Brioche, as a category, has been in growth consistently over the past three years. In 2018, the category was worth $108mn, but by the end of 2020, the brioche sector had more than doubled, with category value standing at $290mn.
There are myriad reasons why the market has shifted so dramatically. Part of it is thanks to category leader, St Pierre. An authentic, French product, St Pierre launched into the US in 2014 and has steadily invested in building brand awareness, driving trial and loyalty, which now puts its brand value in excess of $100mn.
In fact, Nielsen data (February 2021) shows that St Pierre is key to driving value for retailers and is responsible for a third of the market. St Pierre has driven the Brioche category with 63% brand growth year-on-year, whilst the rest of the category has grown at 61%. However, if you note that in the past year, the bakery category in which brioche sits has only grown by 8%, it's clear to see the opportunity in offering consumers an upgrade from bread to brioche.
Research shows that 34% of consumers are buying brioche every time they go grocery shopping. The message here is clear – if you're not offering brioche, you're watching money walk out of the door.
Other brands are taking note of St Pierre's success, with new ranges and NPD from renowned brands including Sara Lee, Bakerly and Nature's Own getting in on the action. However, the St Pierre brand story, authentic brioche offering and favored taste profile has secured its place as category leader. Of course, there are key reasons for this, as customers looking to try something different are open to spending more, but the impact of COVID-19 on shopping habits and consumer attitudes cannot be downplayed.
Paul Baker, founder of St Pierre bakery comments, "As shoppers were asked to stay at home, new deciding factors came into play. The first is a desire to reduce the frequency of shopping trips. Multi-pack formats that offer a solution for more than one meal are highly desirable. Our research found that 43% of consumers consider brioche to be versatile, and more than a third agreed it suited every meal occasion.
"The second is a desire to explore new flavours and upgrade in order to recreate restaurant quality at home. 40% of US shoppers are spending more on their regular food shop than pre-pandemic and 48% have actively looked to recreate restaurant dishes at home.
"With consumers looking to try something new and willing to put their hands in their pockets for quality that transports them to a favourite restaurant, or overseas holiday, retailers have a unique opportunity. By highlighting authenticity, cross-selling with breakfast, brunch and snacking occasion products and clever merchandising to capitalise on shoppers' desires to try new experiences in the only way they currently can, retailers can maximise sales and basket-spend".
The growth of the brioche category has rocketed just in time for National Brioche Day on May 14th, 2021. Sponsored by St Pierre, it will be the first time that the brand activates around the occasion via an integrated marketing campaign, encouraging retailers to capitalise on the opportunity.
Paul Baker on the impact of COVID-19 in bakery
"The way people eat, the times they eat and the sense of occasion around each meal time has changed this year. Most of us are very habitual in our choices, with an 'at home' menu that we recycle based on the day, the season and the guests around our tables.
"Covid has changed that, because it altered our circumstances. It's driven a huge shift in needs and behaviours when it comes to food. The opportunity for food companies is huge, but for the bakery sector, in particular, it's phenomenal.
"We have an audience who is more receptive to change than ever before, an audience who is actively seeking out new flavour experiences and an audience increasingly eating at home. Weekday lunches have long-been a low-value, low-interest event – but there's an opportunity for a bakery to do something different in that area and put weekday lunch back on the menu.
"A social change, leads to food change and food change equals opportunity. Make it new, but keep it simple – there's a recipe for success."
N.B. All category data is Nielsen US Foods February 2021. All consumer research is SurveyMonkey Inc., Online consumer survey (Brioche & Brand), January 2021, 3,517 consumers