As retailers’ stalwart profit center and image builder, WGB editors catalog the hottest trends powering bakery department this year.
1. Seasonal Specialties
Consumers are always hungry for new twists on classic treats, and the in-store bakery is the perfect place to showcase seasonal and local specialties while keeping established items front and center. In addition to inviting experimentation in the in-store bakery, whose shoppers span multiple generations and cultures, limited-time offerings impart novelty and anticipation while also creating a sense of urgency to help drive customers back more often to purchase their favorite item before the next seasonal treat comes along.
Take, for instance, the recent successful limited-time promotion Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer’s bakery team hosted in March to kick off spring with a local tradition near and dear to Michiganders’ hearts: Kalamazoo-based Bell’s Brewery’s annual Oberon launch on March 26.
To sweeten the celebration, Meijer’s chefs created a special orange-flavored sugar cookie that plays off the signature orange slice served with an Oberon. Meijer also created donuts and cookies decorated with the colors associated with the Oberon label: light blue, orange and dark blue. The Oberon-inspired baked goods were prominently featured on distinctive decorated displays within the bakery section of all Meijer stores in Michigan to play up the limited-time bakery event.
“The annual Oberon launch is a fun time of the year in Michigan with more celebrations happening to mark the event,” said Brad Miller, bakery buyer for Meijer, in a statement. “We are so proud to support our fellow west Michigan friends at Bell’s Brewery by creating special bakery treats that can be a creative addition to any Oberon party”—not to mention the retailer’s in-store bakeries.
2. Decorate-It-Yourself Baked Goods
People love the idea of baking from scratch, but it’s not always an option from a time or on-hand ingredient standpoint. However, there’s no understating the simple pleasure of baking at home—be it between parents and children, or sharing homespun treats with family and friends—which is why decorate-it-yourself cakes, cookies and other baked goods are enjoying a moment.
While take-and-bake goodies have been fixtures in grocery stores for eons (hello, Pillsbury Poppin’ Fresh and Nestle Toll House cookie doughs), take-and-decorate products have been making their way to in-store bakeries around the country during the past year, including in select Giant Eagle stores. In a city renowned for its wedding cookie tables, the Pittsburgh-based retailer’s bakery teams do the heavy lifting by prebaking classic sugar cookies and oversized cookie cakes that are set on colorful, inviting displays to inspire customers to decorate their goodies with whatever finishing touches they like.
Giant Eagle’s eye-catching DIY bakery display features a variety of prepacked sprinkles in all colors of the rainbow, along with piping bags and a variety of multicolor icings, which are kept chilled and available upon request from the bakery staff. The retailer’s take-and-decorate bakery concept is particularly appealing during the holidays, when gatherings, cookie exchanges and family baking are popular activities.
Beyond their role as a time-saver for holiday hosts, take-and-decorate cookies are emerging as star attractions for children’s birthday parties and neighborhood gatherings. The easy-to-execute DIY concept also provides an excellent way for retailers to build a better in-store bakery that meets customer needs while also providing shoppers with a fun and easy reason to embrace their creative flair—and build loyalty to their favorite retail bakery.
3. Affordable Premiumization
Indulgence is and always will be a core driver for baked goods. However, as consumer cravings for different products and smaller formats are changing, so too are the drivers for indulgent bakery items. “Redefining indulgence has been changed through ingredients, health, ethics and flavor,” according to a recent Euromonitor trend report. The study showed that globally, single-person households are pegged to be the fastest-growing through 2025, which “is inevitably leading to a rise in single-portion foods.”
Consumers are increasingly seeking single-serve and grab-and-go options across all fresh departments, as well as both healthier and more indulgent innovations, says Eric Richard, education coordinator for IDDBA. It’s an area that in-store bakeries are excelling at of late, he says.
Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights at WGB sister company Technomic, concurs. “Greater opportunity exists to drive off-peak traffic by positioning desserts as craveable, stand-alone occasions throughout the day, or by emphasizing the snackable nature of top desserts,” says Weikel, citing findings from Technomic’s 2017 Dessert Consumer Trend report.
Thus, adding warm pie slices to a hot foods case or offering fresh-baked cookies at peak traffic times such as after school or work could help retailers get a larger slice of shoppers’ pie. Many stores already have cold desserts available for to-go snacks all day. Mariano’s stores in the Chicagoland area feature gelato service counters, while Whole Foods has added freestanding mocha cases near its hot foods bar and deli areas to capitalize on shoppers’ sweet-tooth cravings. Hy-Vee Market Grille has teamed up with dessert-centric brand The Cheesecake Factory to offer a variety of cheesecake slices on its menu.
Scratch-made doughnuts are another enduring trend that many in-store bakeries continue to embrace. The notion not only bodes well with Technomic research, which shows that nearly half of consumers are willing to pay more for scratch-made baked goods, but also with the single-serve and personalized trends. The fact that doughnuts are one of life’s sweetest indulgences is not lost on the many retailers that loudly and proudly promote their fresh, store-made doughnut programs, including Bashas’, Macey’s, Schnucks and Weis Markets, to name a few.
4. Flatbreads and Wraps
As opposed to hot air, some of today’s most popular breads are thin, dense, protein-packed flatbreads, wraps and pitas, which are experiencing strong category sales in tandem with their high-fiber, low-carb attributes that make for an ideal choice for health-conscious consumers. New product development for both the in-store bakery and the commercial segment is following suit, as evidenced by an increasing number of lines aimed to meet consumers’ health and wellness needs. In-demand attributes such as gluten-free, ancient grains, bold flavors and authentic ingredients are becoming increasingly popular—particularly within the versatile flatbread category, which is helping to meet the rising demand for more protein and fewer carbs.
The popularity of flatbreads and wraps is being fueled by new entries from commercial bakeries, whose diversified product lines are seeing an increasingly prominent presence in deli departments for essential meal-makers. Toufayan Bakeries, one of the nation’s largest family-owned commercial bakeries, has launched five new products, which it will showcase at the upcoming IDDBA Show. The line includes Tandoori flatbreads and lavash wraps, the latter of which feature a unique combination of flax, oat fiber and whole wheat, and gluten-free Smart Grain Wraps, whose pliable texture and hearty taste flatter their non-GMO, soy-free, vegan and high-fiber ingredients. Toufayan is also rolling out gluten-free pizza crusts and Thin Style Pita, which captures the taste and texture of the original Middle Eastern pitas.
In-store bakeries are also generating rings with fresh dough, which has risen in popularity for home-grilled pizza fans. Bethpage, N.Y.-based King Kullen, which operates 32 stores and five Wild by Nature markets across Long Island, ran a recent in-store bakery promotion for fresh pizza dough balls at two for $2.58, which included recipes and photos on its social networks for a homemade garlic roasted tomato and spinach pizza.