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BREAD AND DOUGH UNITS FALL 3.2%

Against the Grain introduces gluten-free Everything Bagels and Hot Dog Buns made with 100% olive oil rather than industrial seed oils.

But No. 1 “brand” private label sees its sales jump 11.9% as cash-strapped consumers trade down to less expensive options

Driven primarily by the fresh baked subcategory (+13.6%), sales of frozen bread and dough jumped 10.9% during the 12 weeks ended Sept. 4 (versus the same period a year ago) to $267.9 million across channels, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI (iriworldwide.com). However, units and volume tumbled 3.2% and 2.9%, respectively, as consumers hit hard by inflation cut back on purchases or opted for more economical value-size packages. Others traded down to less expensive brands, evidenced by the 11.9% jump in private label unit sales (dollars shot up 31.5%).

Meanwhile, the refrigerated dough category registered an eye-popping 20.6% dollar sales gain (to $512.60 million) amid a 5.0% drop in units. Once again, however, private label outperformed the segment as a whole in three of the four refrigerated dough subcategories.

As a result, “Retailers should not shy away from innovating within their private brands, especially as 46% of Gen Z and 43% of millennial shoppers view private brands as better than national brands when it comes to offering new and innovative products,” says Andrew Moberly, senior director, category solutions, at Stamford, Conn.-based Daymon.

However, he continues, new products have been fairly scarce in the frozen and refrigerated bread and dough space during the past few years, which saw some manufacturers pare back their offerings to focus on top sellers. But the few new items that have launched recently not only bring more variety to the segment, but also hint at what lies ahead in 2023 and beyond. 

“Within frozen and refrigerated breads and dough, noteworthy trends we are tracking are flavors with immune-boosting properties, plant-based offerings, and the expansion of globally-inspired options,” says Moberly.

To that end, Against the Grain Gourmet is replacing all industrial seed oils in its breads and pizzas with 100% olive oil, says president Mike Watts. The Brattleboro, Vt.-based company is not only gluten-free, but also free of all grains and chemical additives. Against the Grain also expanded its lineup this summer with Hot Dog Buns and Everything Bagels, meeting consumer demand for “that classic savory combo of sesame seed, garlic, onions, poppy seeds, and salt,” says Watts. The company is also preparing a new launch for spring 2023, though it’s not quite ready to reveal the details.

General Mills ushers in holiday baking season with a slew of limited edition refrigerated roll and cookie doughs.

STEADY DEMAND FOR PREMIUM ITEMS 

Although inflation continues to shape buying habits, some manufacturers still see an opportunity for more premium natural bread products as opposed to value-priced selections. New natural products can help not only grow the category but also margins for retailers, as “premium items are still not losing market share despite recessionary behaviors,” says Ayeshah Abuelhiga, founder and CEO of Baltimore-based Mason Dixie Foods. 

The company plans to launch a new ready-to-heat biscuit in 2023, she reports. “These biscuits will be the same great recipe, but fully baked so our fans can just heat and serve versus waiting for 25 minutes to bake from raw.” The rationale for the launch is not only to provide “a quality biscuit made from clean, simple ingredients,” but to meet consumer demand for convenient comfort food, says Abuelhiga. Appropriate for snacking or for a kids meal, each small biscuit will contain only 100 calories, tapping into another key category trend.

The popularity of more modest, snack-style serving sizes is also driving new product development at Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Julian’s Recipe. Inspired by the popularity of its Butter & Sea Salt Pretzel Baguette, the company is in the R&D phase of one or more “downsized” frozen pretzel items, says director of retail sales Christine DuBois-Devlin.

Julian’s Recipe is also hoping to bring artisan focaccia to market in 2023. “The convenience of the frozen aisle is ready to pair with the artisanal feel of specialty bread items, such as focaccias, in coveted flavors that bring an air of ‘baked from scratch’ to the dinner table,” says DuBois-Devlin. She believes ready-to-bake frozen breads “will continue to steal space [from other categories] as consumers seek a balance between quality and convenience,” with organic ingredients, lifestyle diets (keto, low-carb and plant-based) and artisanal and ethnic offerings driving the shift.

Daymon’s Moberly echoes that theory: “The plant-powered movement has … continued to expand in bread and dough. Claims such as keto and low-carb are highly relevant within the frozen bread arena, with carb-conscious claims rising a staggering 52.6%.”

‘Premium items are still not losing market share, despite recessionary behaviors.’


SEASONAL SKUs SATISFY

Even amid the drive toward more health-conscious shopping and functional ingredients, breads and doughs are still naturally comfort foods, which dovetail with consumers’ desire for occasional indulgences. 

Autumn naturally highlights breads and biscuits in shoppers’ minds, since this time of year heralds the beginning of the holiday baking season. Minneapolis-based General Mills ushered in the fall and winter months by bringing back some of its best-selling Pillsbury treats, including limited edition holiday cookie doughs and sweet rolls.

Drizzled with marshmallow-flavored icing and touted as “perfect for a crisp winter morning or late-night snack,” its Grands! Hot Cocoa Rolls, began shipping Oct. 31. Prior to that, the company released seasonal doughs in several varieties, including both Turkey and Elf Pillsbury Shape cookie doughs and Candy Cane, Gingerbread, and Winter Cutout sugar cookie doughs. 

Designed to satisfy shopper demand for convenience, the sweet snacks require no measuring or mixing, and they contain no high fructose corn syrup or colors from artificial sources. But one of the newest package callouts is “safe to eat raw.”

Since snacking on unbaked cookie dough is so popular, one relative newcomer to the space has taken the concept a step further. Whoa! Dough, Highland Heights, Ohio, brought cookie dough bars to market in late 2020, but it plans to add a new Oatmeal Cookie Dough variety in Q2 of 2023.

“Everyone loves oatmeal cookies,” says Todd Goldstein, the founder of Whoa! Dough, whose products are all gluten- and allergen-free. Typically sold in the refrigerated section, Whoa! Dough bars can also be baked if desired. Each contains 7 grams of protein and less than 10 grams of sugar, and all bars are plant-based, non-GMO, kosher, and made of “recognizable ingredients” such as almonds, honey, coconut oil, cacao, arrowroot powder and organic maple syrup.

​​“People have a lot of choices in protein bars or just straight candy, and while there’s a time and place for both, a lot of people are looking for something that’s indulgent but not necessarily full protein or full sugar,” Goldstein says. “We believe better-for-you, healthy snacking is where the trends are going, and it’s something that all ages can enjoy.”

Cookie doughs are likely to remain a cornerstone in the refrigerated dough space “as consumers seek both indulgence and convenient solutions,” says Moberly.

Tiffini Theisen

Tiffini Theisen

Tiffini is a contributor of Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer.

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