That 50% of bread eaters/buyers say health reasons have motivated them to cut down on the amount of bread they eat poses a continuing challenge to the market in terms of growing volume sales. This is especially relevant in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, which has reinforced the importance of getting the right nutrition to support overall health and comes despite steps from the bread industry to improve the health credentials of their products.

Bread enjoyed a boost to value and volume sales during 2020 due to lockdowns and stay-at-home edicts fuelling a shift from out-of-home meal and drink occasions to the home. However, this boost is expected to wane in 2021 and going forward as people slowly return to the workplace/places of study and foodservice venues, the successful vaccine rollout emboldening people. Sales in the market are anticipated to fall 1.9% by value and 3.2% by volume in 2021 to reach £3.6 billion and 1.7 billion kg.

The move to a new normality will see volume sales return to their long-term decline over the next five years, as bread faces competition from out-of-home venues and given the forecast decline in key user age groups such as younger people. The predicted enduring rise in working at home and the rise in over-55s, who show above-average usage of the dominant prepacked bread, will offer some limited support for sales.

Packaging is high on consumers’ agendas, with plastic having become the number one foe in the fight against packaging waste. Encouragingly, 46% of bread eaters/buyers would be willing to pay more for bread in environmentally friendly packaging, with the COVID-19 pandemic raising awareness around sustainability issues.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on the bread market.

  • Types of bread used and bought.

  • Launch activity and future product development opportunities.

  • Consumer behaviours and attitudes related to bread.

COVID-19: market context

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK at the end of January 2020, with a small number of cases in February. Rapidly rising case numbers led to the first national lockdown, starting on 23 March. It wasn't until 15 June that non-essential stores were allowed to reopen, followed by pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers on 4 July and many beauty businesses on 13 July.

By September, it had become clear that the UK was at the start of a second wave, and social distancing measures were intensified. Continued increases in infection numbers led to Wales implementing a two-week national lockdown from 19 October, England announcing a month-long lockdown from 5 November and Scotland introducing a new five-level system of coronavirus restrictions.

Despite these restrictions, however, case numbers continued to increase. All four UK nations tightened restrictions further in January 2021, effectively leading to a full UK-wide lockdown.

On 22 February, Boris Johnson announced the roadmap to an easing of restrictions in England, starting with the reopening of schools on 8 March, followed by easing of restrictions on outdoor gatherings on 29 March. The aim to end to all restrictions by 21 June was pushed back to 19 July in England owing to the growth of the Delta variant. Formal social distancing rules ended on 7 August in Wales, with all businesses allowed to open, the same happening in Scotland on 9 August. Indoor hospitality venues in Scotland still have to collect the contact details of customers to help with Test and Protect and large-scale events have to apply for permission.

Even before the full reopening of the economy, retail sales and Mintel’s own household finances tracker provided encouraging signs of a rapid return to consumer confidence, and a willingness to spend at least some of the savings that many households were able to build up over the lockdown periods.

The UK’s vaccination programme started on 8 December 2020. As of 27 August 2021 88% of the UK population had received their first dose of the vaccine and 78% had received their second dose.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central scenario included in its March 2021 Economic and Fiscal Outlook report, but also take into account predictions made by other economic forecasts, including the Bank of England.

After the fall of 9.9% over the course of 2020, the OBR’s scenario suggests that UK GDP will grow by 4% in 2021 and 7.3% in 2022. GDP isn’t expected to return to pre-COVID-19 levels until Q2 2022, although this is six months earlier than the OBR forecast in November 2020, mainly because of the faster-than-expected rollout of vaccines.

Unemployment is expected to peak at 6.5% in Q4 2021. As with GDP, this is more positive than the OBR’s November forecast, but the OBR does raise the prospect of long-term scarring on employment, especially in the more exposed retail and hospitality sectors.

The rapid vaccine rollout and the continued efficacy of the vaccine, however, mean that more recent economic forecasts have been significantly more optimistic than the OBR’s March forecast, even given the rise of the Delta variant. We have factored this rise in optimism into our market analysis and scenario forecasts.

Products covered in this Report

For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

The market size includes white, brown and wholemeal loaves, including with various additions, which may be sliced or unsliced, wrapped or unwrapped, as well as speciality bread. A distinction is drawn between bread that is baked by plant/factory bakeries and stocked on grocery shelves (also called prepacked bread), and bread that is baked by in-store bakers. Part-baked products are also included.

For the purposes of this Report, the speciality bread market is taken to include: bagels, baguettes, pittas, wraps, sandwich thins, naan breads, other Indian breads including chapattis, and garlic bread (ambient and chilled).

Sweet baked goods are excluded from this Report and can be found under Mintel’s Cakes, Cake Bars and Sweet Baked Goods – UK, 2021 Report.

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