Healthy Premium Breads That Boost Growth

Bread sales are returning to levels seen before they spiked during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but figuring out what comes next could be tricky. Will inflation reduce sales and push consumers to choose cheaper options, or will budget-conscious consumers really stick with their favorite premium brands instead of eating out?

“Year to date, if you look at sandwich buns, unit sales are pretty much flat, so not too far from pre-pandemic levels. The supply chain is likely driving that decline,” said Melissa Altobelli, director of IRI’s strategic solutions group. “I think it will be interesting to see what happens as inflation continues because people are facing higher prices in many areas: rising gas prices, transportation, clothing, everything is going up, so there will have to be trade-offs on how consumers spend their money.

Healthy premium options, such as ketogenic, low-carb and gluten-free breads, are driving growth in the category, he said, though conventional sandwich breads still account for the bulk of sales.

“Many households are buying the healthy bread with mom on the ketogenic diet or with gluten sensitivity, but she is still buying ordinary bread for the kids,” said Ms. Altobelli. “There could be some downside trading because they have a smaller and smaller wallet now. People who bought both premium bread for themselves and regular bread, whether it’s white, wheat or rye for the kids, may just eat what the kids do. There are a lot of dynamics that we need to look at to see what’s going to happen.”

But Americans still buy a lot of bread. Bread and bun sales at the central store increased 2.3% to $16.3 billion for the 52 weeks ending April 17, 2022, with unit sales down 4.5%, according to IRI. Edge bread and roll sales for that same period rose 8.3% to $3.3 billion, with unit sales up 8.8%, IRI reported.

Innovation may have slowed down a bit in recent years, but bakers are finding lots of new ways to engage with consumers, whether it’s expanding popular premium brands or experimenting with alternative flours.

Although consumers may not choose the best foods at every meal, they often choose something better, according to the International Dairy, Deli, Bakery Association’s (IDDBA) recent “What’s in Store” trend analysis.

“Healthier eating has been an area of ​​intermittent interest for many Americans,” the report stated. “The pandemic caused a greater focus on health, with a particular emphasis on immunity but also emotional well-being. In fact, 95% of Americans believe that physical health and emotional well-being are interconnected, according to 210 Analytics.”

The report goes on to say that consumers are looking to downplay what they see as bad, like artificial flavors and salt, while looking for attributes they see as positive, like protein, fiber, and antioxidants.

Innovating in the areas of health, wellness and premium breads is the best way for bakers to engage with consumers, said Ms. Altobelli.

“Innovation and healthier options like low-calorie, low-carb, good source of fiber, non-GMO, keto, gluten-free, protein — there are all kinds of claims,” she said. “And on the premium front, it’s artisanal, rich flavors, thick bread.”

Ms. Altobelli cited Sara Lee, owned by Horsham, Pennsylvania-based Bimbo Bakeries USA, as a brand that is seeing a lot of success.

“Sara Lee is growing on many fronts,” he said. “Their regular central store sandwich bread, her Sara Lee Artisano bread, and they have a new Delightful, which is a low-calorie offering, they’re growing across the board. And there’s a new keto bread, Lewis Healthy Life. Ketogenic bread, while small, is also driving growth.”

King’s Hawaiian, Torrance, Calif., recently launched the Original Hawaiian Sweet Pretzel Slider Buns and Hamburger Buns to offer consumers a premium pretzel bun with a new twist.

“These King’s Hawaiian Pretzel bread offerings have all the irresistible characteristics of our original Hawaiian sweet bread – soft, sweet and fluffy – combined with a salty pretzel exterior that makes for an incredible sweet and salty combo,” said Chad Donvito, President from King’s Hawaiian. .

He added that research and development is focused on high-quality products that bring fun to both meals and snacks, which the company believes provide the most success for King’s Hawaiian.

Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga., has brands that fit into several of the healthy and premium categories, including Dave’s Killer Bread, Nature’s Own Perfectly Crafted and gluten-free brand Canyon Bakehouse, which recently launched a brioche bun.

“Our brand legacy is built on inclusion and giving people back a sense of normalcy when it comes to eating bread. Something as simple as a muffin can have a tremendous impact when it meets expectations for great taste, wholesomeness and high-quality ingredients,” said Mark Courtney, brand director for Flowers Foods. “A dinner roll seemed like a perfect fit, given the success of other Canyon Bakehouse product extensions, including scones, bagels and English muffins.”

Nature’s Own recently launched two new breads, Hawaiian and Perfectly Crafted Sourdough, both inspired by consumer preferences.

“The Nature’s Own brand team collects information from consumers on flavors, sizes and other attributes that consumers would like to see,” said Mr. Courtney. “Both Hawaiian and Sourdough scored on par with some of our top sellers in each line, so we were confident consumers wanted these items.”

This article is an excerpt from the July 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the full article on Pan, click here.

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