Bread maker rises to Aussie challenge

An Auckland speciality bread and slices company has cracked into Australian supermarket giant Coles in a deal worth several million dollars.

Loaf's Sean Armstrong says his firm's sweet slices are now on shop shelves in more than 400 Coles supermarkets in Victoria and New South Wales.

If the trial is successful, Coles could sell them in all 750 of its supermarkets in Australia.

Getting a toe in the door with major supermarket chains such as Coles is usually notoriously difficult and protracted, but Armstrong said it took six months to get his slices on their shelves.

He was put in touch with the right category manager, who quickly agreed to a meeting.

"I went over there and got her to taste the product and it was pretty much done from there. It's probably one of the easiest deals that I've been involved in."

Loaf's slices have been selling in Coles since Monday last week, and as of Wednesday last week sales had met 60 per cent of forecast sales for the week.

Loaf has so far sent four containers, or about 75,000 slices, to Australia.

In New Zealand Loaf sells through selected Foodstuffs supermarkets and speciality food retailers such as Nosh.

The company has about 50 staff- after hiring seven to help manage the threefold increase in production the deal with Coles has brought about.

Armstrong, who was a chef before getting into the speciality foods business, said he purpose-built a bakery in Penrose in May 2011 that would allow the company to expand internationally.

"We're looking very closely at about four other international markets. This is just the beginning."

Coles is owned by ASX-listed conglomerate Wesfarmers.

Wesfarmers said last month Coles had boosted sales in the three months ending December 31 by 5.2 per cent to A$9.9b, with almost A$1b of food and liquor sales in the week before Christmas.