NORWALK, CONN. — Even as snack foods such as Goldfish and cookies account for an ever larger part of the business of Pepperidge Farm, Inc., bread remains core to the brand and a target for innovation, said Chris Foley, general manager of fresh and frozen bakery. Mr. Foley commented on the Pepperidge bread business for the annual Bread Product Perspective to be published in the March 4 issue of Milling & Baking News.

“Bread is the heart of our business, as Pepperidge Farm began when Margaret Rudkin baked a loaf of bread for her son,” Mr. Foley said. “We are pleased with the performance of our bread portfolio and plan to continue to invest to ensure that the quality of our products meets our consumers’ expectations and we stay ahead of changing preferences and trends. For example we’ve recently introduced premium quality Bake at Home breads, which are inspired by artisan-style breads you see in independent bakeries and farmers markets, and we’ve extended our range of potato bread products to include hotdog, hamburger and slider buns in response to the growing popularity of that flavor.”

Pepperidge describes the Bake at Home bread line as produced from “hand-crafted dough” and “baked in a unique stone oven.” The product is finished with baking at home.

Varieties include Tuscan Boule, French Loaf, Semolina Loaf, Multi-Grain Loaf and Sourdough Boule.

A consistent hit in recent years for Pepperidge has been its Swirl line of breakfast bread. Mr. Foley said limited-edition launches aimed at young families were the chosen approach to innovation over the past year.

“New flavors were blueberry, french toast and gingerbread and we reintroduced caramel apple and pumpkin spice, which are hugely popular fall flavors,” he said. “We have found that introducing these limited-edition flavors brings excitement to the bread aisle and interest from consumers who may not have tried our permanent flavors such as cinnamon raisin.”

A new product from Pepperidge that did not sustain initial success was its Goldfish brand thin bread. Mr. Foley said the company continues to offer it in its food service menu.

“However we discontinued it from retail sales in the middle of last year as after an initially successful launch we were seeing sales soften,” he said.

That setback aside, the past year without question has been a good one for Pepperidge across the bread category. Gains achieved by the company after Hostess Brands, Inc. abruptly evacuated the bread aisle with its November 2012 bankruptcy were captured in data from Information Resources, Inc. The third largest baking company in the United States, Pepperidge unit volume in the 52 weeks ended Jan. 26 was 193,489,300, up 10% from the previous year.

Mr. Foley said the company benefited when consumers tried and then stuck with products such as Pepperidge rye due to the absence of the Hostess Beefsteak rye line.

“We’ve also worked very closely with retailers to ensure that they weren’t disadvantaged as a result of the Hostess departure, by offering a comprehensive selection in the bakery aisle and delivering excellent customer service,” he said.