Frozen and par-baked food trends
June 3, 2016
by Dan Malovany
Simple and pure ingredients in breads such as ciabatta can transform a chicken sandwich into something special for the lunch or dinner eating occasion.
In the frozen and par-baked arena, bakers are discovering new
ways to give Oprah hundreds of reasons to shout out, “I love bread,” as well as
rolls, buns and flatbreads — even sweet goods and more.
For the most part, “No” is not in bakers’ vocabularies. Neither
are “reduced,” “low” or “free,” for that matter. If perception is reality, then
the bakers who spar in this highly competitive segment of the baked goods
market are using a language that speaks to their customers and ultimately
communicates with consumers on multiple
“Transparency, clean label and adventurous flavors are three top
trends that we see across nearly all bakery categories but even more so within
the breads and rolls segment,” noted Andrew Brimacombe, chief commercial
services officer, ARYZTA, Los Angeles. “Innovating foods to meet these trends
that are important to consumers is key.”
Specifically, suppliers to the foodservice, in-store bakery, c-store
and multiple other channels are identifying trends as they continue to evolve
and responding to those nuances that drive purchasing patterns and overall
consumption of baked goods.
Take “healthy” — that often overused term. “The consumer’s
perception of ‘healthy’ has transformed from focusing on what the food is
missing — reduced fat, low calorie, sugar-free, etc. — to what the food itself
is — non-GMO, clean label, simple, wholesome ingredients, etc.,” Mr. Brimacombe
explained. “Consumers are embracing the slow food movement and appreciate
brands that are making food the way it was meant to be made. At ARYZTA, we
recognize the consumer’s need for transparency and are making foods to fit the
demand within our leading sweet snacks brand, Otis Spunkmeyer, as well as our
premier bread brand, La Brea Bakery.”
ARYZTA is not alone in jumping on the wholesome bandwagon where
the lexicon on the label requires a shorter and simpler-to-pronounce list of
ingredients that invoke an image of purity.
“Clean label initiatives are not going away,” stated Marc
Essenfeld, CEO, Tribeca Oven, Carlstadt, NJ. “Although the landscape may be
shifting in terms of consumer demands, the overarching theme is transparency
and choice. Consumers want to know what is in their food and then have the
choice to decide if they want to consume those ingredients or not. Tribeca Oven
has always used simple and pure ingredients and is in the process of obtaining
non-GMO certification and reviewing the use of organic ingredients in a
selection of products.”
La Brea Bakery will also be non-GMO
certified by the end of 2016. In May, the company rolled out a line of
farm-to-table artisan bread. Made from non-GMO, single-origin heirloom grains,
La Brea Bakery Reserve bread comes in three varieties: Fortuna Wheat Loaf, Pain
de Campagne and Struan. The wheat comes from Wheat Montana Farms, a
family-owned operation based in Three Forks, MT.
Moreover, ARYZTA reported La Brea Bakery will be transitioning to
use of cage-free eggs this year. “While the majority of La Brea Bakery breads
and other foods do not include eggs, those that do will use cage-free eggs as
the ingredient in recipes which connects to simple ingredients and the farm-to-table
and transparency trends that are so important in today’s market,” Mr. Brimacombe
Made from Fortuna wheat, a non-GMO, single-origin heirloom grain, new artisan breads by La Brea Bakery target consumers looking for something more wholesome and natural.
The all-day breakfast club
Speaking of eggs, breakfast has undoubtedly become one of the
biggest opportunities for bakers, according to Tom Vierhile, innovations
insights director for Canadean, a market research firm that also tracks new products
and consumer trends.
It’s easy to see why. According to the National Restaurant
Association (NRA) 2016 Restaurant Industry Forecast, 72% of adults want dining
establishments to serve breakfast all day. Nearly 80% of consumers turn to
quick-service restaurants when dining out in the morning, according to NPD
Group data cited in the NRA forecast. Meanwhile, the American Egg Board —
citing data from Technomic — reported 64% of consumers are likely to order eggs
outside of traditional breakfast hours.
Not only can consumers eat breakfast throughout the day at
quick-service restaurants like McDonald’s and White Castle, but a greater
number of consumers also want casual dining and other establishments to put it
on their menus in the afternoon and evening.
While eating out has received a lot of publicity, a majority of
Americans still eat breakfast at home.
In a Canadean survey conducted in late 2015, 55% of respondents
indicated they do not eat breakfast outside of the home, compared with 35% and
44% for lunch and dinner, respectively.
Moreover, a 2014 survey by Canadean noted 58% consume breakfast at
home because it’s cheaper while 47% suggested it’s also healthier than eating
“Bread and rolls can be formulated in such a way to address health
concerns or at least compensate somewhat for whatever the sandwich may be
filled with, so this could be an opportunity,” Mr. Vierhile observed.
Perhaps a bigger opportunity involves finding ways to make
breakfast more portable with premium carriers, such as artisan-style breads and
rolls, instead of the traditional tortilla, biscuit or English muffin.
All too often, time-crunched people don’t have time for breakfast
as they’re rushing to work or school. In fact, NPD recently noted two-thirds of
restaurant morning meals are eaten off-premise. As a result, it’s not
surprising that specialty bakeries like Tribeca Oven are creating new forms of
grab-and-go sandwich carriers and upscale breakfast alternatives to meet the
demands of this evolving market.
“Breakfast continues to be the fastest-growing segment within
foodservice and retail channels,” Mr. Essenfeld said. “From protein beverages
to snack bars, food manufacturers are looking for ways to provide consumers
with innovation, flavor and convenience. Tribeca Oven has expanded in this
category by partnering with retailers and restaurants to speak to their
specific needs. Whether we are providing bread to create French toast or your
next breakfast sandwich, it’s important to us to learn more about each customer
base and create a targeted approach.”
In the in-store bakery channel, Mr. Brimacombe suggested providing
convenient, healthy, fresh morning options will also allow bakers to
“over-deliver” in this segment. ARYZTA’s Otis Spunkmeyer Supreme thaw-and-serve
line offers Tripleberry Whole Grain muffins as well as Lemon, Strawberry or
Regular Angel Food muffins to deliver to this market. The brand uses the “No
Funky Stuff” claim to describe how the snack cake does not contain high-fructose
corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors or colors.
Going for four or more
While breakfast remains hot, Scott Kolinski, president of
Lantmännen Unibake USA, Lisle, IL, focused on targeting all three main eating
occasions and everything in between. The company produces artisan, ciabatta and
other specialty breads under the Euro-Bake brand and provides a variety of
pre-proofed pastries from its European parent sold under the Schulstad name.
“As a supplier of imported pastry products to marry with our
artisan breads, we see growth opportunities across all four day-parts,” Mr.
Kolinski explained. “Yes — all four day-parts. There is a growing snacking
daypart in the mid-afternoon where a nice pastry accompanies a great cup of
coffee. As McDonald’s has proved, traditional foods are blurring from one
daypart to another. Customers are demanding breakfast items for lunch and
dinner, and Europeans have been eating ‘lunch items’ for breakfast for years.
It’s just a matter of time before it becomes commonplace here in the States.”
For lunch and dinner occasions, portion-sizing as well as
providing a variety of flavors beyond the traditional offerings can turn into
avenues for growth. Mr. Brimacombe pointed out that La Brea Bakery offers
Telera sliders, flatbreads and naans for lunch and late-night snacking.
In general, smaller portion sizes — including breads and rolls —
continue to be a trend in the in-store bakery category. “It speaks to
smaller-sized households, convenience and sustainability through the reduction
of waste,” Mr. Essenfeld explained. “Tribeca Oven works with retailers to
examine product sizes and adjust for the needs of consumers.”
One example would be Tribeca Oven’s line of pull-apart dinner
rolls. “These smaller-sized portions come in a variety of flavors, which allow
consumers to try something different for dinner without feeling like they are
committing to an entire loaf of bread,” Mr. Essenfeld said.
Bakers are ramping up the quality of all-day breakfast sandwiches with such ethnic varieties as a Cuban-inspired egg menu option.
Ripe for the picking
During the past few years, several c-store chains like Sheetz
have upgraded their breakfast menu with everything from a Dreamy Bacon
Croissant and Schmonster Breakfast Burrito to sourdough breads or pretzels or
ciabatta rolls. For lunch, the Altoona, PA-based chain that serves the
mid-Atlantic and East Coast with about 500 locations now offers po’ boys, flatbreads and The Big
Philly for hearty eaters and even provides seating in many of its stores.
“As c-stores grow their foodservice offerings, par-baked breads
can play a bigger role,” noted Jerry Smiley, partner, Strategic Growth
Partners, and consultant to the baking industry.
From his perspective, Mr. Kolinski noted that both c-stores and
in-store bakery/delis have upped their game in providing premium sandwiches
that compete with sub shops, QSR chains and even casual dining establishments.
“The c-store industry is really making a push for very good
quality sandwiches similar to what the European c-store trade has been doing
for years,” he said. “I am very glad to see this because it means those
customers will be looking for higher quality artisan-style breads and sandwich
Mr. Brimacombe described the potential to bakers of c-stores as an
“emerging business, but one ripe with opportunity.”
He cited a recent Technomic study in which 87% of c-store
operators feel that foodservice has become a strategic priority for their
businesses. “Given the volume of sandwiches and snacks sold through c-stores,
quality fresh-baked breads can deliver a premium experience with little labor
and infrastructure change,” he observed.
Identifying the latest hot product in the fickle frozen and
par-baked bread market can be a tricky proposition, especially with foodservice
chefs often seeking customized signature breads to delineate their menu from
the competition. “Pretzel rolls seem to have cooled off as many of the QSR
burger chains have opted for newer items like brioche,” Mr. Smiley noted. “That
said, brioche also seems to have plateaued.”
Meanwhile, sales of ciabatta breads and rolls, which had dipped in
recent years, seem to be making a comeback, according to Mr. Kolinski. The
company’s cheese breads remain extremely popular as do products containing an
assortment of seeds, spices and grains. Euro-Bake’s multigrain Farmhouse
Country Loaf, for instance, contains a multitude of ingredients, including
flaxseed, banana chips, apple pieces and toasted soy grits.
“Customers continue to look for something that differentiates
their ‘artisan bread offerings’ from the competitor down the street,” Mr.
Kolinski said. “We see this as an opportunity to be creative by adding
inclusions in the bread loaf category. As far as rolls are concerned, we also
like to offer rolls with inclusions but to give different shapes whenever
possible — especially in our assortments, which is one of the categories that
we do very well in.”
Mr. Vierhile pointed out seasonal flavors have gained a larger
footprint in packaged breads and rolls. “Pumpkin spice has been huge the past
two fall seasons, and it seems like there is more potential for seasonal
flavors and/or limited-time flavors like red velvet, which add an element of
indulgence to bread,” he said.
The seasonal trend also extends to the in-store bakery channel as
well as in special displays throughout the store designed to increase impulse
sales during holiday periods. “We are always at the forefront of developing
exciting recipes and flavor profiles from La Brea Bakery such as the
limited-time-offering bread we will be selling this holiday season to creations
like our naan or award-winning gluten-free line,” Mr. Brimacombe observed.
For bakers looking to push the envelope, Mr. Vierhile suggested
keeping an eye on breads and rolls that avoid the use of wheat or any other
grains. “It sounds really difficult to pull off, but we are seeing a few
innovations like a coconut wrap product,” he explained. “Almond flour is
another ingredient to watch with breads made from it instead of wheat flour. It
is really a niche right now, but it may be starting to break out a little bit,
based on the strength of the gluten-free and paleo trends.”
For par-baked and frozen baked goods, the bottom line — in more
ways than one — involves leveraging emerging trends by providing bakery customers
with new products relevant to today’s consumers who are looking for new ways to
live a good life.
Mr. Brimacombe explained, “Retailers recognize that the consumer is savvier
than ever and understands that good food is healthy food versus counting
calories on every food label.”