Just like people, breads and rolls come in all shapes and sizes and all sorts of colors in the in-store bakery channel. Artisan breads can be as beautiful as a sculptured boule or as natural as a free-formed loaf where the character underneath lures consumers. Pizza crusts cater to all types of consumers whose preferences range from thin, thick and soft to airy, crispy and crunchy — or a combination of textures to differentiate one product from the rest.

Likewise, tortillas, lavash, wraps and other varieties of flatbreads continue to proliferate and now come in squares, rounds, ovals, minis and rectangles as well as the just plain irregular patterns so typical of naan. It seems the odd man out has found a home in the in-store bakery/deli arena.

 “Flatbreads are really coming into their own,” ­noted Perry Abbenante, general manager of the Stonefire brand at FGF Brands, Concord, ON. “There is an artisan element to what we’re doing.”

Last year, pretzel rolls emerged as the next hot product — and they remain so — at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association’s (IDDBA) ­annual seminar and expo. “Pretzel breads are still making a lot of noise,” noted Rob Burch, COO, Labriola Baking Co., Alsip, IL.

At this year’s show, held in June in Orlando, FL, many bakers also rolled out upscale premium brioche with the hope of catching a ride on the burgeoning big burger phenomenon. Mr. Burch explained Labriola makes a soft brioche done the traditional way. “Butter isn’t low-calorie, but it makes the brioche taste really good,” he said.

On the other hand, Bäckerhaus Veit offers a non-dairy brioche, according to Sandra Zanette, director of marketing and business development for the Woodbridge, ON-based company. “The product holds up well to pulled pork and gourmet hamburgers,” she said. “It has a soft texture, but it doesn’t fall apart when you put a lot of meat or fillings in it.”

At the IDDBA show, some exhibitors positioned their products as alternatives to sandwich bread. Flatout Flatbread, Saline, MI, urged consumers to “say no to boring sliced bread” when promoting its Hungry Girl Foldit Flatbread. La Tortilla Factory, Santa Rosa, CA, advised in-store bakers to “say no to crust and yes to Mini SoftWraps,” and its displays urged in-store bakeries and consumers to “think outside the lunch box.”

Many exhibitors, even bakers of sweet goods, displayed products touting health benefits beyond the all-too-prevalent high-fiber and whole grain options. The Cookie Department, Berkeley, CA, sampled a probiotic chocolate-and-cherry-­flavored cookie called the Cherry Bomb. The 3-oz retail variety and 1.5-oz foodservice option will be available in August and claim to aid in digestion and boost immunity, noted Pam Marcus, cofounder and CEO.

Other bakers promoted new packaging concepts. Pastry Smart, San Mateo, CA, added a twist to its hand-crafted Le Culturé bread collection. Beginning this May, the organic- and American Humane Association-certified breads come in a bakeable, ­organic bread bag that preserves product integrity from oven to shelf. The bag, said Marc Rosenberg, director of marketing and sales, seals itself during the baking process.

‘Medible’ baked foods

Driven by demand for fresh, convenient, artisan and restaurant-style products, in-store bakery sales grew 10.4% between 2010 and 2012, reported Mintel, a Chicago-based research firm, in its March 2013 report on in-store bakeries.

More specifically, 2012 sales rose an estimated 5.4% over 2011 — the highest annual growth rate during the past five years — to $12.8 billion, according to Mintel. The number of in-store bakeries increased 2.9% to 27,858 stores. Sales of desserts, specifically cakes, and breakfast items drove sales.

However, Mintel added that sales of bread and rolls lagged behind other product categories, inching up only 2.1% to $3.6 billion in 2012. “Increases in health awareness and gluten-free dieting have likely contributed to the slower growth of the bread and rolls segment, exacerbated by increasing publicity blaming bread for a role in America’s obesity epidemic,” the report observed.

To boost sales, Mintel suggested bread and roll producers need to leverage consumer demand for multigrain, gluten-free and artisan bread products. At the IDDBA show, a number of flatbread bakeries seem to be at the forefront in accommodating the latest trends and confronting misconceptions affecting the overall bread market.

In general, the move toward better-for-you products containing antioxidants and other nutritional benefits are part of a broader trend called “medible” products, observed Carol Christison, IDDBA’s president and CEO, in her presentation titled “All-Star Food Trends.” In different ways, these foods contain many of the attributes found in supplements and medicine. “You can eat the drug of your choice,” she joked.

La Tortilla Factory, for instance, promoted its Ivory Teff flour wraps under the Smart & Delicious label. The gluten-free wraps, introduced in 2006, contain 15 g whole grain per serving. Moreover, the company addressed the issue of childhood obesity and positioned its SoftWrap minis as a healthy back-to-school alternative that’s in sync with First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts to improve children’s health.

Several flatbread producers highlighted heightened levels of protein as well as other nutritional attributes of their products. Kontos Foods, Paterson, NJ, rebranded its formerly SmartCarb Pita as Greek Lifestyle Flatbreads with 15 g protein, 21 g carbs, 2 g sugar and 190 Cal per serving. “This product has twice the protein and half the carbs of any other flatbread,” said Warren Stoll, marketing director. “It has less sugar and fewer calories.”

The company also promoted its line of crepes, which it touted as “the light, elegant skinny wrap.” Compared with a 12-in. round flatbread that has about 300 Cal, an 11-in. crepe contains only 100 Cal. “You can make any sandwich better-for-you with a crepe than you can with a wrap,” Mr. Stoll said.

 Damascus Bakeries, Brooklyn, NY, featured its Bake Sense all-natural Roll-Ups that come in Plain, Flax, Mediterranean, Southwest, Whole Wheat and Garden & Grains varieties. The line, certified by the American Heart Association, contains 4 to 6 g fiber, 5 to 6 g protein, 5 to 9 net carbs and 70 to 80 Cal.

California Lavash, Gilroy, CA, highlighted its artisan flatbreads as verified vegan and non-GMO made with unbromated unenriched flour. The company offered whole grain and spinach lavash, the latter containing ­actual spinach, as well as traditional and whole grain naan and noor. “Our products are clean label and all-natural, and we’re passionate about producing traditional lavash that is good for you,” said Lilea Eshoo, marketing manager.

FGF Brands natural Tandoor-baked Stonefire brand naan are prepared with ghee, or clarified butter, and fresh buttermilk following a traditional Indian recipe. The products come in Original, Garlic, Whole Grain and Sweet Chili varieties. Three of its products are among the Top 10 best-selling flatbreads, according to supermarket scanning data from IRI, a Chicago-based research firm, supplied by FGF Brands.

Pizza with pizzazz

Throughout the show, IDDBA exhibitors borrowed a page out of Food Network and featured chefs preparing wraps, sandwiches and other lunch and dinner items. The strategy was directed not only at in-store bakeries but also at deli departments with bread and rolls serving as an integral component of the retail meal-solution (RMS) movement.

According to a study from Technomic, Inc., supermarket-prepared food sales have grown more than 6% annually during the past five years. Mass merchandisers and supercenters saw prepared foods grow over 13% during the same time period. RMS is now a profit center rather than a traffic driver, noted Voni Woods, IDDBA chair and senior director of deli, Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh. ?

Flatout’s chef baked a variety of artisan pizzas made on thin-crust flatbreads that come in Rustic White, Spicy Italian, Heritage Wheat and Rosemary and Olive Oil.

For several pizza manufacturers, many of which were displaying take-and-bake pizzas for supermarket delis, thin was in because it contains fewer carbs and calories per serving, noted David Foran, director of business development, Little Lady Foods, Elk Grove Village, IL. Baking the products on the company’s stone-fired oven, he added, creates a crispier crust.

Alive & Kickin’ Pizza Crust, Green Bay, WI, distributed samples of pizza made using a hot-press process, noted Lisa Bartikofsky, director of national sales. “Hot press works really well for making crispy products,” she said. “We’re taking hot-press pizzas to a whole new level. Our pizza is consistent, yeasty and open-textured. The structure is delicate, yet it has a crispiness to it.”

IDDBA did feature its share of artisan, par-baked and frozen dough bread and roll manufacturers. Tribeca Oven, Carlstadt, NJ, featured free-form versions of its classic artisan products. Unlike its labor-intensive, hand-formed artisan breads, the free-form breads are made on the company’s new high-speed artisan bread line. The loaves have a natural look to them and come in a slightly smaller size that allows in-store bakeries to sell them at a more attractive price point, said Marc Essenfeld, CEO. “We’re trying to make these free-form products in all varieties and flavors,” he noted.

Several bakeries used the show to test concept products. For instance, Gonnella Baking, Schaumburg, IL, sought feedback from in-store bakery operators on its frozen dough ciabatta rolls. The 3-oz concept products, which come in a traditional ciabatta flavor and texture, can be customized at store level with dusted flour, ­tomato sauce, cheese and herbs, or olive and herbs. The rolls could be sold in the in-store bakery or as part of a deli program, said Meg McDonnell, vice-president of sales for Gonnella’s frozen dough division. Among the feedback she received from retailers? A ciabatta sub roll came to mind, she said. “The possibilities are endless,” she added.

 Costanzo’s Bakery, Cheektowaga, NY, created rolls that are heating up the in-store bakery in more ways than one. Its Spicy Buffalo Rolls are made with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce along with a dash of cayenne in the dough to complement crab cakes, barbecue or even conventional chicken sandwiches or hamburgers, noted Kenneth Burke, vice-president of sales and marketing.

In a “call to action,” Bakery de France, Rockville, MD, invited consumers to turn their kitchens into bakeries with its “Be the Baker” program described by Nadine Salameh, executive vice-president. The program encourages consumers to bake off its all-natural, 95%-baked demi-baguettes and its signature Diamond Artisan Rolls in Roasted Garlic, Cranberry Golden Raisin and Black and Green Olive varieties.

This year’s IDDBA also included several imported baked goods. Lantmännen Unibake, Lisle, IL, provided authentic pretzel breads and savory pastries imported from its European parent company along with its classic artisan breads baked in its St. Petersburg, FL, bakery.

Euro Classic, Malaga, NJ, featured a variety of brioche bread, rolls and sweet goods — including a chocolate swirl brioche — imported from its bakery in France. “We want to bring in something that’s totally new to the market,” said Damien Rabut, president.

IDDBA’s Ms. Woods summed up the show by saying supermarket suppliers need to provide innovative products because it’s all about “eating food that makes you feel good.”