The bakery sector is one of the few areas that has weathered the recession and continues to show growth potential. The 2009 Bakery and Morning goods report from Mintel attributes this to the wide variety of products in the sector with multiple uses and adjustable price platforms.
There have been two clear consumer trends emerging within the retail sector over the last two years brought about by the tough financial climate. One consumer trend has been the growth for people swapping nights out for nights in - leading to a demand for premium products enabling consumers to recreate the restaurant experience at home.
A second consumer trend has been shoppers looking to make savings on their shopping bills without having to compromise on their favourite foods – leading to a demand for a wider choice of value-range products.
With VAT set to rise to 20 per cent on 4 January 2011, consumers are going to be hit hard in other spending areas and there are fears that we could see a double-dip recession. Honeytop has recognised the shifts in consumer preferences over the last two years, and we have helped our customers to capitalise on them.
For consumers that are looking to treat themselves on an evening, we have created top-tier and added-value naan breads for premium retailer brands including recipes that use freshly prepared ingredients. This gives consumers a wider choice of superior quality products enabling them to choose the perfect accompaniments to make mealtimes more special.
We have also created entirely new flavour varieties for a number of our customers for their premium naan ranges that are not readily available in the majority of Indian restaurants. This gives consumers another reason to dine at home and keep them going back to the retailer.
To address the needs of the price-sensitive consumer who is looking for great tasting products and cost savings, Honeytop has also developed special value-range naans and flatbreads. This has had the effect of bringing new customers in to the category and has increased penetration.
New product development across the bakery and morning good sector, particularly under own brand labels, has also helped to bolster the category and keep consumers focused on ambient goods.
Honeytop has made significant investments in upweighting its product development team, which has allowed the company to strengthen its position in all market sectors.
During the recession we have been able to introduce a new pancake flavour, a range of seeded and healthy option tortilla wraps and have also created two new naan bread flavours.
We have conducted extensive market research into several product categories to ensure that we are offering our customers the best products. It is extremely important to continue to innovate, as a stagnant category will never grow.
Manufacturers need to track their customers’ customers’ behaviour to stay one step ahead. Our proactive attitude is appreciated by customers as its shows that we have a real commitment to helping them to grow their business.
A recent example of recognising consumer demands brought about a new product for a major retail customer. A growing trend for chocolate-based baked goods led us to create a new chocolate flavour Scotch pancake. This offers consumers an alternative to plain pancakes, but also gives them a new chocolate fix moving away from more calorific options such as chocolate muffins or pain au chocalat.
Giving consumers more choices in popular product areas is a good way to keep interest high as even the most habitual shoppers can get bored of the same products week in week out, but will be drawn to the same shelves.
While recognising consumer trends is important; once you have made recommendations to your customers, you have to ensure that you can fulfil the demand for the new product orders this can create.
Utilising modern technology is paramount to producing the best quality products in commercial volumes. While using traditional recipes and baking methods is key to producing the best tasting products, it is possible to combine these with automated processing and robotics to manufacture the best quality goods in large volumes.
The move into general pancake and crumpet production saw Honeytop breathe new life into a product area that has seen 19little innovation within the last half-century. The demand for crumpets and pancakes was higher than existing suppliers could cope with, so we stepped in to provide a solution to our customers.
A recent partnership with ABB robotics and RG Luma to introduce robotic packing to the pancake lines has helped to improve our cycle times by 20 per cent. Faster turnaround, reduced waste and increased product yield means that we can offer the best quality pancakes and crumpets with maximum efficiency and commercial viability.
Most pancakes and crumpets in the UK are manufactured on lines that are over 50 years old, and while Honeytop firmly believes in tradition, it is also a champion of innovation. Our in-house team took the underlying principles of existing production methods and combined them with state-of-the-art technology such as high-speed robotics to maximise production speed and quality consistency.
Our FlexPicker robots are capable of stacking 110 pancakes per minute for efficient packing. The robots are connected via conveyor belts to a standalone, automated hot plate production line that produces crumpets and pancakes. The conveyor belt operates in a waterfall pattern, helping to cool the products to room temperature after cooking, before preparing them for stacking and packing.
The addition of high-speed robotics means that we can meet stringent requirements for the hygienic handling of food, as well as introducing reduced labour costs and improving health and safety levels.
Automation is a growing trend as it contributes to the consistent production of goods in a more efficient and hygienic way. However, there will always be processes that we prefer to carry out by hand as we think it makes our products better.
All our naan breads are stretched by hand into a teardrop shape, but we have introduced elements of automation to make certain parts of the production process more efficient, such as the cooling of the product.
Working with Astec Conveyors, we have installed a new eight-finger stainless steel wire mesh conveyor system to move the naans to a larger spiral-cooling unit. This has helped to eliminate product build up at any one point on the line, and ensures that products are cooled efficiently and hygienically.
Using robotics and computerised programming gives us a faster production time with the confidence of consistency. Translating to speed to market, this ensures that we can meet tight turnaround demands from customers.
A further part of our success in this area can be attributed to the fact that we never run to capacity. This means that we can always accommodate a last minute or
high quantity order. Our customers make our business, and we never want to be
in a position where we have to turn away an order.
The last two years have seen massive growth for Honeytop in both the size of the business and the products it produces. We hope that by continuing to listen to consumers and utilising the best of modern technology to bring innovation to the bakery industry, we can continue to grow in what is set to be another difficult period for the industry.
David Laurence is managing director of Honeytop Speciality Foods. Founded in 1984, Honeytop Speciality Foods is Europe’s leading producer of naan and flatbreads. Offering bespoke products and outstanding value, the company is a family run business focused on exceeding customer expectations.
For further information, visit: www.honeytop.co.uk