Last updated on August 8th, 2023 at 05:09 pm
The bakery category is booming in America, as demonstrated by the incredible return to pre-pandemic attendance figures at this year’s IDDBA in Anaheim, California. Leading brioche brand, St Pierre also returned, bringing along a stunning “corner of Paris,” sampling quality products and demonstrating why it is branded propositions that are driving bakery forward.
Here, we discuss the growth of brioche, the importance of brand and why in-store bakery is key to delivering value for retailers, with Sarah Boddy, group commercial director at St Pierre Bakery.
Brioche is a growing market and a hot bed of brand and private label activity. What is it that has captured the hearts, minds and basket spend of US shoppers?
Boddy: In the last year, the value of the brioche category has increased by $113 million. With growth like that, it’s not an area that should be overlooked – the demand is clearly there and what’s perhaps more notable, is that brioche is growing in volume too; despite inflationary pressures, an extra 13.5 million units have been added to the brioche category when compared to this time last year. Add to that the fact that total bakery is down on units in the last year, to the tune of $37 billion and a subsector delivering value and volume growth looks even more appealing.
Brioche offers an easy way for retailers to encourage premiumisation, increase revenue and drive volume – which is no mean feat in the current climate. The appeal for US shoppers is that they can easily upgrade any meal occasion. St Pierre has taken recognised American staples like burger buns and hot dogs and introduced brioche to US shoppers. We have invested heavily in educating and inspiring consumers, demonstrating the versatility of brioche and encouraging consumers to use brioche products across multiple meal occasions.
For shoppers, it’s about perceived value; the financial difference between authentic, great-tasting brioche and a lesser ‘brioche-style’ product is negligible when it makes such a significant upgrade to your meal. For most shoppers still conscious of price challenges, it is still more economical to treat themselves well at home rather than going out, and this has sustained the trend for premiumisation that emerged during the pandemic.
That’s also helping retailers, because shoppers spending more on a bread carrier are more likely to purchase more premium meats, cheeses and accompaniments. Offering a premium option in bakery has a knock-on positive effect in other areas of the store.
Brands are equalling, if not outpacing private label in the brioche category. Why do you think that is?
Boddy: Brands are outperforming private label in the brioche category in terms of both value and volume. Where private label is growing at 14 per cent value and just 2 per cent volume, branded brioche is up 23 per cent in value and 14 per cent in volume.
There are a few reasons for this, but I think it is linked to the ‘education piece’. If a shopper is trying something new, they are more likely to trust established brands. That’s why we put quality at the heart of all we do.
We use innovative merchandising to drive footfall and theatre in the fixture, delivering a positive brand experience that starts in-store and continues at home with a consistently fantastic product. That consistent quality continues at every touch point, from our packaging which communicates usage ideas and our authentic French roots to our in-store comms, advertising activity and brand channels. Delivering the brand identity and driving brand awareness develops trust which is part of why we are able to innovate with such pace, keep the fixture interesting and drive growth in the sector.
We were the first branded brioche player in the US and our commitment to quality is why we are still America’s number one brioche brand and have an impressive 73 per cent share of branded brioche in ISB.
The in-store bakery has always been a stronghold for private label, yet it’s also where St Pierre launched and is predominantly found. Why?
Boddy: We invest heavily and regularly in consumer research and insight. We use it to inform our strategy, product and brand development. St Pierre delivers premium, authentic brioche products – the in-store bakery is where shoppers would expect to find us – and there are several reasons for that.
The shopper mission in ISB is different. When consumers go to the commercial bread aisle, they’re looking for their bakery staples, they are less likely to be on the hunt for new products because they head straight to where they find what they’re looking for. The purchase journey in ISB is very different.
Shoppers slow down in the in-store bakery, they are there searching for inspiration and ways to elevate their meals. That said, it is key to note that the two areas of the store are not mutually exclusive and generally, consumers are shopping in both parts of the store on every trip.
We were the first brand to start creating theatre in the in-store bakery and we see new brands emerging all the time which is a sign of a healthy category. St Pierre effectively communicates its authenticity, usage ideas and brand identity and then delivers on product quality to keep shoppers coming back. Our approach is more akin to a lifestyle brand than a typical CPG brand and that’s very deliberate. It’s part of building a brand that will last with consumers.
St Pierre has a long-term growth strategy and merchandising our products in the in-store bakery is core to that.
Can you tell us a little about seasonality? Are sales strong throughout the year?
Boddy: Obviously, there is a sales peak during summer months for grilling season and we work closely with our partners to bring the brand to life, activating in-store and via strategic marketing campaigns around key holidays, such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. Our core range includes Brioche Burger Buns, Seeded Brioche Burger Buns and Brioche Hot Dog Rolls and those products account for more than 50 per cent of our retail sales value; we have the best-selling brioche burger bun in America and we sold one burger bun every second in 2022.
However, it’s also key to our strategy to work with retailers on an attractive promotional calendar that helps to mitigate natural sales dips. By communicating the broad versatility of brioche and expanding our product range across multiple day parts and dining occasions, our sales are high year-round and it’s specific products that experience sales peaks at key times. For example, the core range naturally peaks during grilling season, whilst our Brioche Sliders experience an uplift around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
We also have a range of morning goods which experience year-round sales too – the croissants category is growing at 12 percent year on year, whilst within it, St Pierre is reporting 11 percent growth. The launch of our waffle products has also helped to boost year-round sales in a category growing at 10 per cent. Our phenomenal success in launching waffles means that they have now overtaken our croissant sales across America, furthering awareness of our morning goods range and more broadly, brand awareness on the whole.
What’s more, shoppers are more exploratory than ever before and just because something is labelled as a “burger bun,” it doesn’t mean it’s not equally delicious when used for a breakfast sandwich or lunchtime snack. We develop recipes specifically to communicate the versatility of all of our products and therefore increase their relevance to multiple meal occasions.
What’s next for the St Pierre brand?
Boddy: The opportunity in American retail is still phenomenal and our focus is on deepening distribution across the country. We have regional areas where we have fantastic presence, namely the Midwest, West Coast and West North Central States, such as Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota – but there’s so much to go at and that’s very exciting for our team.
We have also just launched a brand-new product for 2023, representing another ‘first-to-market’ for the St Pierre brand in the form of our Brioche Pretzel Roll. Pretzel Rolls is a fast-growing subsector and 73 per cent of it is dominated by two leading brands. By venturing into the category, St Pierre is once again offering retailers the chance to deliver a premium option to shoppers.
We are bringing our top quality, authentic brioche and delivering a blend of sweet and salty that appeals to affluent shoppers looking for unique items in fresh bakery which, in turn, helps retailers to drive shopper trade up. As with all of our products, the Brioche Pretzel Roll is borne of understanding the market, collecting consumer insight and delivering a quality product that meets the needs of both retailers and their customers.
To bring a taste of Paris to your stores, visit stpierretrade.com.