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BREAD & DOUGH STILL RISING

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Thanks to continued growth in the fresh baked segment, the category managed a modest gain during the most recent 12 weeks.

Paced by a 3.2% gain in the fresh baked subcategory, dollar sales of frozen bread and dough edged up 0.8% during the 12 weeks ended Sept. 5 to $240.80 million across channels, reports Chicago-based market research firm IRI (iriworldwide.com). However, the bread/roll/pastry dough subcategory saw its sales tumble 8.6%, though that’s partly because it posted some of the highest gains in the department last year after so many consumers decided to try their hand at baking. But compared with the same period in 2019, the two subcategories are up 22.7% and 8.8%, respectively, suggesting that many of the shoppers who “discovered” frozen bread and dough during the pandemic are sticking with it.

“Even though consumers are once again comfortable purchasing pre-packed bakery items, it hasn’t hurt traffic to the center of the store,” says Jackie Brenkel, head of marketing for North America at Mississauga, Ontario-based From the Hearth (fromthehearth.com), maker of the Furlani brand. At the beginning of the pandemic, she explains, shoppers may have opted for frozen over fresh out of necessity. “But it opened their eyes to an assortment of really great [frozen] products,” many of which they will continue to buy.

“I think post-pandemic growth won’t be as high, but we will have a new [higher] baseline of demand,” agrees Ayeshah Abuelhiga, founder and CEO of Baltimore-based Mason Dixie Foods (masondixiefoods.com). “The pandemic reinvigorated consumer interest in cooking…and helped people realize that the best bread products really are fresh from the oven.”

‘Even though consumers are once again comfortable purchasing pre-packed bakery items, it hasn’t hurt traffic to the center of the store.’

In addition, says Alex Dzieduszycki, founder and CEO of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Julian’s Recipe (juliansrecipe.com), many shoppers discovered that “frozen breads have come a long way in both form and function. Shapes, fillings and quality have improved immensely.” As a result, the growing number of consumers looking for cleaner labels and “more adventurous eating opportunities” are likely to find a frozen bread or dough that meets their needs.

Red Lobster brings an at-home version of its famous Cheddar Bay Biscuits to the frozen aisle.

The only real obstacle to continued growth is supply chain issues impacting categories across the supermarket. “We have been faced with shortages on raw ingredients, packaging, pallets, trucks and, especially, labor,” reports Kenny Farnsworth, president of Salt Lake City-based Rhodes Bake-N-Serv (rhodesbakenserv.com). Thanks to domestically sourced ingredients and packaging and employees willing to work overtime and double shifts, “We’ve been fortunate to have not had any significant shutdowns or product shortages,” he says. “But the ongoing joke here is ‘What will it be this week to slow down production?’” The message for retailers: get ready for a wild ride this holiday season — and be sure to have contingency plans in place.

INNOVATIVE FLAVORS DEBUT

Despite supply chain challenges, several manufacturers are going ahead with new product rollouts. From the Hearth unveiled eight items last month that expand its Furlani brand beyond the garlic and garlic cheese flavors for which it’s known, reports Brenkel. Made with simple, wholesome ingredients, including real butter, buttermilk, garlic and aged cheddar, the newcomers include Soft Rolls in Garlic, Cranberry & Honey, Basil Pesto, and Caramelized Onion & Sage flavors; Knots in Parmesan Garlic, Italian Herb & Tomato, and Tex-Mex flavors; and Aged Cheddar Biscuits. “When consumers indulge, they want the experience to be worthwhile,” says Brenkel. “These new rolls, knots and biscuits are the perfect way for them to elevate meals and enjoy restaurant-style eating experiences at home.”

She adds that the entire take-and-bake collection is offered in 100% recyclable, oven-ready Bake-In-Bags. “The packaging makes it super easy for meal-makers as there’s no additional preparation, mess or fuss.”

Mason Dixie Foods is also expanding its clean label biscuit lineup, debuting Bakery Style Biscuits currently available exclusively at Sam’s Club in 24-count packages. Made with real butter, fresh dairy and aluminum-free baking powder, the light, fluffy biscuits are lower in calories, fat, carbs and sodium than the company’s flagship offering. Abuelhiga says the company is excited to offer a new item that provides “the same quality and ingredients found in our original premium product line to those on a budget or with larger households.”

Another new option in the frozen biscuit space comes from Red Lobster (red
lobster.com), the Orlando, Fla.-based chain whose fresh Cheddar Bay Biscuits are beloved by diners everywhere. For those who want to enjoy them in the comfort of their own home, frozen, ready-to-bake Cheddar Bay Biscuits are now available exclusively at Walmart. Consumers bake the pre-made biscuits for 25 to 30 minutes and then brush them with melted butter mixed with an enclosed garlic herb seasoning packet. 

PLANT-BASED COMES TO FROZEN BREAD

As in other categories across the supermarket, the plant-based trend is also hitting frozen bread and dough. Among the latest entries is a trio of plant-based breadsticks from Edina, Minn.-based CLO-CLO Vegan Foods. Available varieties include Cauliflower, Cauliflower with Garlic & Olive Oil, and Sweet Potato with Sugar & Cinnamon, the latter of which underscores a trend toward sweet flavors that extend the category’s reach to new dayparts.

CLO-CLO Vegan Foods debuts a trio of allergen- and palm oil-free plant-based breadsticks.

A great way to sneak more veggies into kids’ meals, the new breadsticks are free from the top nine allergens plus palm oil, differentiating them from other plant-based bread offerings, says co-founder Wendy Hinnenkamp.  “We expect frozen plant-based breadsticks to really break out over the next 18 to 24 months,” she adds. 

Beyond bringing in innovative, on-trend products that keep the category “fresh,” what else can retailers do to preserve gains made during the pandemic? Rather than promoting frozen bread and dough on their own, Brenkel suggests retailers build baskets by cross-merchandising with complementary products during seasonal or themed events and in displays. 

Offered in a wide variety of new flavors, Furlani’s soft rolls, knots and biscuits come in convenient Bake-In-Bag

Chains might also consider merchandising frozen bakery and dessert items together with — or at least adjacent to — frozen bread and dough “so the avid baker has a one-stop shop versus searching across multiple doors,” says Abuelhiga. 

Denise Leathers

Denise Leathers

Denise is the editor of Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer.

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