Fresh Food

Pandemic Pantry Building Boosts Bakery Sales by 44%

Total store sales rose a whopping 62.5% the week of March 15
Photograph: Shutterstock

The week of March 15 marked a turning point in COVID-19 pandemic pantry building, bringing with it unprecedented increases in sales across the store to the tune of a whopping 62.5% in comparable sales gain, according to IRI.

In the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, nonedible categories such as paper goods, disinfectants, toilet paper and hand sanitizer were the biggest drivers of sales, but food categories took over as the lead growth area as coronavirus-related measures sharpened.

For the week ending March 15, 2020, nonedibles grew 60.4% and edibles grew an unbelievable 71.1%. Growth was seen across the aisles, including fresh, frozen and center store, and baked goods were no exception. Sales in the bakery aisle increased 62.3% over the week ending March 15, and IRI found an increase of 44.3% for combined cookies and crackers.

Sales Growth of Baked Goods

Source: IRI, total U.S. multioutlet

Bakery Aisle

School and office closures are driving more at-home breakfast, coffee break and lunch occasions, which in turn drove significant jumps in sales in the bakery aisle. On the one hand, IRI data shows big jumps in the more functional bakery aisle items, such as bread, rolls and buns. Looking at the sales surges in peanut butter, jelly, deli meats and hot dogs, it is clear that shoppers are looking for convenient, fulfilling lunch and dinner options.

Considering that hot dog sales were up 123% over this same week and deli meat advanced 40.4%, the demand for bread, rolls and buns is a given. Likewise, bagels and English muffins saw big increase, at about 50%.

On the other hand, more indulgent bakery items, such as pastries, doughnuts and bakery snacks, also saw increased sales over the week of March 15 vs. the comparable week in 2019.

“In the midst of all the change, shoppers are still looking for their morning routine cup of coffee with a perhaps a doughnut, bagel or little pastry, much like they would have when running to the nearest coffee shop by the office,” said Jonna Parker, principal of IRI’s Fresh Center of Excellence. “Grocery stores now fulfill all those meal occasions.” 

Source: IRI, total U.S. multioutlet, week ending March 15, 2020; represents all UPC items

Cookies and Crackers

Other baked goods, including cookies and crackers, saw big increases as well. Not only are breakfast and lunch occasions moving from out-of-home to at-home but so are morning and afternoon snacks. School closures, in particular, will have a profound impact on these snack rituals, not to mention a little smile and happiness amid these difficult times.

Sales of crackers started to gear up at the onset of the coronavirus-related measures, at 9.1% over the week ending March 8. Sales accelerated further for the week ending March 15, to 75.6%. Cookies went from seeing some sales pressure early in March to a 50.5% increase for the week ending March 15 vs. the comparable week in 2019.

Source: IRI, total U.S. multioutlet, week ending March 15, 2020; represents all UPC items

In-Store Bakery

As many retailers have closed or reduced their in-store bakery offerings, sales increases paced behind total store but still jumped from a decline of -1.2% in the week ending March 8 to a year-over-year growth of 10.3%. Fast-rising sellers in in-store bakery of at least $1 million in weekly sales were croissants, rolls and bread.

“As dine-in restaurant options closed, the fresh in-store baked bread and rolls became a way for consumers to plus-up their homemade lunches and dinners. This was similar to a trend we saw during the Great Recession and one retailers should keep in mind. Even though in-store baked goods are not the focus right now, there are still consumer needs the department can fulfill,” said Parker.

Sales Increase of In-Store Bakery

Source: IRI, total U.S. multioutlet, week ending March 15, 2020; represents non-UPC baked goods

These kinds of sales surges are only possible thanks to the incredible efforts of the entire bakery supply chain. These individuals are not only keeping the supply going, but are ramping up production to provide the American people with the foods they need during these challenging times. #SupermarketSuperHeroes #BakingStrong  #feedUS

Anne-Marie Roerink is principal of 210 Analytics, which specializes in research for the food retailing industry and authors studies in meat, produce, bakery, deli, frozen, confectionery, snacks and retail operations. She can be reached at


More from our partners