The UK bread major was forced to drop its British wheat pledge in January 2013 and source EU wheat for the majority of its range following a poor 2012 UK harvest. At the time Hovis said it would continue to work closely with local suppliers and source British wherever possible.
The announcement this week to return to British wheat will be accompanied by a packaging revamp on three of its Soft White products. A Union flag pack will be rolled out across UK stores from April.
However, the brand will not claim 100% British wheat on pack as it did in the past, Hovis marketing director Matt Hunt said.
“We could not make a 100% British claim on pack because our experience is that this could impact on our ability to produce quality bread if the harvest is poor,” Hunt told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“… Our commitment is to buy British wheat whenever and wherever we can. As the 2013 harvest was better than the previous year, this has meant we are once again sourcing all our wheat locally,” he said.
Hunt said that the return to manufacturing with British wheat meant that Hovis could once again differentiate from competitors.
Wheat certainty back?
The 2012 UK wheat harvest was disastrous. However, the 2013 harvest was significantly better and early figures on 2014 planting indicate that yields should be up again.
The Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has suggested the 2014 harvest should see the UK wheat area up 22%, back to pre-2012 levels.
Jack Watts, senior analyst for cereals and oilseeds at AHDB Market Intelligence, said that with this improvement would be a drop in inflated prices for UK wheat by August or September, 2014.
The Hovis announcement to return to British sourcing comes just two months after Premier Foods spun off its bakery and flour business into a joint venture business with US private equity firm Gores Group. The bread business, Hovis Limited, became a stand-alone joint venture business with Gores owning 51%.