Josh Sosland
A feature article in a recent issue of this publication highlighted challenges facing the fresh bread industry given the continuing erosion of unit sales. A look more broadly across grain-based foods categories suggests bread is anything but unique in experiencing slipping volumes. To the contrary, figures from IRI Market Advantage indicate year-to-year growth in the period ended Aug. 7 was the exception rather than the rule.

In fact, many categories performed more poorly than the 1.4% decrease in fresh bread and roll sales, including bagels, down 2.3%; pita, down 4.5%; ready-to-eat cereal, down 2.8%; and frozen pizza, also down 2.8%. Crackers were down a more modest 0.9%. Grain-based categories on the rise include cookies, up 0.22%; hot cereal, up 0.4%; snack bars/granola bars, up 2.8%; taco kits, up 2.6%; bakery snacks, up 5.6%; and pasta, up 0.7%.

For flour-based foods, a look more deeply into these categories points to especially worrying trends. The salty snack category overall rose a healthy 2.8%, but the principal flour-based salty snack, pretzels, were down 3.1%. By contrast, tortilla chips were up 4.5% and the resurgent popcorn category was up 13.8%.

A complicated range of dynamics accounts for these trends in each category, and overgeneralizing would not be wise. Still, it is difficult to look at the data and not conclude that mistaken avoidance of gluten continues to weigh on grain-based foods.