Asda to cease baking in stores, with 1,200 jobs at risk | Asda


Asda is to stop baking bread, croissants and buns in-store at its 341 supermarkets, putting 1,200 jobs at risk.

In future, Asda’s baked products, such as bread and pastries, will be made in a central bakery and then warmed in stores. It said the changes would provide a broader range of products baked fresh several times a day, compared to just once a day at present.

Asda said the proposal followed “a notable shift in customer buying behaviours” in recent years, with demand for speciality breads, wraps, bagels and pancakes outstripping traditional loaves.

The latest job cuts come less than two months after Asda said 5,000 jobs were at risk from the closures of two warehouses and elimination of thousands of back-office jobs.

The Leeds-based retailer said the changes were not related to the £6.8bn sale of the company to the petrol forecourt billionaires Mohsin and Zuber Issa and private equity group TDR Capital. That deal is yet to be cleared by the competition watchdog.

Derek Lawlor, the chief merchandising officer at Asda, said: “The current in-store bakery model has restricted our ability to respond to changing customer demands and offer them the speciality products and freshly baked goods they want to buy throughout the day.

“The changes we are proposing will deliver a much better and more consistent bakery offering for customers across all our stores. We know these proposed changes will be unsettling for colleagues and our priority is to support them during this process.”

Asda, which employs more than 140,000 people, will now enter formal consultations with those potentially affected by the changes. It said the priority would be to move as many workers as possible into alternative roles within Asda, with redundancy the last option.

Roger Jenkins, national officer of the GMB union, said: “Asda’s plans to scrap baking their products from scratch on site and replace them with part-baked products from mass producers is not good for the consumer.

“Over 1,000 skilled bakers are now at risk of losing their jobs. GMB calls on Asda to retain these valuable skilled employees and continue to offer the customer truly fresh produce baked by professional bakers.”

Supermarkets have been trying to save cash in stores by cutting back on management roles and reducing services such as deli and bakery counters. Pressure from the fast-expanding discount chains, including Aldi, Lidl and B&M, have forced them to cut costs in order to keep prices low.

Asda closed 400 of its traditional meat and fish counters last year, when Sainsbury’s closed all its meat, fish and deli counters. Tesco pushed through a similar rationalisation in 2019.

The coronavirus pandemic has also added to costs, because of the need to cover for absent or vulnerable staff, and because of the switch to less profitable online shopping.

Supermarket grocery sales have been strong during the pandemic while restaurants and cafes have been closed for months and people are eating at home. However, supermarket grocery sales are now expected to slow, and price competition to step up, as people try to save cash during tough economic times.