European consumers turning away from independents and to multiples for baked goods

European consumers turning away from independents and to multiples for baked goods

It's been a while coming but Switzerland-based bakery giant Aryzta has moved to boost its business with Europe's retailers - as consumers increasingly turn away from artisan bakers and to supermarkets for their bread and croissants.

Aryzta has struck a deal to buy privately-owned German baker Klemme to address what it called its "under-representation" with Europe's retailers.

The downturn has prompted European consumers, as in a number of categories, to look for value and buying bread and baked goods has been no different. Fewer shoppers are buying bread in independent outlets; they have turned to the cheaper options on sale in major retail outlets.

Aryzta labelled Klemme a "leading player" in Germany's "growing in-store bakery sector". It said the acquisition, which is subject to clearance from Germany's competition authorities, would, more broadly, make it a "leading partner manufacturer" for "well-established" European retailers.

Shares in Aryzta dipped yesterday after the deal was announced, presumably as the company admitted the acquisition would add to the cost of its own programme to improve in supply chain and invest in enterprise resource planning.

However, analysts broadly welcomed the rationale for the deal. Davy Research analyst John O'Reilly called the acquisition a "sound, strategic action". Darren Greenfield, an analyst at NCB, cited the "stronger position" Aryzta would have with German retailers. Alain Oberhuber, an analyst at MainFirst, said the deal made sense strategically and was done at a "reasonable price".

That said, among analysts, there was the feeling that Aryzta has been slow in investing behind the trend for consumers to shop for their baked goods in the multiples.

It has been a trend in evidence for much of the downturn; Dutch food group CSM told just-food last year there had been an acceleration in the trend in 2011. Does Aryzta feel as though it had been slow to react?

An Aryzta spokesperson admitted the company had, since its formation in 2008, made most of its investment in North America and acknowledged its European business was focused on smaller, independent stores.

"This is the first major investment that has taken place in Europe really since Aryzta was created, practically all of the investment to date has been in North America," he told just-food. "The European business up until this point, primarily two-thirds of this business was into the small, independently, wholly-owned businesses. We were under-represented in retail and the addition of Klemme will enhance the channel distribution."

However, he insists Aryzta was not slow to meet the demand from European consumers for bakery products within the major multiples. "No, if you look back at our public announcements, we have highlighted this issue for some considerable time."

It is a wise move by Aryzta. Consumers have moved to multiples for baked goods and the retailers are increasingly offering a wider selection of products. Aryzta said it hoped the deal would make it a supplier for European retailers looking at "speciality" products.

Could Aryzta look again to shore up its European business through acquisition? CSM's bakery assets have been on the block since May but it has not secured a deal yet. The Dutch group insists the sale process is progressing to plan. Speaking to just-food this week, CSM refused to comment further.

Aryzta has been touted as a potential buyer of CSM's bakery assets but it, too, was tight-lipped. "We don't have any comment to make on that," the spokesperson said.

As Europe's consumers snaffled up baked goods at the mults, and with the market remaining fragmented, expect more deals. CSM's assets look set to be sold. Whether Aryzta is the buyer remains to be seen. At least now, with Klemme, it has at last tapped into Europeans' love for bread and croissants at the major retailers.