STORY: Innovation is key to recovery says CBA

A new survey carried out amongst members of the Craft Bakers Association (CBA) reveals that whilst the recent pandemic has undoubtedly presented bakers with challenges, many have innovated with great success.

In evidence of craft bakers’ willingness and capability to adapt, 45% of those questioned said they had added new products to their range since the start of the pandemic. In addition, 33% reported making more product than usual and only 6% reported producing the same amount as prior to the pandemic. CBA member Daniel Carr, of Warings Bakery, for example, which has five stores in Reading, has added a number of new items to its range since the start of lockdown.

The bakery introduced an afternoon tea box, which proved exceptionally popular for the VE day bank holiday and Father’s Day and continues to do well. Noting that customers were keen to treat themselves during the pandemic, Warings also bought back tried-and-tested recipes they knew would prove popular with customers – adding items such as dairy cream cakes, custard doughnuts and lemon curd filled doughnuts to their offering.

As well as innovating to introduce new products, many bakeries also found new ways to get products into the hands of customers, whilst adhering to all the relevant health and safety guidelines. 68% of those surveyed offered a takeaway service and 55% provided home delivery for those customers who needed it.

Third-generation bakery and CBA member, Slattery, for example, has been famous locally for its cakes and afternoon tea for decades, but prior to the pandemic had never offered a home delivery service. However, the business quickly innovated to offer cream tea and afternoon tea boxes to local postcodes near the bakery in Manchester once lockdown restrictions were imposed. The boxes were an instant hit, with 100 orders received every day in the first week of lockdown, rising to 200 the following week. The boxes have continued to prove popular since lockdown has eased and Slattery still receives 10-15 orders for them per day.

Arguably the clearest indicator of how bakeries have innovated for success, 31% of those who took the survey said their turnover increased in the first ten weeks of lockdown, with one bakery reporting that its turnover doubled during this period. A further 14% of bakers said their turnover had remained stable since the start of the pandemic.

Warings Bakery launched a successful home delivery service which helped offset revenue lost from food to go sales. Prior to lockdown, a lot of Warings’ trade was in food to go, but overnight this suddenly was no longer an option. In just four days Warings launched a home delivery service and supporting website. The response was incredible and from 8pm on the evening the website launched to 6am the following day, the bakery had received 125 orders. The home delivery service replaced the income lost from the food to go trade and Warings saw their turnover remain stable and even increase in some weeks compared to the year before.

On the survey findings, George Fuller, Chairman of the CBA commented; “By offering new products and finding new ways to reach shoppers, bakers have shown great resilience in the face of the pandemic. The results of this survey underline our members’ capacity to innovate and create opportunities even in challenging times and point to a very positive future for the industry.”