Bakery is another category with a pandemic journey story to tell. With offices and schools shuttered earlier in the pandemic, some shoppers traded up to better baked goods to pair with a morning coffee or a sandwich made and consumed at home.  

“Bakery is a pendulum,” says Parker. “In 2021 we saw center-store bakery items increase because they are more synonymous with shelf sustainability—you can keep them in the pantry if you’re not going out much. Perimeter items are only a little more impulse-driven but are also special-occasion-driven—if you don’t have people over, you’re OK buying a box of things that are individually wrapped. But when you are a bit more mobile and you’re tired of those things that have been sitting in your pantry, then the perimeter comes into favor again. So that pendulum really was important.”

For the last 52 weeks ending July 11, 2021, morning bakery items from center store saw dollar sales gains of 8.5% versus one year ago and a robust 20.8% compared with three years ago. Perimeter morning bakery items experienced more modest increases, with dollar sales up 3.9% versus one year ago and 7.1% compared to three years ago. But look at the last 13 weeks ending the same day, and a very different sales picture emerges, with sales of perimeter morning bakery items up 20.8% versus a year ago.

“The key takeaway of baked goods last year was that people were not going to coffee shops as much but taking their coffee and their baked goods at home,” says Parker, who adds that because even the highest-priced premium item in bakery is still considerably cheaper than what is sold in a coffee shop, “the store is seen as a value over purchasing those items away from home.” Given the compelling nature of the value piece, “baked goods in grocery could still be a trend for years to come—with a changing assortment of quality items,” she adds.

Perimeter breads and rolls is another category where IRI sees potential for continued traction. When consumers were cooking more at home, they wanted better accompaniments to the meals they were making. As a result, a premiumization trend bubbled up in breads and rolls, finds Parker, who also sees croissants as strong sellers. “In-store baked goods are a way to elevate your meal, and we’re absolutely seeing that trend this year,” she says.