COBS Bread Marks 20th Anniversary with Ambitious Plan for Hundreds of New Stores in 5 Years [Interview]

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COBS Bread bakery is celebrating its 20th anniversary and has plans to expand up to 350 stores within the next five years. 

COBS Bread started in Australia as Baker’s Delight in 1980 as a small family business and expanded into Canada in 2003 with its first location in North Vancouver. 20 years later, COBS Bread has 160 locations in Canada and is aggressively growing. 

“We are growing faster than ever before and we are excited to celebrate our 20th anniversary. It has been a great 20 years and we look forward to another 20 more in Canada. We will be celebrating by offering up a specialty birthday scone and there will be some other treats consumers can take advantage of during our 20th anniversary in July,” says Aaron Gillespie, President of COBS Bread. 

Looking Back 

Image: COBS Bread London Northwest

Gillespie says the most important lesson they have learned throughout the last 20 years is that it is all about the customer, having the right products, and finding the right franchisees. While the brand sticks to its traditional roots, Gillespie says they have learned to bring new items to the menu to meet consumer needs.

“In the early days, we did a lot of product development when we came to Canada. For example, at the start we didn’t sell cinnamon buns, but now they are our best-selling products. We have also since developed a range of very successful scones to meet the needs of the Canadian consumer and a range of other products. So, while we are still staying true to our brand values, it is really important to us to meet the needs of local tastes and meet what the people want,” says Gillespie. 

Gillespie said at the start they tried to make COBS Bread a corporate owned model, but then realized it would not work well for them and instead invested into franchises who “live and run the community bakery,” Gillespie said. 

Aaron Gillespie

“They are able to develop a team and deliver our great product, great customer service, give back to the community, and be connected to their community in a way that you know nobody else can. So, the level of experience that we want to deliver is best done by an invested partner, so that has to be one of the biggest lessons we have learned,” says Gillespie. 

Gillespie said each franchise gives back to the community by donating products that don’t sell by the end of the day to charities or community organizations, through its End of Day Giving program. Gillespie said over 560 million dollars worth of products has been donated across Canada. 

Consumers can find a variety of products at COBS Bread such as sandwich bread, artisan bread, fresh baked treats, savoury products, and more and can count on all products to be fresh and all products are baked fresh from scratch daily.  

Aggressive Expansion Plans 

COBS Bread Bakery at 171 E Liberty St (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Currently, COBS Bread has 160 locations in Canada and is planning to add 200 stores within the next five years. 

“There is no reason why we can’t. In Australia we have over 500 bakeries and Australia is a slightly smaller country than Canada and that is what we hope to do and think we can. So, we have mapped out up to 500 locations we would like to go, without including Quebec, and I think once we get to 350, we will feel we are starting to reach a good level of presence,” says Gillespie. 

Elizabeth Cosulich

Elizabeth Cosulich, the Senior Real Estate Manager for COBS Bread, says the next location to open will be in Toronto at Front St E. and Sherbourne St., and will be the first downtown Toronto location.  

“It is an exciting time for us to be in the bustling St. Lawrence Market District and the bakery will be open in the next month,” says Cosulich. 

In addition to the downtown Toronto location, Cosulich said there will also be openings in Milton and Sault Ste. Marie in the next few weeks. Other locations that are in the works include Brooklin (Whitby) and Ottawa, Abbotsford, Calgary, and more in the Greater Toronto Area. Dates and locations are not confirmed. 

Upcoming 2023 bakery openings include:

Canada

  1. Highstreet (Abbotsford, BC) –End of June
  2. Cambie & 8th – Vancouver, BC – Early Aug
  3. Milton Mall, South Milton, ON – Mid June
  4. Brooklin (Whitby), ON – End of July
  5. Churchill Plaza (Sault Ste. Marie) – ON – August
  6. Stafford Centre (Ottawa, ON) – late August
  7. Brookdale Plaza (Peterborough, ON) 
  8. Yorkson (Langley, BC)
  9. Bolton (Bolton, ON) 

US

  1. Compo Acres – CT
  2. Merrick – NY
  3. Oceanside – NY
  4. Eastchester – NY
  5. Greenvale – NY
  6. Lake Grove – NY
  7. Carle Place – NY
  8. Plainview – NY

The next province COBS Bread would like to enter in would be New Brunswick.

“We would love to be in New Brunswick, we are already in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick would be the next place for us in the Maritimes. We would also love to expand more into Saskatchewan and Manitoba. We currently have two bakeries in Winnipeg and four bakeries across Saskatoon and Regina, so we would love to see more in those provinces,” says Gillespie. 

Locations usually range from around 1,200 square feet to 1,500 square feet and Gillespie said they look for locations in neighbourhoods, supermarkets, and with independent retailers.  

COBS Bread is also looking to expand further internationally. Currently, Gillespie said they have two locations already open in Connecticut, United States and the goal would be to open between 25 to 30 stores within the next three years and hopefully 300 locations within 10 years. Although Gillespie said they are currently focused on expanding more in Canada and in the United States, he would like to expand into other continents such as Asia, but there are no immediate plans. 

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Shelby Hautala
Shelby Hautala
Shelby Hautala, based in Toronto, is a new Journalist to Retail Insider. She has experience writing for local newspapers and also internationally for Helsinki Times while she lived in Finland. Shelby holds a Bachelor of Journalism Honours degree from the University of King’s College and a Social Work degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax.

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