Lessons from 2020 highlight importance for craft bakers to remain agile and break new ground

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Craft bakers across the globe - not only in the UK - have had to innovate to remain relevant during the pandemic. Pic: GettyImages/ronaldoalmeida10
Craft bakers across the globe - not only in the UK - have had to innovate to remain relevant during the pandemic. Pic: GettyImages/ronaldoalmeida10

Related tags Craft Bakers Association coronavirus home delivery

A Craft Bakers Association survey amongst its members has shown that those who demonstrate dexterity, temerity and forward-thinking are riding the storm ... a lesson to be taken forward, even after the pandemic crisis has passed.

According to CBA, 45% of the respondents say they have added new products to their range since the start of the pandemic. In addition, 33% report making more product than usual and only 6% state to be producing the same amount as prior to the pandemic.

Warings Bakery, for example – which has five stores in Reading – introduced an afternoon tea box, which proved particularly popular for the VE day bank holiday and Father’s Day. The bakery also bought back tried-and-tested recipes it knew customers were looking for as a bit of solace during these uncertain times, such as dairy cream cakes, custard doughnuts and lemon curd-filled doughnuts.

Transforming business model

As well as innovating to introduce new products, many bakeries also found new ways to get products into the hands of customers while adhering to health and safety guidelines, with 68% of those surveyed introducing a takeaway service and 55% providing home delivery.

Third-generation bakery Slattery in Manchester, for example, has been selling its cakes and afternoon tea for decades, but prior to the pandemic had never offered a home delivery service.

The business was quick to adapt to the new environment by offering cream tea and afternoon tea boxes to local postcodes once lockdown restrictions were imposed. Slattery claims the boxes were an instant hit, with 100 orders received daily in the first week of lockdown, rising to 200 the following week. It says it still receives 10-15 orders for the boxes each day, despite restrictions easing.

Warings Bakery, too, launched a home delivery service to maintain it ‘food-to-go’ business model, picking up 125 orders within hours of setting up the supporting website.

Proof in the pudding

Arguably the clearest indicator of how bakeries have successfully adapted is in the turnover results.

According to the survey, 31% claim turnover increased in the first 10 weeks of lockdown, with one bakery reporting that turnover has doubled over this period. A further 14% say turnover has remained stable since the start of the pandemic.

Warings Bakery says its home delivery service has replaced the income lost from the instore trade, maintaining its bottom line and even increasing it in some weeks compared to the year prior.

“By offering new products and finding new ways to reach shoppers, bakers have shown great resilience in the face of the pandemic,”​ said George Fuller, chairman of CBA.

“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.”

The Craft Bakers Association (CBA) has been the voice of the sector since 1887. It represents approximately 500 bakery businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – from startups to established bakeries - supporting a total of 3,000 shops on the high street, alongside wholesale companies and specialised confectionery businesses.

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