Younger generations actively support Britain’s high street bakers, but it seems that they have distinctly different expectations from their older peers. That’s the message from the Craft Bakers Association’s recent survey of Britain’s high street bakers’ customers, which reveals four in ten of all 35-44s, visit local bakers at least once a week, and 5 out of 6 Gen Z’s (18-24s) come in at least once a month. Just over three quarters (78%) of local bakeries’ regular shoppers in general believe it’s important to support them.
Karen Dear, Chief Executive of the Craft Bakers Association, says, “We already knew high street bakers’ customers were currently driven by price but this research shows that there is a wide range of topics that matter to today’s bakery shopper. The result show that they are also driven by sustainability, food waste and provenance, as well as health, and convenience – all of which are major motivators to purchase. But the big eye opener in the survey was what we learnt about the younger generations shopping there, and what they’re looking for.”
Nearly three quarters (70%) of buyers of bread and bakery surveyed, buy half or more of their total bakery from the high street. In the CBA survey, white bread and rolls were the most popular purchases in high street bakeries, followed by wholemeal products. Half of all the bread and bakery buyers (48%), and 3 in 5 men, go there to buy sandwiches and food to go items at least once a week, and just under half (46%) buy pastries and individual cakes and biscuits equally often.
What consumers want from high street bakers is evolving. Gen Z’s (18-24s) are keener than other generations for local bakers to sell plant-based products, and nearly half (42%) of under 25’s buy sourdough in high street bakers at least weekly, compared to 1 in 7 55-64s. These trends chime with other research showing growing numbers of consumers prioritising plant-based and sourdough, with half (50%) looking to eat more plant-based food, and three quarters (73%) concerned about their gut health.
The research shows local bakers score well with customers for quality, choice, craftsmanship, personal service, and sustainability. Three quarters (77%) come for the quality and choice, and 81% of customers believe high street bakers are trained to a high level. Just over half (55%) think high street bread and bakery is baked by hand, and 63% believe it’s made from scratch. 3 in 5 (59%) buy local for the personal service, and two thirds (66%) believe it’s more sustainable to shop from local bakers.
However, the survey highlights that high street bakers can do more to engage consumers. In the cost-of-living crisis, price matters, just as it does in other retail channels, with 2 in 5 bread and bakery buyers (42%) saying high street bakers’ bread is too expensive. Bakers need to be aware that value is more important than ever to shoppers, including discounts and money off, and cross-channel marketing is key, from tastings to word of mouth and promotions.
Over a third (37%) are willing to travel up to 5 miles to buy bread and bakery, but nearly half (47%) say they won’t buy from local bakers unless they can park outside for free. Finally, while other recent research shows use of social media as a source of recipe inspiration across most age groups has risen 13%, in the survey fewer than 30% of shoppers expect their local baker to offer an online ordering facility.
“This survey provides some valuable insights to help high street bakers futureproof their businesses,” says Karen Dear, Chief Executive of the Craft Bakers Association. “Bakers need to understand their customers’ buying habits, prioritise the things that matter to them, and highlight their skills and commitment to sustainability. The good news is, tomorrow’s shoppers, the 18-24’s, appreciate the bakers’ work, and are committed to supporting them, and there’s plenty of goodwill out there and a wealth of positive opportunities to build on.”