Josh Sosland
To reverse the slow decline that has plagued the commercial sliced bread market for more than a decade, baking executives agree that stepped-up innovation is of paramount importance. The increased number of new production introductions together with stepped-up marketing efforts described in the Bread Product Perspective in this issue represents a solid step in the right direction.

Every baking company profiled described new bread varieties or lines introduced or reformulations of existing products to broaden their appeal. Many of the introductions appeared targeted toward segments where the companies have an under-indexed presence versus competitors, e.g., breakfast bread or organic products, as opposed to blazing a creative new path. Cleaner labels also have been an area of focus, a designation increasingly viewed as “table stakes” for consumers rather than something likely to generate the kind of excitement necessary to reignite category growth.

Against this backdrop, the gluten-free trend in bread continues to grow, albeit more slowly. One step at a time, gluten-free bakers have advanced in their efforts to narrow what had been a gaping quality deficit when measured against conventional sliced bread. Judging by continued sales growth of certain brands, genuine progress has been made with regard to taste and texture of these products. More recent introductions have extended shelf life and larger sized slices. The macro competitive landscape for baking certainly is becoming no easier.