Louise Reynard is the commercial manager at St Pierre Groupe
What have you learnt from the past twelve months from the perspective of working with wholesalers?
It’s definitely been an eventful year and things have changed dramatically within the past 12 months. The biggest learning has been about ensuring you’re able to adapt your offering to cater to changing needs. We have been able to work with wholesalers to make sure their ranges are relevant throughout the pandemic. We’ve been listening to consumers to feed information into the wholesalers and sharing those insights has helped all of us to navigate an ever-changing landscape.
How has your business changed since the pandemic hit?
We were already working incredibly hard before the pandemic, but the changes in consumer attitudes as a result of Coronavirus has actually helped drive growth for all three of our brands – St Pierre, Baker Street and Paul Hollywood.
Attitudes towards breakfast as a meal occasion have shifted dramatically – particularly over the past 12 months. It’s a long-held belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that’s never been more true – particularly for wholesalers, who have an opportunity to sell into convenience and hospitality. The key is in offering versatility in your product range. Providing a range that can be used for multiple meal ideas, at different times of the day will benefit wholesalers, no matter who is shopping with them. In turn, they can encourage repeat custom and potentially bigger basket spend.
Despite the changes in meal occasions as a result of the pandemic, we’ve seen consistent growth in morning goods and in particular, croissants. Food has become so much more important for people than it was 12 months ago. For most of us, it’s the only thing to look forward to when you’re spending months in lockdown. Growth in wholesale is being driven by multi-pack offerings as they cater to a growing trend for more indulgent weekend breakfasts. People are looking for new ways to separate their working week from their weekend and offering an upgrade to the ‘usual’, has proven to be a really successful way to increase sales.
St Pierre has always looked to ‘make everyday magnifique’ and as such, all the products are designed to elevate everyday meals. The trend for restaurant-quality meals at home whilst people can’t dine-out has boosted sales of our entire range, but in particular, brioche burger buns and hot dogs rolls are up in wholesale by 33 per cent and 18 per cent respectively, year on year.
As we hopefully head into a post-Covid world, what advice/tips can you offer wholesalers?
Baker Street has always been popular in the convenience and hospitality sectors, because it helps with forecasting and ensuring that operators can reduce wastage. However, the impact of the pandemic and people wanting to shop less frequently, means that we’re starting to see the positive impact of this on our sales, too. Baker Street as a brand is up 30 per cent year on year and in wholesale, sales are up 25 per cent. Wholesalers able to offer longer-life and multi-pack formats will be able to more easily cater to the changing needs of their customers.
Whilst there’s a lot of positive news around the introduction of a vaccine, official sources are very keen to remind us that it’s going to be long road out of this, yet. People have become very nervous about hygiene – understandably so – and it’s unlikely that the public will remain cautious for a long while to come. That’s the reason we expanded the St Pierre individually-wrapped range this year, with the addition of two new croissants SKUs – one All Butter and one Chocolate Filled. The decline in in-store bakery (ISB) was rapid once the pandemic hit and retailers were asking for individually-wrapped options for morning goods.
The fact that our St Pierre products are individually wrapped also means that they cater to multiple meal occasions. People are more aware of food waste than ever before, too – and not needing to forecast sales, bake off product and end up wasting it. Those concerns are eliminated and that’s particularly valuable, beyond all the other product benefits of St Pierre. Products that help to ward off concerns around hygiene will continue to have increased appeal.
Finally, there’s going to be a lot more eating at home. People have got used to cooking at home and experimenting in the kitchen. Lockdown has reignited the nation’s love for food and people have also no doubt enjoyed the savings made by not eating out. When we are finally allowed to dine out again, I think it will be considered much more of an occasion, which will bode well for hospitality.
In the meantime, though, restaurants doing takeaway options is here to stay. Businesses have had to pivot and whilst people reluctantly return to dining out, I think that restaurants who can offer premium quality delivered to your door will benefit from the best of both worlds.