The Warburtons Growth Story – how a focus on quality built a brand to rival Coca-Cola

From Bolton to using Hollywood superstars – fascinating insights into the growth of Warburtons to be the second largest grocery brand in the UK from Mark Simester, Marketing Director of Warburtons.

The start point was something I didn’t realise – Warburtons is the second largest grocery brand in the UK, beaten only by Coca-Cola. The adverts have told me that it is a family run business, with succeeding generations having taken over, the current management of three cousins having been in place for 24 years.

The expansion of Warburtons since the 1980s has involved classic marketing principles, starting from thei bakery in Bolton they sent their drivers further east across Yorkshire, giving samples of their bakery products to shopkeepers to try. Once customers discovered the products and said they wanted to continue buying them the shops listed Warburtons, allowing them to build up enough trade to open a Bakery in Wakefield to serve fresh bread to Yorkshire. This was repeated by heading North to Tyneside and then Glasgow before heading in a southerly direction to the stage they now have the UK covered with bakeries serving 16000 shops per day via their own fleet of 1000 trucks.

Warburtons believe they have grown through consistenIMG_20150624_155539cy – consistent quality of fresh bread but also consistency of leadership and messages. Their key values are simple:

  • Family (ownership and family of employees)
  • Ambition
  • Responsibility
  • Quality
  • Care

But how are Warburtons different from other bakers? Passion seemed to be the answer, although the specific points mentioned were:

  • Long term plans without knee jerks
  • Investing in the best equipment
  • Purchasing the best ingredients
  • Employing expert bakers

Warburtons deliver better quality of bread, and do it through five things:

  1. Partnering with farmers to get their specific strain of wheat
  2. Bake from high protein wheat to provide strength in the loaf
  3. Have the best bakeries and bakers
  4. Deliver direct to store to ensure freshness, no regional distribution centres involved
  5. Bread is stronger and doesn’t rip when buttered – butterability!

Mark talked through the marketing communication process that led to their current advertising using Sylvester Stallone. They were aiming for an advert to show their dedication to delivering fresh bread every day but realised they were in danger of making something more suitable as a film for a supply chain conference so stopped the process. They then (in conjunction with their agency) had the idea to make their own action movie and someone suggested using Sylvester Stallone. Through a connection they managed to get in contact with him and he agreed to the idea, if you have seen the result it is here.

What next – we will have to wait and see but they do have ideas!

Overall, how have Warburtons built a brand to rival Coca-Cola, it has been through:

“Commitment to freshness and commitment to quality”

Surely something that can be applied to any organisation, demonstrating a clear, determined strategy.