Baking Beyond Compare

Bread Ahead is a bakery and baked goods retail store that has been adding a unique flavour to Durban’s culinary scene for over two decades. Most notably recognised for its succulent pies, the company is gearing up to expand in a new direction by distributing its famous pies in a frozen, packaged form to major food retailers all across South Africa.

Bread Ahead’s first store on Cowey Road has delivered tasty baked goods and pastries to the city of Durban for over 20 years. Voted Durban’s best bakery five years in a row, Bread Ahead is a company that continues to be creative in the variety of products and goods it offers its customers.

Due to the growing popularity of the baked treats and new management in 2009, Bread Ahead started opening stores in shopping centres within the greater Durban area and the bakery chain now has a total of eight stores across the region.

In order to ensure each customer gets the same quality and taste they’ve grown to love, each store gets a fresh batch of goods delivered every morning from the central bakery.

Due to its dedication to freshness and great value, Bread Ahead has gained a reputation in Durban for its superior quality treats.

“We never cut corners and we always use the most premium ingredients we can get,” explains Adam McKeon, managing director of Bread Ahead, explaining that they always strive to use fresh cream, proper fats and A-grade top quality meats. “We’d rather pull it from our shelves than disappoint a customer. That’s been a philosophy even before we took over. I think we’ve earned the customer’s trust over time.”

Products

Bread Ahead prides itself in the quality of its baking, particularly its pies. “Our pastry is made of the finest ingredients and crammed full of 70 per cent more filling than supermarket pies” states the company on its website.

McKeon says Bread Ahead puts out a new line approximately every month, trying and testing out new creative flavours to go along with the traditional “classics” that have popularised the brand. Some of the more popular flavours are mutton curry, steak and kidney, chicken and mushroom pies as well as spinach and cheese pies. Bread Ahead even recently released a chicken tikka pie.

“We are quite well known for our pies. Depending on the store, pies make up between 20 and 25 per cent of the sales,” says McKeon. “It drives our store growth and it is a big part of our plans going forward.”

Customised cakes for special occasions are another product Bread Ahead has seen a growing demand for. Perhaps influenced by the lavish or out-of-the-ordinary cakes seen on popular food shows like Ace of Cakes, McKeon believes those types of TV shows have played a big part in stimulating a higher demand of more creative cakes.

Other products Bread Ahead is known for include: cornish pasties, sausage rolls and bunny chows. The company also offers its customers platters filled with appetizers and finger foods, sandwiches and croissants. The sweeter side of the bakery comes out in its premium quality muffins, donuts, danishes and cakes and the stores have also expanded to begin offering coffees, teas and other beverages.

Breaking into FMCG

Riding on its strong premium brand growing success, Bread Ahead is expanding its storefront presence with three new shops, two opening in May and the other opening in August.

However a recent investment into blast freezing technologies has helped McKeon and his colleagues make the decision to expand the Bread Ahead brand into the Fast Moving Consumer Goods space.

Because baked goods need to be fresh every day and have a short shelf life, Bread Ahead has relied heavily on selling through its own stores. However, with blast freezing, the company is now able to expand its market and take its famous pies to a national level, a demand McKeon says has already been on the rise in Johannesburg and the Eastern Cape.

“It could be a real game changer for us because now we’re starting to go into the mass market, big volume business,” explains McKeon. “Based on national standards, we’re a low volume producer because we’re only producing for our own stores. But we are now getting into the supermarket business for frozen products and rallying up against bigger names and brands like Heinz and Dr. Oetker. This is a very exciting opportunity.”

Bread Ahead is now in the process of being listed with one of the “Big Four” food retailers in South Africa and will be distributing its pies, first, as a packaged product in the frozen foods section. Depending on the popularity from there, perhaps more of Bread Ahead’s baked goods will be expanded to a national level.

McKeon says the company is very excited for the coming five years and what kind of successes its new expansions might bring.

“What we realise is we’ve got a very strong brand,” he says. “Our strategy is to go more into retail and exploiting the brand to make ourselves more accessible.

We’re going to keep our retail presence as that’s the face of our brand. People can still walk into the bakery and have food. But we want people to be able to buy our products from convenient locations, like at the grocery. We definitely want to increase accessibility but still keep the experience. Not many players in the market could straddle that.”