Hovis rebrand increases red wheat potential for UK growers

hovis bread 
A major makeover for the Hovis brand will see the company source all of its red wheat from UK growers over the next couple of years.

Demand for home-grown red wheat is set to increase after Hovis announced that a major rebranding exercise would see the company source all of its red wheat from the UK.

Gary Sharkey, Rank Hovis head of wheat procurement, said about 80% of the firm’s red wheat was UK-grown, the rest imported from North America and Australia. But the move would take the annual requirement to about 150,000t within a couple of years.

“We’ve been using UK-grown red wheat for the past three years and it’s performed very well, with a 97% pass rate. We want to keep this milling consistency and our aim is to use 100% UK wheat in Hovis bread.”

Yields were typically half a conventional first milling wheat, but higher prices and lower nitrogen requirements more than compensated (see table), he continued. “Two contract options are available for this autumn either £170/t over feed wheat or £300/t fixed.” Quality requirements were similar to typical imported red wheat specification of 16% protein, 275 Hagberg and 76kg/hl specific weight.

Red wheat was generally a spring variety, but Mr Sharkey said it was suitable for drilling in late autumn. “We’ve got people growing it from Scotland to Southampton, and it generally prefers heavier land. If it’s drilled in November, the early maturity should put it on a par with the likes of Soissons.”

Gross margin comparison 


  First milling wheat  Red wheat  
 Yield (t/ha)  9.0 4.5
 Price (£/t)  150 300
 Output (£/ha)  1350 1350


Inputs (£/ha)     
 Seed 31.25 62.5
 Fertiliser 356.5 256.5
 Sprays 156 156
 Total inputs (£/ha)  573.75  475


Gross Margin (£/ha)   776 875 


Source: Rank Hovis

Contracts would be available through Premium Crops and Gleadell Agriculture, with wheat going into mills in Southampton, Barry, Wellingborough, Manchester and Glasgow. “We’re aiming mainly at the best milling wheat growers in the UK,” Gleadell managing director David Sheppard said. “If drilling is delayed by the wet weather, it could be a useful crop to grow as it can go in anytime from late autumn to next spring.”

  • *Hovis’ new £15m marketing campaign begins today with a 122-second TV advert during Coronation Street and will continue with shorter ads until mid-December, backed up by a press campaign. Earlier this month, Hovis also extended and improved its range of 400g loaves. “We’ve seen the market for smaller loaves grow over recent years as there are a lot more single households,” Mr Sharkey commented. “It is an exciting opportunity for UK growers to join forces and connect with such an iconic brand.”

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