longer have to extend its supply across the entire south of England and can better concentrate on the London region."

The opening of the 12-acre production site, which can produce 7,650 loaves an hour, was "fantastically welcomed" by regional retailers, said Warburton.

"They have also welcomed the fact that we are investing £45m into the category during such a tough economic climate."