ABE’S Bagels case study

Countdown helps cement ABE’S Bagels in NZ

“We have a really collaborative relationship with the team at Countdown – across both categories we operate in. We share insights regularly and I think that’s really important.” – Wade Gillooly, General Manager, ABE’S Bagels

Beginnings

Back in 96’, ABE’S started out as a café bringing authentic American-inspired bagels to Auckland’s CBD and quickly established a loyal following. But when the 1998 Auckland power crisis stuck, it was veteran journalist Paul Holmes that helped make the bagel business a household name when he broadcast from their store – one of the few Auckland businesses still operating via generator.

The Holmes story caught the attention of what was then Foodtown; the team there saw a great brand that they wanted to stock.

“Our downtown bakery was an American inspired bagel café so that was quite unique at the time, but what started as just bagels and coffee quickly turned into a significant business,” says General Manager of ABE’s Bagels, Wade Gillooly.

ABE’S started in a few stores, but after strong sales, its products were soon stocked in every Countdown store.

“It’s been 18 years since that first store, and now we’re proudly a 20 million dollar business and a leader in the bagel category in New Zealand. This is principally down to our supplier relationship with Countdown.”

Certainty

Eight months ago Countdown approached ABE’S about participating in its Lockdown programme.

The bagel boss admits that they were dubious of the initiative to begin with but the programme has helped create certainty in their business.

“The thing about weekly promotional sales is they create big lifts one week and then significant dips the next, depending on competitor sales activity. As a bakery creating fresh bagels, it’s really important to consistently create a high quality, fresh product that meets the demand. The Lockdown programme has been incredibly successful for us in that sense,” he says.

“We’re growing about 33 per cent, which is strong growth in the category. We think a lot of that is down to good execution in store with Countdown’s Lockdown programme.”

Innovation

As demand grew for ABE’S products in Countdown’s stores, so did its range. ABE’S now has eight varieties in the fresh bagel category, including a newly launched Six Seed Gluten Free variety alongside innovations in the highly competitive snacks category with Bagel Bites. 

Innovation is critical for ABE’S and Wade believes that’s been part of the reason the bagel business has managed to grow its household penetration from 12 per cent two years ago to 16 per cent today.

“One of the things I really value about our relationship with Countdown is our collaborative working relationship,” says Wade.

“We share category insights with each other and I think that’s really important in understanding how and where we can grow. For example health is the biggest macro trend right now and our Multigrain is really popular for that reason.

“We also launched a Six Seed Gluten Free bagel last year and we’re in the process of talking to Countdown about putting a range in store. Gluten Free consumers have a really bland choice and we want to change that.”

Quality control.

“We’re a preferred supplier. With Countdown we operate to the Woolworths Quality Assurance standard version 8 with version 9 just about to be released.

“We’re really proud that we operate under that standard and can provide the level of assurance Countdown needs. We participate in an annual audit which has a big focus on our bakery. We’ve passed all our audits and maintained a high standard.”