Group commercial director Sarah Boddy at St Pierre Bakery oversees commercial strategy across the UK and US, managing a team of 20, globally. She is highly optimistic about the room for growth ahead.
Fresh brioche is now a half billion-dollar market, and “we are under 20%. That’s the scale of opportunity,” she points out.
“My role is more strategic – what needs to be done,” Boddy said during an in-person interview during the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association show in early June in Anaheim, California. “There are so many retailers and so many opportunities. Our heart and focus is instore bakery, and there’s lots of white space to go after.”
In the US market, the Northeast and Southeast offer room for growth, she points out. Their assignment ahead involves building out the US team, “so we have more touch points.”
Earlier this year, St Pierre Bakery announced new, branded distribution with Walmart. The St Pierre brand, which has grown rapidly over the past three years and maintains its position as category leader in the brioche sector secured space on shelf with the retailer for three of its core product lines.
St Pierre Sliced Brioche Loaf variants have launched into 2,220 Walmart stores. St Pierre Brioche Waffles with Butter (6 pack) are now available in more than 4,000 stores.
“This is fantastic news for the brand and the result of a collaborative relationship we have built with Walmart, creating a sound strategy and a lot of shared insight,” David Wagstaff, managing director, St Pierre Bakery, said at the time of the March 2023 announcement. “The St Pierre range offers authentic, high quality and consistent products that meet customer’s needs in a growing category and offer something different. What’s more, our fill rates are unrivalled – and that is crucial in the current climate.”
Further, he said St Pierre Bakery has invested heavily in supply chain to “ensure we maintain our industry leading fill rates and deliver for our customers. We knew that the opportunity justified the investment, but driving distribution was key to realizing it and our products appearing on shelves in Walmart stores nationwide has helped us to do just that.”
The St Pierre brand is predominantly situated in the in-store bakery but distribution through Walmart will see the loaves merchandized, for the first time, in the commercial bread aisle. The brand is also investing in marketing to support the launch and drive national sales.
Wagstaff continues, “Premiumization is a trend borne of the pandemic but it’s still gaining momentum and it’s here to stay. Changes in consumer habits mean that shoppers are not willing to compromise on quality. St Pierre is perfectly placed to offer our shoppers an upgrade to their usual loaf in a category where consumers are routinely ‘trading up’ to elevate at-home meals.”
Consumer demand for quality products is demonstrated in category data, too. Brioche as a category has grown by $98 million compared to this time last year and branded offerings are outpacing private label growth in the sector, according to Nielsen, US Foods, January 2023. St Pierre is leading the pack, with almost 18 percent branded market share and 71 per cent branded market share within in-store bakery.
“The financial difference for consumers between buying good or best is marginal – therefore, shoppers are more likely to opt for the better quality, or premium offering,” Wagstaff adds. “St Pierre wins out in independent taste tests on taste, texture and flavor, and we understand that driving trial is key. Our distribution with Walmart will ensure we continue to drive trial across America, highlighting the brand to a new audience and continuing our phenomenal growth.”
The magnificent seven
As for St Pierre’s growing list of fresh products, “we have the magnificent seven,” Boddy explains, listing burger buns (available in pack sizes of 4- and 6-count), hot dog buns, brioche buns, waffles, seeded burger buns, sliders, and sub rolls.
“We have just launched a pretzel roll, which is already performing very strongly,” she says. “Our innovation is led by what the consumer trends are.”
Moving forward, danger lies in overextending to the point where fulfilment falls short of promise. That’s why St Pierre Bakery is so careful to focus on its core and not rush to market before it’s time.
“Premiumization has been around for a while. We see consumers paying more for high quality products,” Boddy says. “We are building off the backs of that. It’s meeting lots of demand moments (morning, lunch, etc.) and lots of eating occasions.”
For instance, sliders work conveniently for small snacks in children’s lunch boxes. Now, St Pierre Bakery is reaching so many more touch points.
“We built a brand from nothing with a great quality product,” Boddy says. “People are willing to pay a little more because they know it’s a premium product. We know how to communicate with retailers. Shoppers will pay for quality, and that’s where St Pierre Bakery stands out from the crowd.”