Can ‘thins’ save a dwindling packaged bread sector?

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‘Thins’ have taken off in the US and Canada with bread, bagel and even tortilla varieties offering less calories for the health-conscious consumer, and it’s an area that holds great promise for Europe, says Mintel.

Earlier this month Kingsmill launched a ‘thins’ line in the UK, following in the wake of market leader Warburtons, and Mintel’s food and drink research manager Chris Brockman said there was a huge amount of potential for the category within Europe, especially the UK.

“If you can provide a product that talks about thinner or lower calorie you can potentially boost that consumption,” he said.

US strong thins market, dominated by Grupo Bimbo

Grupo Bimbo holds the lion’s share in the developed US sector with Thomas bagel thins and Arnold and Orowheat sandwich thins, he said.

According to Mintel data, Thomas’ Bagel Thins made sales of $84.3m in the 52 weeks ending June 16, 2013 and Arnold’s Sandwich Thins made $176.4m.

Brockman said the UK thins market was only just starting to approach the level of development seen in the US.

“There’s a lot more that can be done with extending the variety, in terms of adding health benefits through seeds and grains but also flavor too,” he said.

Space for competition and opportunity beyond the UK?

Brockman said there was plenty of room for more players to enter the UK thins market. “Because of growth in sandwich alternatives as a whole – that’s really where all growth in the UK market is at the moment – that would suggest more scope to get more brands involved, I think in this case, the market is big enough to support more.”

He said that within Europe, France and Spain held promise for thins as more consumers turned to packaged bread. However, for the time being the UK remained the biggest market.

Asked if the thins trend was simply a flash in the pan, he said: “No, the US market would suggest it’s not. It’s been developing for a number of years and it has reached a level that is quite substantial. And the fact that we’re seeing the activity in the alternative sandwich field in the UK market – so, bagels, pitas: all those types of products in the UK have been very, very successful in recent years – that’s where some of the thin concepts work quite well, but isn’t restricted just to that…”  

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