While the American bread aisle is here to stay, the range of bread products is expanding as consumers incorporate ethnic varieties of bread into their diets.

Polar opposites

Health and clean label may be top motivators for buying bread, but in a seemingly contradictory turn, consumers also are gravitating toward indulgent baked goods.

“It seems like every time I open a magazine, there’s an article on donuts,” Ms. Nielsen said.

And it’s true that the donut trend is still going strong. Sales are up 3%, according to I.R.I. sales data from the 52 weeks ended July 9, in the United States. Fresh rolls/bun/croissants are up 2.7%; muffins are up 8.5%; and pies and cakes as a category are up 3.2% while fresh bread sales were flat.

“Indulgence will always be on trend,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “We’ve seen increased interest in European-quality pastries around the world. We ship croissants to Korea and Australia. We see a lot of growth in croissants and Danish.”

The same drivers of increased demand for high quality, unprocessed bread also are driving the trend toward indulgence. As people travel to Europe and return home, they bring with them a taste for Old World pastries. Wanting to enjoy the same quality at home is only natural.

In a global food market driven by a concern for health, the growth of indulgent foods may seem counterintuitive. But consumers seem capable of holding both the demand for healthy bread and the urge to indulge at the same time. It’s all about finding moderation. Mr. Kolinski attributed this to the very human impulse to cheat.

“People try to do good throughout the week,” he said. “During the work week, they try to be good and healthy, and on the weekend they think, ‘I deserve to do something that isn’t so good for me.’”

As people cross borders and break bread together, their ideas about what makes good bread and how best to eat it will travel with them and continue to evolve. In the United States, that means a demand for higher quality, fewer ingredients and a wider variety to bring the world to their kitchen tables.