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Center Store

Buttering Up the Bakery Aisle

Retailers are driving sales with new formulations, varieties, pack sizes
Photograph: iStock; Photographs courtesy of St. Pierre Bakery, Cedars Bakery

Between Cronuts, rainbow bagels, pretzel croissants and even the “pizookie”—that’s cookie dough baked in a pizza pan—new products in the bakery category over the past few years have been nothing short of innovative (albeit sometimes completely bizarre).

Certainly, these types of novelties satisfy consumers’ hunger for more than just Instagrammable photo opportunities. Although health and wellness continue to trend upward across all grocery categories, including bakery, shoppers still seek indulgent treats that offer a variety of unique and authentic products and flavor profiles. Sales of pastries and doughnuts grew 2.6% in the 52 weeks ending June 17, 2018, reaching $3.5 billion, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI.

After exploring adventurous foods in restaurants, consumers are looking to their grocery stores’ center store to provide similar items they can enjoy at home or on the go. As such, products that offer convenience and portability are essential, particularly as snacking habits increasingly replace meal occasions. When selecting their commercial bakery product assortment, retailers must think outside the box and consider all factors and demographics to appeal to shoppers’ varying palates, eating occasions, health and transparency concerns, and demand for convenience.

Flavors With an International Flair

st. pierre popover

Today’s consumer craves imaginative, globally inspired foods that break away from cookie-cutter flavors and formats. Sales of Middle Eastern pita bread, for instance, increased a whopping 41.7% over the past year, according to IRI.

Manufacturers are churning out new varieties of traditional bakery favorites to butter up consumer interest in more flavorful, adventurous products. “We’re seeing a lot more creativity within the space,” says Tim Boote, marketing director for Manchester, U.K.-based St. Pierre Bakery, a producer of authentic European-style breads and pastries. “We’ve noticed classic desserts like doughnuts, croissants and eclairs are getting a modern makeover with exotic flavors and ingredients.”

To that end, the company recently introduced its newest innovation, the Brioche Popover, a cross between a classic breakfast muffin and a light brioche pastry. Derived from authentic recipes in France and Belgium, like all of St. Pierre’s products, the Brioche Popover is airy and delicate with a buttery crumb, soft texture and a moist filling. They’re available in vanilla, chocolate and cinnamon varieties.

Digging Deeper Into Transparency

Even though consumers are indulging in unique sweets, that’s not to say health and wellness are no longer top of mind. According to IDDBA’s latest trend report, What’s in Store 2018, health and wellness and transparency are among two of the top three trends affecting consumer shopping and purchasing in the bakery category. While it’s important that retailers offer products that satisfy shoppers’ indulgent cravings, they must also feature items that appeal to the health and wellness shopper, such as those with better-for-you ingredients.

“Consumers today value transparency and seek products with ‘better-for-you’ ingredients created by nature, not science,” says Jayne Kearney, marketing manager for Bake’n Joy Foods Inc., based in North Andover, Mass. “Additionally, ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, trans fat and others they do not recognize or cannot pronounce are being avoided in favor of clean-label alternatives.”

What’s more, shoppers are paying closer attention to products’ ingredients lists and also their sourcing information and environmental impact. “Now more than ever, consumers are more interested to know what’s in their food and where it is coming from,” says Amanda Dentici, VP of fresh foods and product development for New York-based Fairway Market. Shoppers are digging deeper into transparency concerns, she says, asking questions like, “Are the people producing the items paid a fair wage? Where are the ingredients sourced? What impact will the packaging have on the environment?”

Satisfying Snacking Occasions

Retailers are making more dough by offering a product assortment that appeals to not only indulgent and health-conscious consumers, but also to smaller households and on-the-go lifestyles. According to IDDBA’s What’s In Store 2018 report, mini, single-serve and smaller-size varieties are the No. 1 trend influencing consumers’ shopping and purchasing in the bakery category.

Sales of bakery snacks totaled more than $2.5 billion in the 52 weeks ending June 17, 2018, according to IRI. “While all Americans have adopted on-the-go lifestyles, we really see Gen Z leading the snacking craze. They’re replacing meals with more snacks throughout the day,” says Boote. “For this reason, we see snackable and craveable hand-held items like muffins, Danish, croissants, scones, biscuits, bagels and rolls experiencing more growth.”

To increase consumer interest, retailers can place traditional bakery products in nontraditional places throughout the store, Boote says. Featuring rolls, breadsticks and cookies near the salad and hot bars lets consumers easily add them to complete a meal, she says. Also, placing individually wrapped bakery products such as cookies next to the register encourages impulse purchases.

Tops Gives Shoppers a Taste of Lebanese Culture

Issas pita chips

Tapping into consumers’ taste for unique and ethnic flavor profiles, and simultaneously asserting its support of local vendors, Tops Friendly Markets has teamed up with Cedars Bakery in Buffalo, N.Y., to stock Issa’s Pita Chips on its store shelves, providing shoppers with a diverse assortment of nontraditional bakery items.

“We pride ourselves in supporting and investing in our local farmers and merchants, to support our local economy,” said Kristen Hanson, VP of center store sales and merchandising for Tops, when announcing the alliance with the local bakery. “When the opportunity came along to partner with Andrew Issa and his family-owned bakery here in western New York, it was a natural fit. They offered a quality product that not only tasted great, but it was also on point with natural ingredients, something that is important to many of our consumers.”

The Issa family, owners of Cedars Bakery, use an authentic pita chip recipe inspired by their Lebanese culture to offer a wholesome snack that can be conveniently enjoyed on the go. Baked in a flame-lit oven—which produces the chips’ unique appearance, texture and taste—Issa pita chips pack a craveable crunch and are made with all-natural ingredients without the use of preservatives.

For his part, Cedars Bakery owner Andrew Issa said he feels “incredibly grateful that Tops Markets has lent its shelves and given us a platform to provide our community with an authentic flame-baked pita chip.”

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