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The dough subcategory is on fire but there’s plenty retailers can do to boost fresh baked sales as well. Cross-merchandising and secondary displays are a good place to start.

Thanks to lingering price inflation, dollar sales of frozen bread and dough jumped 3.8% to $298.20 million across channels during the 12 weeks ended Oct. 8, outperforming the frozen department as a whole, according to Chicago-based market research firm Circana. However, unit sales fell 4.8%, as cash-strapped consumers continue to cut back on purchases.

The fresh baked bread/rolls/ biscuits subcategory saw the biggest unit decline (-5.9%), but sales of frozen dough actually rose 3.4%, suggesting that consumers are opting for lower-priced items that require a bit more effort on their part. Not surprisingly, private label dough did particularly well (units rose 7.8%), but volume was up only 1.2%, suggesting that retailers are downsizing their own brand offerings in order to hit a certain price point or consumers are switching to smaller pack sizes. At the other end of the spectrum, some manufacturers report a shift toward larger, value-size packages with a lower cost per unit. So it’s important to offer SKUs that appeal to both types of bargain shopper.

Although many consumers rediscovered their love of baking during pandemic shutdowns, industry insiders say those newer to the category could use some guidance, making recipes (at the POS, on your website, in in-store magazines, etc.) more important than ever. Demos can be pricey, but they’re also a great way to grab impulse sales — and provide shoppers with money-saving ideas. How about some signage that advertises just how much consumers can save by baking it themselves?

But one of the best ways to boost sales is to cross-merchandise frozen bread and dough with complementary products in other, more heavily traveled parts of the store (since not everyone goes down the frozen aisle). Frozen garlic bread and lasagna are a no-brainer, but what about pizza dough and tomato sauce, cornbread and chili, or plant-based rolls with grill-ready veggie burgers for an off-season boost? And don’t forget to include bread and rolls with meal deals. Since frozen bread and dough is one of the least merchandised categories in the supermarket (only 8.9% of volume is sold with merchandising support), there’s plenty of upside potential.

While cross-couponing and bundling are great options, secondary displays offer the added benefit of supplementary display space, which is key to preventing out-of-stocks during peak selling seasons (between Thanksgiving and Easter). Last year, Thanksgiving and Christmas saw sales lifts of 468% and 403%, respectively. So even if secondary displays aren’t linked to complementary items, they’re critical during the holidays when in-aisle frozen bread and dough sets often can’t be restocked fast enough.


Industry insiders say proper assortment is also essential to maximizing category sales. However, the right mix is determined not only by the channel but also the region of the country. For example, frozen dough owns the biggest share of total category sales in the Midwest and West while par-baked rolls own the biggest share in the Northeast and South (though biscuits are a close second in the South). Nationwide, however, biscuits and breadsticks are gaining share while par-baked garlic bread and par-baked rolls are losing share — as are sweet goods and bread dough. Do you have the right mix for your customer base? And are you keeping up with shifts in demand?

The category also continues to welcome new and improved items, including those “free from” undesirable ingredients such as artificial colors and flavors, high-fructose corn syrup, GMOs and bleached flour. There are also products compatible with various lifestyle diets (think allergen-friendly cornbread, dough made with Greek yogurt and plant-based pastry dough). Since space is already tight, experts warn against taking on too many niche products. However, consumers who eat, say, gluten-free are known to be very loyal to retailers that offer items compatible with their diets. So make sure you have something to offer them.

The snacking trend is also making a mark on the category, evidenced by the introduction of products such as load- ed breadsticks, chocolate chip scones and new Brazilian cheese bread flavors, all of which can be enjoyed between meals — or instead of them. Some of those items may need to be merchandised in different sets, so make sure you’ve got them in the right spot. Despite double-digit inflation, there’s also plenty of demand for premium and artisan breads and doughs as well as ethnic products such has naan and focaccia — especially among younger consumers.

FR Buyer

FR Buyer

Industry news straight from the Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer publication.

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