Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery was recently able to interview Paul Baker, founder, St Pierre, about how the brand is doing in the U.S., and some recent changes.
Liz Parker: How is the brand performing in the U.S. and why? Why have U.S. consumers embraced the brand?
Paul Baker: Brioche, as a category in the U.S., has been in growth consistently over the past three years. In 2018, the category was worth $108M, but by the end of 2020, the brioche sector had more than doubled, with category value standing at $290M.
There are myriad reasons why the market has shifted so dramatically but as category leader, St Pierre has really carved out a place in the bakery market, for brioche. An authentic, French product, we launched St Pierre into the U.S. in 2014 and have steadily invested in building brand awareness, driving trial and loyalty. As a result we now have a recognized brand worth more than $100M.
In fact, Nielsen data (February 2021) shows that St Pierre is key to driving value for retailers—we are responsible for a third of the market. St Pierre has driven the Brioche category with 63 percent brand growth year-on-year, whilst the rest of the category has grown at 61 percent. However, if you note that in the past year, the bakery category in which brioche sits has only grown by 8 percent, it’s clear to see the opportunity in offering consumers an upgrade from bread to brioche.
Research shows that 34 percent of consumers are buying brioche every time they go grocery shopping. The message here is clear—if you’re not offering brioche, you’re watching money walk out of the door. And that success if mirrored in other territories. In the U.K., we are up 46 percent year on year, but we know there is more to go after on both sides of the pond.
In America in particular, other brands are taking note of our success, with new ranges and NPD from renowned brands getting in on the action. We have a unique brand story though; we are an authentic brioche, we were first to market and our favored taste profile has secured us place as category leader.
It’s fair to say that the brand was already on a staggering upward trajectory, but the impact of the global pandemic has accelerated our growth. Customers looking to try something different are open to spending more, but the impact of COVID-19 on shopping habits and consumer attitudes cannot be downplayed.
As shoppers were asked to stay at home, new deciding factors came into play. The first is a desire to reduce the frequency of shopping trips. Multi-pack formats that offer a solution for more than one meal are highly desirable. Our research found that 43 percent of consumers consider brioche to be versatile, and more than a third agreed it suited every meal occasion.
The second is a desire to explore new flavors and upgrade in order to recreate restaurant quality at home. 40 percent of U.S. shoppers are spending more on their regular food shop than pre-pandemic and 48 percent have actively looked to recreate restaurant dishes at home.
With consumers looking to try something new and willing to put their hands in their pockets for quality that transports them to a favorite restaurant, or overseas holiday, retailers have a unique opportunity that can be delivered via St Pierre products in a way that no others can. By highlighting authenticity, cross-selling with breakfast, brunch and snacking occasion products and clever merchandising to capitalize on shoppers’ desires to try new experiences in the only way they currently can, we are able to provide the tools for retailers to maximize sales and basket-spend.
LP: What do your leadership changes mean for continued market expansion in the U.S. and elsewhere?
PB: We are a U.K.-based company selling European bakery products in America—and very successfully so, I might add. But our operation is complex and that’s been exacerbated by restrictions on travel. We have worked incredibly hard to become the number one brioche brand in America. We really put the legwork in, but we know that the opportunity is huge and there are experts who can help us to realize this potential.
That’s why we are investing in our in-house capabilities in terms of sales and marketing, with professionals who bring with them years of experience in the U.S. retail market, working with big name brands. We appointed Jen Danby (ex Happy Egg) as international marketing director in September last year and we are steadily recruiting Stateside to bolster our sales operation on the ground. We are building a team that can work directly with retailers—giving key customers a dedicated point of contact and more importantly, building the experience in our own teams to maintain the momentum we’ve built over the past seven years.
Essentially, any and all appointments we are making are in recognition that we have a unique and exciting opportunity to create a household name brand and we need talented individuals, with a wealth of experience to help us do that. We are building for the long-term and ready to continue the hard work. I’ve been at the helm of St Pierre Groupe since we launched in the U.S. and by appointing experts in export and logistics, finding brilliant partners to help with distribution and investing marketing spend in the right channels, it means that I can focus on the strategic development of the business to further our growth. It’s a really exciting time for the brand and we’re planning to make lots of noise this year.
LP: What are your plans for continued growth in the U.S. and other territories?
PB: Last year, St Pierre Groupe (we have three brands in total) turned over in excess of £100M for the first time. Our biggest territories are the U.S. and the U.K., and that is where our focus will remain. In the U.S., we are starting new conversations, direct with retailers, all the time. We have some exciting listings news to share over the coming months and it’s all helping to raise our profile even further. More than that though, our success in America has a ripple effect. U.K. retailers see what we’re doing, how we’re able to activate the brand and tell the story in a much more experiential way in the States and they are coming to us. Both territories are fueling one another, so we are working to align our activity on both sides of the pond. It’s a big task but it means we’ll get more bang for our buck, so to speak. That alignment will see a rebrand later in the year which will help to maintain our growth, offer a consistent brand creative globally and will demonstrate to our retailers that St Pierre is here to stay. Our new branding really works to tell our story, highlight our authenticity, and cement us as category leaders. St Pierre is the original and the best—and both our sales and our taste tests prove it.
N.B. All category data is Nielsen US Foods February 2021. All consumer research is SurveyMonkey Inc., Online consumer survey (Brioche & Brand), January 2021, 3,517 consumers