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Taking artisan qualities into the mainstream

Across Continental Europe, the majority of consumers (eight in 10) agree that bread baked in bakeries tastes better than packaged bread. Even in the UK, where the vast majority of bread is industrially-made, six in 10 consumers agree with this statement.

Yet the convenience and lower price of packaged bread is continuing to win out over the superior taste and quality of products available in the artisan channel, especially as younger consumers are more likely to value convenience and low price.

The recent growth of in-store bakeries in mainstream retail is reflective of the ‘middle-ground’ opportunity for fresher, better quality positioned products married to a degree of convenience. A significant proportion of European consumers (almost half in Italy and Spain for example) would be prepared to upgrade in their choice of supermarket bread if they knew it was recently baked.

It is no surprise to see that freshness is the dominant issue for consumers when choosing bread, well ahead of type and price. Younger consumers again rate price significantly higher though: in Germany, an average of 59% of consumers select price as an important consideration in choosing bread, rising to 72% among 16-24 year olds.

There is a significant opportunity for packaged bread producers to enhance the freshness and taste attributes of their products, at an affordable price, to better replicate the quality available via the artisan channel.

Premium ranges of speciality breads are certainly an option to elevate the packaged offer. In the UK, for example, speciality breads have been the star performer of the category with value sales growth of 8% between 2010 and 2011, against overall bread market growth of just 2%.

It is also worth noting that mass produced food with artisanal qualities is not a misnomer. In a world where automation and mass production are simplifying life, there is an increased role for products and services that deliver a ‘human touch’. In recent years the artisan concept has transitioned to machine made food through small batch production and natural ingredients. In North America and the UK, in particular, major manufacturers are co-opting the artisan term to mean higher quality food for the masses.

In bakery, speciality products that promote the use of premium ingredients and packaging, authenticity and naturalness can appeal to supermarket shoppers seeking artisan bakery qualities.