UK bread major Warburtons will pump £20m ($32.8m) into a new production plant dedicated to sandwich alternatives as demand in the segment booms.
Warburtons has submitted planning permission for the bakery and if passed the build should be completed by the end of 2014, with work commencing in February.
The proposed plant would be dedicated to manufacturing sandwich bread alternatives such as the company’s wraps and ‘thins’ products – thinner, low calorie bread slices.
“We recognize that consumer needs and tastes are changing and we must ensure we are fit to meet their needs, now and into the future,” said Neil Campbell, managing director at Warburtons.
Tearmh France, communications manager at Warburtons, explained that developing a business to fit consumer demands is about sticking with the traditional but being open to the new.
“White sliced bread and brown sliced bread are still our best selling products. We sell over two million bakery products a week and the majority of that is sliced bread. So we’re not changing our traditional ways, but people are changing the types of products they’re looking for. Our lifestyles are different, our taste buds have changed, we’re more open to trying new things and, in addition, there are many different bakery products available," she told BakeryandSnacks.com.
The new plant would produce an average of 5,500 products per hour – adding to the £1m ($1.6m) worth of products made each week at Warburtons’ current wraps and thins sites in Bristol and Bolton.
Sales of the Warburtons sandwich alternatives range have grown by 87% year on year and now account for 5.3% of overall wrapped bakery sales value.
Growth has been particularly obvious among products like the ‘thins’ range, Campbell said.
“This demand continues to grow and we need to ensure we have the right technology in our bakery infrastructure to enable us to meet it.”
According to Tanvi Savara, associate analyst at Datamonitor Consumer, the growth of sandwich alternatives is driven by two key consumer trends – weight management and experimentation.
Dieting and experimentation shaping market
Datamonitor Consumer data indicates that over one-third of UK consumers pay high attention to the amount of calories they consume daily.
“A vast majority of consumers are actively trying to lose weight,” she said.
“Regular bread is typically viewed as a source of high carbohydrate content and therefore generally avoided by consumers looking to lose weight. Weight conscious consumers in turn are switching to healthier alternatives, such as Warburton Sandwich Thins which, at just 100 calories per thin, is positioned as ‘the new skinny bread’.”
Similarly, experimentation is widespread among consumers as exposure to other cultures heavily influences tastes, she added.
“With consumers expressing a willingness to experiment with new cuisines, sandwich alternatives like pitta, which is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine, are becoming increasingly popular.”
Savara said this trend is set to continue and evolve even further into completely bread-free sandwich options that use ingredients such as lettuce and seaweed in place of bread.