For a quick snapshot of the dramatic changes that occurred in the commercial baking industry during the past year, Information Resources, Inc. data on Page 34 of this issue offer an excellent starting point. In the oft-called “staid” category of fresh bread, six of the eight largest U.S. baking companies generated double-digit dollar sales gains in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 11. The sales increases included 19% for Flowers Foods, 12% for Pepperidge Farm, 22% apiece for Lewis Brothers and United States Bakery, 17% for Aunt Millie’s, and 14% for Schwebel Baking Co.

Of course this surge for so many of the top companies corresponded with the collapse in sales of Hostess Brands, Inc. That this massive hand-off occurred amid nearly flat overall sales for bread this year confirms that baking has done a masterful job of filling the void created when Hostess abruptly ceased operations.

One notable exception to the companies capturing share from the sudden exit of Hostess was the nation’s largest baking company — Bimbo Bakeries USA. Bimbo dollar sales of $2.5 billion during the year actually fell, 1.7%. Still, B.B.U. remained nearly twice as large as the second largest U.S. baker – Flowers Foods. Because Flowers acquired most of the Hostess bread business and also bought the Sara Lee fresh bakery operations in California, it is almost certain the spread between the two largest bakers will narrow in the year ahead.