LAS VEGAS — The American Bakers Association and Rabobank presented baking industry leaders actionable industry trend data at the NextGenBaker Global Leadership Forum.
Robb MacKie, president of the A.B.A., and Cyrille Filott, a global strategist for consumer foods at The Netherlands-based Rabobank, highlighted the results of 2019 consumer and industry trends surveys Sept. 10 at the International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas in early September.
Mr. MacKie said the surveys show many opportunities for the baking industry to connect with younger consumers. He emphasized that bakers need to promote themselves more and with greater “swagger.”
According to A.B.A.’s 2019 “Attracting Gen Z and Millennial Customers” study, 78% of these younger consumers eat carbs in their regular diet. Many (73%) have purchased bread in the last week, and 63% purchased a sweet baked good in the past week. Importantly, the study found millennial and Gen Z consumers have positive nutritional associations with many types of baked foods. The results showed 75% of younger consumers are not dissuaded from consuming baked foods because of a concern about carbohydrates.
Mr. Filott noted that bakers should focus on innovative flavors, products and disruptive ideas to capture new market share. He said the baking industry benefits for a much shorter runway for start-ups and disruptors to find market success compared with other industries. And this is already happening across the industry. Big brands, he said, are losing share to small brands, including start-ups, in two-thirds of all food categories.
Meanwhile, less than 2% of revenue in the baking industry today supports R.&D. for new products at larger companies. That figure is down from 3% in 2018. That trend is moving in the wrong direction, Mr. Filott warned.
“To survive and grow, much more money needs to be spent on innovation,” Mr. Filott said. “We should always be mindful that something new might erupt.”
Another way to connect with consumers in today’s market is to focus on key topics that matter to them. One big area of concern, Mr. MacKie pointed out, is sustainability. The A.B.A. study showed that younger generations are demanding responsible sourcing in their food products. Some 48% of consumers surveyed said they would be convinced to try a baked food if the ingredients were responsibly sourced.
Waste is another hot topic. The study found that one in five consumers often or always skip buying bread on their next trip to the store after throwing previously purchased bread away. Mr. MacKie said younger generations are more purpose-driven than their predecessors, and everything from reducing waste to ingredient sourcing to packaging recyclability needs to be considered.
“We need to tell that story a little better,” Mr. MacKie said. “Sustainability and purpose go hand in glove.”