Bring on the buns

by Eric Schroeder
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Bakers roll out line extensions, interesting sizes to market.

While summer may be in full swing, those paying attention to the buns and rolls category may reflect on this past spring as a time of growth for the segment. New shapes and sizes coupled with new names has helped move the needle on category sales.

In the 52 weeks ended July 12, dollar sales in the hamburger and hot dog buns category totaled $2,006,027,264, up 1.2% from the same period a year ago, despite a slight downtrend in unit sales, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm.

Private label products dominate the hamburger and hot dog buns category with sales of nearly $870 million during the period, but year-over-year both dollar and unit sales were lower, according to I.R.I. Instead, consumers appear to be turning to branded products. Dollar sales of Bimbo Bakeries USA’s Earthgrains Ball Park hamburger and hot dog buns, the top selling brand in the segment, increased 27% to $146,516,192, according to I.R.I. Meanwhile, Pepperidge Farm branded buns increased 11% in the period while Wonder bun sales made a strong return to the market with a 305% jump year over year.

Norwalk, Conn.-based Pepperidge has an extensive line of buns and rolls that includes white and wheat slider buns, golden potato buns, sesame topped buns and New England style buns. In a July 22 investor day conference call, Luca Mignini, president of Global Biscuits and Snacks, outlined the changes in store for the company as it looks to improve its growth and profitability in the United States. Specifically, he pointed to a plan that has Campbell channeling resources into a three-pronged strategy for its Pepperidge Farm brand. Part of that strategy will center on fueling momentum in the Pepperidge Farm fresh bakery portfolio by investing in the Farmhouse brand. Pepperidge plans to take the Farmhouse brand beyond bread to the buns and rolls category, Mr. Mignini said.

For the Wonder brand, the category expertise of new owner Flowers Foods, Inc. fueled a resurgence. Flowers offers a number of brands within the buns and rolls category, including Nature’s Own, Sunbeam and Bunny, but it was the Wonder brand and its $34 million in sales during the 52 weeks ended July 12 that spurred a nearly 3% year-over-year dollar sales increase for the Thomasville, Ga.-based company. Flowers acquired the Wonder brand nearly two years ago.

The changing of the seasons seemed like the perfect time for Klosterman Baking Co., Cincinnati, to debut its newest offering. Klosterman this past spring released its new Whole Grain Rich Slammers, the bakery’s take on classic slider buns. In keeping with summer and baseball themes, Klosterman dubbed the buns in advertisements as the Cincinnati Slammer, recalling the Louisville Slugger logo emblazoned on countless wooden bats.

Top-selling hamburger and hot dog buns brands

 

“We’re so excited to present these new Whole Grain Rich Slammer buns because they invite consumers to enjoy Klosterman bread in a new way,” said Amy Ott, director of marketing at Klosterman. “Summer barbecues, picnics and casual get-togethers often feature the slider, a tradition that is sure to continue.”

The Whole Grain Rich Slammers buns are packaged 12 to each 14.57-oz bag that features a recommended recipe on the back. The buns are made with whole white wheat flour, are lighter in color and have a sweeter flavor profile compared with traditional whole wheat buns or bread. Slammer buns contain 90 calories per serving and 11 grams of whole grains per bun.

“As with many of our other buns and breads, these are a great source of whole grains, making them ideal for health-conscious consumers looking for a delicious way to reap the nutritional benefits,” Ms. Ott said. “They are a perfect size for kid-friendly meals, appetizers and portion control.”

Another recently introduced bun with a catchy name and big taste is the Million Dollar Bun from Dave’s Killer Bread, Milwaukie, Ore. The Million Dollar Bun features organic whole wheat flour and organic wheat flour, organic whole flax seeds, organic sunflower seeds, organic un-hulled brown sesame seeds and organic ground whole flax seeds as part of its ingredient profile. The buns have 18 grams of whole grains, 8 grams of protein and more than 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. The buns have a suggested retail price of $4.49 for a four-pack.

A familiar name to the baking industry but a new name to the buns and rolls category has popped up in recent months at Walgreens stores across the United States. Hostess Brands L.L.C., the largest manufacturer of snack cakes in the United States, has expanded into the bread and roll market.

The Hostess’ product is unique to the buns and rolls category in that they have a shelf life of two months or longer and so far only have been targeted for sale in drug stores and convenience stores that have limited food selection and also are carrying the company’s Twinkies and other sweet goods. The bread and rolls are being sold under the Hostess brand.

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