Healthy premium breads as a growth driver

Bread sales are returning to levels seen before the peak during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but figuring out what will come next could be difficult. Will inflation drive down sales, pushing consumers to choose cheaper options, or will budget-conscious consumers actually stick with their favorite premium brands instead of eating out?

“Year-to-date if you look at sandwich breads, the numbers are pretty much flat, so it’s not very far from pre-pandemic levels. The supply chain is likely driving this decline,” said Melissa Altobelli, Principal, Strategic Solutions Group, IRI. “I think it will be interesting to see what happens if inflation continues because people are facing higher prices in many areas: rising gas prices, transport, clothing – everything is going up – so there have to be trade-offs in how consumers spend their money.” spend.”

Premium healthy choices like keto, low-carb and gluten-free breads are driving growth in the category, she said, although mainstream sandwich breads still account for the majority of sales.

“Many households buy both the healthy keto and gluten-intolerant mom bread, but she still buys regular, mainstream bread for the kids,” Ms. Altobelli said. “There could be cutbacks because they now have a shrinking wallet. People who have bought both the premium bread for themselves and the regular bread—whether it’s white or wheat or rye bread for the kids—may just eat what the kids do. There are a lot of dynamics that we need to monitor to see what’s going to happen.”

But Americans still buy a lot of bread. Bread and roll sales at center stores rose 2.3% to $16.3 billion in the 52 weeks ended April 17, 2022, with unit numbers down 4.5%, according to IRI. Sales of rimmed bread and rolls rose 8.3% to $3.3 billion over the same period, and unit sales rose 8.8%, IRI reported.

Innovation may have slowed somewhat in recent years, but bakers are finding many new ways to connect with consumers, whether it’s expanding popular premium brands or experimenting with alternative flours.

Even if consumers don’t make the best food choices at every meal, according to the International Dairy, Deli, Bakery Association’s (IDDBA) latest trend analysis, What’s in Store, they often make better choices.

“Healthier eating has been a recurring focus area for many Americans,” the report said. “The pandemic has led to an increased focus on health, with a particular focus on immunity but also on emotional well-being. In fact, according to 210 Analytics, 95% of Americans believe physical health and emotional well-being are linked.”

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

Innovations in health, wellness and premium bread are the best way for bakers to connect with consumers, Ms Altobelli said.

“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 out there,” she said. “And on the premium front, it’s craftsmanship, rich flavors, thick bread.”

Ms. Altobelli named Sara Lee, owned by Bimbo Bakeries USA based in Horsham, Pennsylvania, as one brand that has had great success.

“Sara Lee is growing on many fronts,” she said. “Their regular Center Store sandwich bread, their Sara Lee Artisano bread, and they have a new Delightful, low-calorie offering — these are getting bigger across the board. And there’s a new keto bread, Lewis Healthy Life. Keto bread may be small, but it also drives growth.”

King’s Hawaiian, of Torrance, California, recently launched Original Hawaiian Sweet Bretzel Hamburger Buns and Slider Buns to offer consumers premium pretzel bread with a new twist.

“These King’s Hawaiian Pretzel bread offerings have all the irresistible qualities of our original Hawaiian sweet bread—soft, sweet, and fluffy—combined with a salty pretzel shell for an incredibly sweet and salty combination,” said Chad Donvito, President of King’s Hawaiian.

He added that research and development is focused on quality products that are both fun to eat and snack on, which the company sees as the biggest achievement for King’s Hawaiian.

Flowers Foods, of Thomasville, Georgia, 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 normality when it comes to eating bread. Something as simple as a bun can have a tremendous impact when it meets expectations of great taste, wholesomeness and quality ingredients,” said Mark Courtney, Chief Brand Officer of Flowers Foods. “Given the success of other Canyon Bakehouse product additions, including buns, bagels and English muffins, a bun seemed a perfect fit.”

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 consumer insights about flavors, sizes and other attributes that consumers would like to see,” said Mr. Courtney. “Both Hawaiian and Sourdough scored some of our best sellers in every line, so we were confident consumers wanted those items.”

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

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