ABF has announced it is launching a high-protein bread in New Zealand

ABF has announced it is launching a high-protein bread in New Zealand

Associated British Foods this week announced the launch of a high-protein bread from its Australasian arm George Weston Foods. The company looks to be weighing up options to increase sales in the highly pressured bakery sector. Is its move into the better-for-you category in New Zealand one that will pay off? Hannah Abdulla explores.

The reaction from food manufacturers to growing demand for added-protein foods over the last year has been phenomenal. Nearly every week there is either the launch of an added-protein product, or an acquisition of a protein-product maker. A quick search of the word 'protein' on our site brings up hundreds of articles from the last year including Arla Foods' launch of a high-protein yoghurt line, Danone adding protein shakes to its US range and General Mills' launch of a protein-based version of its Cheerios cereal.

One area in which we have not seen much action so far, however, is bakery. High-protein bread ranges, until now have only been available via specialist channels. UK-based Dr Zak's and Australia's The Protein Bread Co. are just two of the firms offering protein-based bakery products, available to buy online or in specialist independent retailers.

But that all looks set to change after Associated British Foods announced its George Weston Foods division, which operates in Australia and New Zealand, would be pumping NZ$2m (US$1.5m) into developing and marketing "high protein breads".

Marketed under the Tip Top brand in New Zealand, the product has "double the protein" of the existing Tip Top Supersoft bread.

It is an interesting move - or reaction - from ABF. Last week, the Kingsmill owner reported pressure in the bread category both in the UK and Australia as a result of competition on price and heavy promotional activity among retailers.

ABF has not hidden the fact the launch is directly linked with the poor performance of the bread category recently. Mark Adam, general manager for George Weston Foods' baking division in New Zealand, explained bread manufacturers had been "bearing the brunt of the supermarket price war with margins compressed by NZ$1 bread offerings".

"Our response has been to invest in developing and marketing higher value products that will appeal to traditional white bread buyers and let them give their families something that’s better for them than NZ$1 bread," he said.

But are people likely to pay? Particularly as competitors continue to slash prices of bread in order to boost volumes sold?

Keith Bowman, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, tells just-food as global demand for protein continues to rise, there is nothing to suggest people will not pay a premium. He says the product could particularly appeal to parents looking to feed their children "healthier" options.

"Bread is always popular with children and if it adds to their protein intake on a daily basis then that could provide some sort of appeal for which people would be willing to pay more for than they would a standard product," Bowman says. "We're certainly seeing that trend with cereals - added vitamin and all the rest of it has provided some appeal in the past."

And it is not just a one-off thing either. While the Tip-Top range will sell two, high-protein products, ABF is looking to up its game in New Zealand's added-value bakery sector in the near future. The company has said it plans to invest NZ$1m on better-for-you products in the next few months and a total of more than NZ$2m over the next couple of years.

"They are probably trying to capture the general trend towards healthier eating," says Bowman. "This is certainly something we've seen on a much broader basis - McDonalds for example and Coca-Cola we've seen come under some pressure as those trends have been growing in the US for example."

Of course bread falls under the non-meat proteins category too: another box ticked as more and more reports surface about the environmental damage being caused by the livestock sector in trying to churn out meat products to meat protein demand. World demand for animal-derived protein is expected to double by 2050 according to Rabobank. Protein-based bread is yet another alternative that satisfies the demand for protein, with less damage, and it is different from the regular soy-based options.

So far, Bowman says, many of the packaged food protein options such as cereal have garnered appeal.

"I suppose management at AB Foods are looking to potentially take that opportunity in the bread arena. They've obviously highlighted they've seen some challenges where the half year results were concerned for that particular business [bakery]. Maybe they are trying to move themselves away from the run of the mill products and stand out from the crowd."