Last updated on September 9th, 2022 at 05:14 pm
The International Baking Industry Exposition is back and this time, St Pierre is on the scene. St Pierre Bakery has been carving out a space in the American bakery market since 2015. Ahead of IBIE in Las Vegas, The Shelby Report talks to St Pierre Bakery Customer Development Director, Jake Huber.
Read more on why he believes only brand can drive category growth and how St Pierre is bringing brioche to the masses and avoiding the race to the bottom that plagues other areas of grocery.
St Pierre is a brand in growth and is dominating the branded brioche arena, with a 19 per cent share of market, what’s the secret to success?
It might be the worst-kept secret ever, but it’s all about our quality. As a brand, we set out our stall early on – St Pierre is a quality brand offering authentic baked goods. We work hard to present that quality in every aspect of the brand – from how we help retailers to merchandise and activate the brand in-store, to our digital comms that share inspiration with shoppers on how to use our products.
Our consistency is the other key element. We don’t allow our products to look totally different from one another. A lot of buyers aren’t used to having suppliers who are so stringent on quality and the consistency of it. We take care of the details from product right through to education and that’s no small task. In fact, we’re still operating in a market where 60 per cent of US shoppers don’t know what brioche is. The St Pierre brand is making brioche accessible to the mass market, without compromising on quality.
We’re the real deal, doing brioche as it’s meant to be done, authentically produced and just like the brioche you would get in Paris. What’s more, buyers are starting to figure out how we can help them, because the numbers don’t lie. They see the results, the rate of sale on our products, our merchandising increasing sales in other areas of the perimeter because we provide a trip-trigger. We invest a lot of time and resource in delivering an experience for consumers and working in collaboration with retail partners to make sure it works for their stores and their customers. That partnership gives us an edge beyond the product quality which is really paramount to our success.
Obviously, there are challenges in the market at the moment – around supply chain and distribution – how are you overcoming those?
I’ve been working in CPG and bakery for more years than I care to reveal, but this is the nature of the beast. Life happens, new challenges present themselves, from pandemics to wars and world events. Granted, the past few years have been unlike anything we’ve experienced before but we’ve been agile and the business hasn’t been afraid to invest – even in uncertain climates.
At the end of last year we invested more than $10 million into ensuring we had stock in-country, ready to maintain our stellar service levels. Our fill rates average 98 per cent and have not fallen below 96 per cent in three years. We have spent the last two years preparing for growth; I’ve joined the team as Director of Sales, we have built a dedicated US sales team, we’ve opened an office in Cincinnati and we are protecting our supply chain and distribution by making sure we are ready for a bumper summer of sales. We deliver on time and in full – not because we could see any of these recent world events coming down the line, but because we believe in the brand and its potential. The opportunity and potential reward far outweigh the risk.
How do you balance your premium position with the commoditization we see in the bakery sector in particular?
It’s an interesting debate, but St Pierre will never compromise on quality. That is the hallmark of our brand and the fact remains that brands drive trial.
Shoppers don’t go in-store and get excited about private label. We have faced resistance because we don’t buy into that ‘race to the bottom’, but our numbers speak for themselves. That said, we still invest a lot in category data and insight to justify our position with retailers. But here’s the kicker, brioche is still a new category and early adopters are generally not price sensitive. Look at the tech sector – Apple don’t push prices down, they lead the sector and bring the pack up with them. I’m not saying we’re necessarily the ‘apple’ of bakery, but it’s a worthwhile analogy. This is a young, vibrant area of bakery and in my view, to commoditize that is a kneejerk reaction which isn’t necessary.
The psychology of branding is fascinating to me and what we do really well is social listening. That means we can go where the consumers are and present solid arguments to retailers as to why we need to be in their stores. Strategy is about what you say ‘no’ to; we believe in the quality of our products and in the power of our brand. We have no reason to devalue any of that.
What’s next for the St Pierre brand?
We will continue to drive the brioche category with quality, authentic products and brand marketing that helps take shoppers on a journey. We’re going to take that same approach and apply it to a new category, too.
St Pierre is set to launch a new bake-at-home range, with authentic French baguettes and crusty rolls. The ‘take and bake’ sector in particular, has experienced the ‘race to the bottom’ we discussed previously and now is a good time to highlight quality. There is room for an authentic, quality product and our brand is perfectly placed to fill the gap in the market.
The strategy is two-pronged in that we can take our brand-loyal consumers and introduce them to another new category; but also that we can take the quality for which we are known and improve an area of bakery which is, quite frankly, a bit stale.
It’s a step-change for us because it’s not brioche, but we’re taking the same approach to improve and premiumize a new area of the sector. The St Pierre brand helps to tell a story. We are communicating more than product – it’s a lifestyle and our quality, authentic positioning backs all that up.
Why would shoppers opt for lesser-quality products that don’t deliver an experience? The truth is, they won’t – even if the better option costs a little more – they’re more discerning than that. If dining out or travelling are still not possible for most Americans, then the little wins count for a lot more. So, you buy the best Brioche burger bun, or treat your family to authentic French baguettes, because life’s too short to settle for less.
Jake Huber will be attending IBIE, ready to talk all things St Pierre.
For more information and to register to meet Jake at IBIE, visit stpierretrade.com.