It achieved this growth through reformulating existing products, investing millions in new equipment and by significantly increasing the amount of in-house and consumer taste tests that it conducted, said Eva Wheeler, brand controller for Hovis, Premier Foods.
She was speaking at the World Food Technology and Innovation Summit in Rotterdam last month. Wheeler said that towards the end of 2007, sales of some of Hovis’s branded products were in double digit decline. “We were heading for a real crisis,” she said.
“Recipe improvements played a key role in the recovery plan,” she added.
“The bakeries improved their dialogue with millers and, for the first time, we started to experiment with different wheat varieties, to see what effect they had on the end product. We had only really been concerned with protein levels previously, but changed our way of thinking and started to trial grist varieties for taste and softness.”
Premier Foods also implemented new ways of conducting taste tests.
“After conducting taste tests, which involve around 300 consumers and can cost up to £80,000, we were surprised at how may misconceptions we had. We believed our product was better than it actually was.”
Each week groups of employees also started to conduct 160 product tests via 20 panels, which rotated every week so that all employees across the sites were included. This system benchmarked Hovis’s branded products against competitors.
“We also launched a new 120 second advert and improved our packaging, as well as investing millions of pounds in the factories to update equipment.”
The changes meant that between May 2007 and August 2009, Hovis increased its share of the UK bread market from 22.3 per cent to 26.3 per cent for the four weeks to August 8 2009 compared to the same period in 2007.