Online food retailing has yet to fully mature, but some forward-thinking companies are already embracing the potential of the web. While December and November last year saw one million customers shopping at Tesco’s (not exclusively food) website, the online opportunity is being tapped lower down the food chain too, by niche and specialist food ‘e-retailers’.Sara Louise Kakes (SLK) is a good example. The online luxury muffins and cakes company was set up in January 2005 as an offshoot of Fabulous Bakin’ Boys Manufacturing – a large-scale cakes supplier specialising in muffins, based in Witney near Oxford. “We knew that the luxury side wouldn’t fit the (Fabulous Bakin’ Boys) business that we were in,” says SLK’s MD Sara Louise Staples, “so we started from scratch and launched the company on the internet.”It took one year from coming up with the idea to develop the concept fully for launch. In the first year, the company achieved a £100,000 turnover. That is projected to rise to £250,000 in 2006. More and more people are switching their shopping from the high street to their desktops. According to a report published in January, £1.8bn extra was spent online in 2005 compared with the previous year, up 29%, while retail sales slowed to the lowest rate of growth since the 1960s at 1.5% (ONS figures for January show predominantly food retail sales at 2.5% growth). An estimated £3 in every £10 is spent online, and some forecasters are predicting that the total amount spent over the internet will overtake that spent on the high street in 2006.Personal nicheBut how big is the online opportunity for a specialist retailer of perishable goods? “It’s difficult to say but there’s definitely a niche in the market for something personal,” says Mrs Staples, citing the growth potential for delivered cakes as gifts. “We also do a lot of corporate work – we will adapt the muffins to use a company’s logo. There is a lot of mileage in what we are doing.”The judges at the 2005 Baking Industry Awards certainly thought so, awarding SLK the Kluman & Balter-sponsored Best New Product Award – just nine months into its infancy. The award helped to spread awareness of SLK. “To go in for a competition and actually win was a boost to morale as well,” she says.But what distinguishes SLK from other cake retailers selling on the internet? “We are different to many cake companies – we are not cake decorators,” she says.The catalogue contains a collection of indulgent treats such as brownies and blondies, muffins, chocolate-covered cookies and cupcakes. A range of flapjacks includes summer fruits, chocolate layered and caramel varieties, while fudge brownies (recipe opposite) are its best sellers. Products are made from scratch using free-range eggs, butter and Belgian chocolate. A standard box of muffins costs £25 and a hamper £40.Seasonal appeal is a big feature of its product range with all the usual peaks well catered for – Valentine’s, Easter and Christmas, as well as weddings, christenings, anniversaries and birthdays. Less obvious is a range of products targeted at men, including a Father’s Day Boozy Chocolate Muffin, filled with a brandy chocolate sauce. Novelty items such as handbags, baby boots and even ‘Beach Babes’ – risqué cupcakes featuring removable bikinis – aim to surprise.What was so appealing about the internet as a route to market? “People always play on the internet at work,” answers Mrs Staples. “A lot of people now do their shopping on the internet and we thought that would be the easiest way to advertise without having to spend lots of money. It was also a good way to test the market.”Inspiration came from Hotel Chocolat – the successful online chocolates retailer, which has nine shops. “It is a specialist chocolatier, with pretty boxes and really unusual ideas,” she comments. “One great thing about the internet is you can sell products that you can’t buy on the high street.”The management also took a sideways look at another home delivery service – florists – as a model for its business. “In general, the type of person who buys our products would buy from Interflora – people might like to send nice cakes instead of flowers, for a change.”Consequently she says the most important lesson learned has been to choose the right delivery company. “This can make or break the business. If you are delivering for birthdays or christenings it’s got to arrive on time, and our first delivery company (City Link) couldn’t provide the delivery service we needed. Luckily, the customers were quite understanding.” Bespoke orders are freshly baked for each order and sent via a courier called Business Post daily to the UK and Ireland, with a £6 delivery charge. SLK also delivers internationally.Keeping it freshA local design company helped create the website’s look and brand, but the food photography and the layout of the pages were done in-house. “It is very easy to maintain and manage,” she comments. “Each week, if we’ve got something new, we can quickly add that to our range. We can play with it, take things off and add things. That stops customers getting bored.”Once you have the basics in place it is the “personal touches” that create a word-of-mouth buzz, she says. SLK employs five multi-taskers baking, gift-wrapping products and hand-writing tags in calligraphy.“We offer a personal service,” says Mrs Staples. “It’s so funny – people get really excited when they ring up and find out they’re talking to Sara of Sara Louise Kakes!” The emphasis has been on fostering this word-of-mouth customer base, she continues. “We haven’t done anything to market SLK. Because we have a small team and because we’re not sales reps – the whole idea is that people come to us.”And what about the dyslexic spelling of ‘Kakes’? “Some people ask ‘Have you spelt it wrong?’” she chuckles. “We didn’t want to appear like just another cake company. People look twice at the name with a ‘k’ and it seems to work.”It also pushes the company to the top of search engines like Google, when you type in the word ‘kakes’ – which is no bad thing for an internet cake company. The Google factorUnderstanding the importance of search engines such as Google is key if you want to bring your company to the attentions of web surfers.Most commercial websites are designed with ‘keywords’ – common search words relevant to your business, such as ‘cakes’, ‘muffins’ or ‘cookies’ in the case of SLK – for the Google search engine to pick up.But paying for a sponsored link, as SLK has done, can help guarantee that your company is top of the tree when a simple search for ‘cakes’ returns a quagmire of relevant and not-so-relevant results. To do this you choose the keywords that your potential customers might search for, then you pay for the number of times people are successfully navigated to your website on a costs-per-click basis.Prices on Google are set by the retailer, which sets its own cost per click, starting from 1p upwards. If you want to come top of the search list, you have to gauge the amount your competition is paying per click and match that spend, advises Sara. SLK sets its budget for marketing on Google at £35 a week.When you have used up your clicks budget then your website will no longer be prioritised. For special occasions, such as the lead up to Mother’s Day, Christmas or Easter, SLK sets its budget higher.E-commerce – the facts- Online spending grew 15 times faster than the retail average in 2005- The online shopper population stood at 14.6m in 2005, a 25.5% increase on the previous year- Over the past year, the number of shoppers with broadband access has almost tripled to 9.6m. This encourages more frequent and widespread online shopping- So-called ‘silver surfers’ are the fastest growing shopper group and offer online retailers the greatest potential – the number of 55+ internet users doubled to 2.7m in 2005- There is further potential for growth with just one in six over-55s presently shopping online- The 35-44-year-old age group remain the highest spenders online, accounting for £3 in every £10 spent on the internet- The typical female shopper spent £579 online in 2005, compared to £543 spent by males, but the gap is closingSource: Verdict, Feb 2006INTERNET RETAILINGWhat we’ve learned: Sara Louise’s recipe for online retail success- Use good software tracking. It is invaluable knowing what search engines and search words people are using to find your website and will make any future marketing much more effective. – Invest in some good food photography – people eat and shop with their eyes!- Keep it fresh – change the layout of your homepage at least once a month (even if you don’t change the rest of your site). Highlight monthly offers, seasonal specials and limited edition lines.- Ensure you provide secure on-line shopping using a reputable provider like Paypal.- Create a monthly newsletter so you can build brand loyalty, encourage repeat purchases and drive awareness of special offers and deals.www.saralouisekakes.co.ukFudge brownie recipeMakes around 30 browniesIngredients:Granulated sugar – 265gPlain flour – 100gSelf raising flour – 29gCocoa powder 10/12 – 29gWhole egg – 165gVegetable oil – 28gGlycerine – 19gGlucose syrup – 61g Butter (melted) – 84gDark chocolate (70% solids) (melted) – 121gMethod:1. Blend all the dry ingredients together2. Add the water, vegetable oil, glucose and glycerine. Mix on a slow speed for one minute3. Melt the butter and chocolate together and add to the mix. Mix on slow speed for one minute4. Put the mixture into an 8in tray5. Bake at 350ºC for 40-45 mins6. Cool and cut into 6cm squares
Catering equipment company E & R Moffat (Bonnybridge, Scotland) has launched a due diligence data logging system for its range of foodservice trolleys and counters. Known as the ‘3D’ system, it offers cordless reading via a portable handset, and full archiving of up to 63 units simultaneously to help make HACCP data logging easier and more accurate. Three sensors record all required hot, refrigerated or ambient temperatures, in real time, second by second. The information is fully HACCP-compliant, accurate to +/–0.1C and calibrated accurately to full ISO 9003 standards.
The Bradman Lake Group (Bristol, Avon) has launched an infeed and form, fill and seal flowrapper combination that enables large-volume confectionery manufacturers to pack bar products in continuous operations at speeds of up to 1,000 ppm.Key to its performance is a high-tech row distribution system, which accepts and aligns bakery confectionery bars into a new high-speed Flowtronic flowrapping machine.The system features a height-adjustable, single-belt feeding process which reduces product transfer by 50%, says the firm.
Pie and pastry maker Chunk of Devon now uses an automated Smart pastry rolling sheeter from Eurobake. Achieving the right balance of meat, vegetables, gravies and pastry is important to the West Country-based company, as is a machine that could give it the right pastry consistency.The Smart model has a variable belt speed, from 20 to 85cm/sec. Also available from Eurobake is the IndustrialSmart 6500, which has a variable belt speed, from 20 to 100cm/sec and quick programming with “smart software”. It has a touch-screen control board with 50 working systems to programme. It also has optional extras, including a flour duster with adjustable flour quantity, cutting device with rollers and variable speed and dough width control.The new Smart machine allows pastry thickness parameters to be set, which Simon Bryon-Edmond, MD, Chunk of Devon said has enabled the firm to work more flexibly.The pastry sheeter is suitable for butter-rich pastry, puff, shortcrust and sweet pastry, as well as pitta breads, tortillas and pizza bases.[http://www.eurobake.co.uk]
Yorkshire-based baker and patissier Just Desserts has launched several new products and hopes to tackle the top-end retail sector, following substantial investment at its Shipley factory.The firm took over a unit that became available next to its factory last year, and spent around £50k doubling the factory’s floor space to around 3,600sq ft, expanding the bakery and investing in new equipment, as well as streamlining and modernising its operations said MD and founder James O’Dwyer. The firm has seen business rise by 15% in the year to March 2009.”There are a lot of opportunities in the marketplace, so we’re trying to raise the profile of the company,” said O’Dwyer.He explained that the business will look at targeting some of its successful products, such as its award-winning treacle tart, at the top-end retail sector including upmarket foodhalls.Its new products include pear and almond, and fig and almond franzipans, and it is relaunching Sweethearts – puff pastry hearts with a fruit conserve and a strawberry mousse filling.Established in 1985, the company currently employs 16 people and supplies the foodservice sector as well as farm shops and delicatessens.
Aryzta has seen revenue fall across its UK and Irish speciality bakery businesses as “substantially reduced customer spen-ding” resulted in tough trading conditions for the firm.Revenue in its Food Europe division dropped 11.4% in the 13 weeks to 31 October 2009. The firm, formed in August 2008 through the merger of Irish company IAWS and Swiss Bakery firm Hiestand, said the fall was “principally driven by extremely tough trading conditions in the UK and Ireland”, with a revenue decline in these markets in the region of 25% for the period.Aryzta is a mix of business-to-business and consumer brands, including Hiestand, Cuisine de France and Delice de France. Its Food Europe division comprises its speciality bakery businesses, which span across Switzerland, Germany, Poland, the UK and France.
Master bakers dinnerKingston and District Master Bakers is hosting its annual dinner and dance on Saturday 19 February. It will take place at the Oatlands Park Hotel in Weybridge, Surrey, and will begin with a drinks reception, followed by a four-course meal, cabaret and dancing. Tickets cost £57.50. For details, contact treasurer Jackie Harrington on 01372 373435.Greenhalgh’s contestGreenhalgh’s Craft Bakery has launched a competition to design a cake that represents Widnes, to mark the opening of its first store in the town. The winning entry will be turned into a real cake, which will be sliced up and sold, with all proceeds going to the British Heart Foundation.Legal battle The owners of two London bakeries are engaged in a legal row, according to the Evening Standard. David Krantz (Artisan Bakery, Park Royal) claims Doron Zilkha, (Bread Boutique, off the King’s Road) owes him £200,000 in unpaid loans. But Krantz told the Standard the loans were personal and not related to the business.Bakery closureA Widnes bakery was closed after environmental health officers found dirty equipment and mould on surfaces. David Pearse, who runs Knead the Dough on Marshgate, admitted four food hygiene offences and was fined £3,315 by Runcorn magistrates. The premises was allowed to re-open after being thoroughly cleaned.Green accoladeBath-based artisan bakery The Thoughtful Bread Company received the Green Business of the Year accolade at the Startups Awards 2010, held at Kensington Roof Gardens in London, earlier this month.
Ginsters is to launch a humorous new ad campaign with the aim of encouraging women to allow their partners to eat pies and savoury snacks at home.Plugging £6.5m into a new brand and product innovation campaign, the West Country-based savouries manufacturer is hoping to broaden the eating occasion of its products – growing the mealtime occasion – as well as increasing its traditional heartland of male consumers.The ‘man plea’ campaign launches with six different TV ads across terrestrial and satellite television from 19 February, featuring tag lines such as ‘Man cannot drive on crisps alone’ and ‘I’m a man, I have needs’.The campaign aims to bring in one million new households to the brand, as well as reiterating to consumers that, although Ginsters’ products are great cold, they’re even better hot, said the firm.In addition, Ginsters’ campaign includes a programme of product innovation, to be announced next month.Head of brand marketing Andy Valentine said the growth of the pie and savoury snacks sector has started to slow, with the total category increasing by 1% (Nielsen Scantrack 52 week data to 25.12.10), and sales down in the impulse sector (-12.2%).Valentine added that Ginsters was increasing spend on NPD by around 20% this year.>>Ginsters updates line>>Keeping it local
Sales of brown bread are on the up, thanks to the recent influx of seeded bread products, according to the latest data from Kantar Worldpanel.Total volume sales of brown/wholemeal (plant and in-store) increased by 6.1% in the 52 weeks to 20 March 2011, while overall volume sales of white bread dipped by 1.4%. Value spend on white bread was also down (-4.3%), while it increased in the brown and wholemeal category by 3.1%. The growth in both volume and value sales of brown and wholemeal was seen purely in the plant bread category, with sales of ISB bread falling in both categories.Mahinthan Kathirgamanathan, an analyst at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “Compared to last year there have been nearly 14.4 million packs switched from white bread to brown/seeded. The growth within brown bread is largely due to new seeded bread products, which have grown by 6% year-on-year.”Warburtons marketing director Richard Hayes said its seeded and wholemeal sales were now growing faster than its white bread range, at 15.2% and 6.6% respectively over the 52 weeks to 19 February 2011. “This is evidence of continued consumer interest in these sectors and reflects the continuous work by ourselves and the wider baking industry to promote their merits.”He also said it was important to recognise that other, more significant, factors were responsible for the decline in white bread sales at a national level. “The primary factors are the changing consumer use of bakery: for example, more people eating breakfast out of home; the growing interest in alternative formats for bakery other than bread, such as muffins and crumpets; and the impact that the recession has had on reducing consumer purchasing and consumption at a macro level, which is impacting mainstream staples such as white bread.”Allied Bakeries category director Guy Shepherd added: “Despite the recent decline in sales, white bread continues to form a staple part of the British diet.”Hovis said white bread had also recorded a decline in volume sales in March 2008, but picked up within six months to record 5% growth following marketing activity around its Soft White loaf.
Baguette chain Upper Crust, part of the SSP group, has launched its first ever UK advertising campaign as part of a £250,000 marketing initiative.The campaign, which incorporates billboard and radio advertising, highlights the company’s range of baguettes, but also that coffee is available across its 68 stores. One ad sees a tired commuter asleep on the shoulder of a fellow train passenger with the strapline, ‘You need coffee’.Tony Keating, chief executive of SSP UK, said: “Many of the major coffee shop brands have focused on the quality of their coffee or the journey of their beans, but nobody has ever understood how we really feel in the morning and why we need that first cup of coffee.“The campaign also demonstrates the strength of our baguette range, without boring consumers with stories of wonderful ingredients and healthy options.”