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Frozen Bread & Dough Rises 14.1%

Double-digit growth for frozen bread and dough persisted through the holidays. Easter and Mother’s Day sales are expected to be strong as well.

Paced by a 14.5% gain in the fresh-baked subcategory, total frozen bread and dough sales jumped 14.1% to nearly $331.54 million during the 12 weeks ended Dec. 27, reports Chicago-based market research firm IRI (iriworldwide.com). Manufacturers say pandemic-driven demand for comfort food combined with growing interest in baking helped reinvigorate a category that had grown, well…stale.

“Specialty bread products such as garlic bread have the ability to create moments of joy around the table for families across the country,” says John Simmons, president of Anaheim, Calif.-based Bridgford Foods (bridgford.com). But working from home while overseeing the kids’ online education doesn’t leave much time for baking from scratch. Enter frozen bread and dough.

Although some retailers had reduced space for the category pre-pandemic, many chains pivoted fairly quickly to meet changing demand. Simmons says several grocery chains gave Bridgford’s Ready Dough, Monkey Bread, and other products additional space both on shelf and in endcaps. The extra real estate coupled with a bright new package design drove a 38% increase in sales of the company’s bread, roll and dough products in Q4, he adds.

Another company looking to boost its presence on-shelf comes from Pennsauken, N.J.-based J&J Snack Foods (jjsnack.com), which just gave its Mary B’s biscuits a more contemporary look and feel “to expand the brand’s appeal to consumers in all demographics,” says marketing manager Okitchy Robertson. She believes recent category gains are being driven partly by pantry loading. But even as consumers eat through what’s already in their freezers, Robertson thinks sales of frozen bread and dough will climb “at a healthy pace” as many Americans continue to avoid dining out.


Manufacturers believe sales of specialty bread and dough products will also continue to grow in 2021. Gluten-free options in particular are still very “top of mind” for consumers redoubling their efforts to eat clean, says Diana Horowitz, senior brand manager for the Udi’s (udisglutenfree.com) and Glutino (glutino.com) brands, both part of Chicago-based Conagra’s portfolio.

Thanks to a recent package redesign and more space on retailer’s shelves, sales of Bridgford Monkey Bread jumped 57% during the second half of 2020.

“The COVID pandemic has focused consumers on trying to get functional health benefits from their food so that they stay healthy during this time,” she explains. “So they have been being more careful with what they are consuming and switching to more gluten-free items as a result.”

Last year, Udi’s launched frozen Grain-Free Muffins (also free of dairy and nuts) in Banana Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Zucchini flavors and reformulated both its frozen bagels — now softer and chewier — and Whole Grain Sandwich Bread, which used to be whole wheat, according to Horowitz.

Another player in the gluten-free space, Boulder, Colo.-based Rudi’s Bakery (rudisbakery.com), will be launching sourdough, brioche, and hamburger buns early this year, reports CEO Brian McGuire.

“While the gluten-free bread category continues to evolve and improve, some of the more traditional bread types are still under-represented in the category, meaning gluten-free consumers lack the breadth of choice of traditional bread consumers,” he explains. “We feel our new products will be a breakthrough in the category and give gluten-free consumers specifically something we know they want: more choices and delicious products.”

Manufacturers say Americans’ growing adoption of plant-based diets is also fueling category sales. In fact, reports Jackie Brenkel, head of marketing for North America at Oak Creek, Wis.-based From the Hearth (fromthehearth.com), which markets the Furlani, Joseph Campione, and Mercato Bakery brands, a recent study found that 9.4 million more Americans are following plant-based diets today than 15 years ago.

Others are just trying to eat “better,” which often translates into products made with real, high-quality ingredients, prompting many manufacturers to clean up ingredient panels. “People are not traveling or going out to eat, so they want to indulge their senses at home,” adds Brenkel. “Now more than ever, garlic bread is a simple way to travel with your taste buds.”

Sales in supermarkets, drugstores, mass merchants, military commissaries and select club and dollar stores combined for the 12 weeks ended Dec. 27, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI (iriworldwide.com). Percent change is versus the same period a year ago.


Although consumers are hopeful that life will return to something approaching normal during the second half of the year, industry experts expect the category’s 2020 gains to continue throughout 2021. Americans are still cooking more (51%) and baking more (41%) than they did at the same time last year, according to the Hunter Food Study Special Report Wave Two: America Keeps on Cooking. Plus, the vast majority (71%) of those who are cooking more intend to continue doing so after the pandemic ends, a 20-point increase since April 2020.

Mary B’s Biscuits from J&J Snack Foods get a contemporary new look intended to broaden appeal.

Since many customers new to the category will likely become repeat buyers, Bridgford’s Simmons encourages retailers to consider double facings and additional displays “at least through the baking season that traditionally runs through the Easter holiday.”

Sales will be especially strong this spring during Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, “which are enormous eating-out holidays,” says Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at San Antonio, Texas-based 210 Analytics (210analytics.com).

“People may not be comfortable eating out or their city/state may not allow indoor dining,” she explains. “That means a lot of those dollars will go to retail instead. It is clear that people have integrated frozen and refrigerated dough-type products into their everyday lives, but holidays will be a whole other opportunity,” Roerink adds.

To better capitalize on category growth, retailers should continue to offer both product and pack size variety to their customers, including both branded and private-label SKUs, says Brenkel. “This will enable consumers to spend what they can afford and indulge themselves and their families when they choose.” Retailers also have the opportunity to cross-promote naturally adjacent categories — such as pasta and garlic bread — to drive basket size and purchase frequency, she adds.


Sales in supermarkets, drugstores, mass merchants, military commissaries, and select club and dollar stores combined for the 12 weeks ended Dec. 27, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI (iriworldwide.com). Percent change is versus the same period a year ago.


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Bread & Dough Rises 14.1%

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Christine Blank

Christine Blank

Christine Blank is a contributing editor for Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer.

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