CHICAGO — Before they make a purchase, consumers will naturally gravitate to a product with a compelling story. Whitney Atkins, vice president, International Dairy, Deli and Bakery Association (IDDBA), emphasized that sentiment when describing consumer preferences toward ancient grains, just one of many trends she outlined at the American Society of Baking (ASB)’s BakingTech conference held March 1-3.  

“Buckwheat, quinoa and barley made a good portion of ‘gladiator’ diets,” Ms. Atkins said. “Stories like this can pique consumer interest and drive sales.”

Recent archeological discoveries uncovered evidence that suggests Roman gladiators consumed high quantities of foods like barley and beans, triggering a new diet trend.

One key attribute of ancient grains is protein, which is a big consumer buzzword.

Consumers’ focus on health and wellness also is driving behavior in the center store, as evidenced in research Ms. Atkins cited in her keynote address. Some of the top claims include “100% natural,” which was up 4.5%, and “organic,” which saw an 18% increase in the past year, Ms. Atkins noted, adding that products with “multigrain” claims were up more than 5%.

Whitney Atkins, vice president, International Dairy, Deli and Bakery Association, spoke to attendees at BakingTech about bakery trends driving sales at supermarkets.
“When you add sprouted and super grains to the multigrain point, they’re also gaining traction,” she said. “Natural, while not yet defined by FDA, continues to move product and show up on labels and theoretically indicates that a product is clean.”

Ms. Atkins said that What’s in Store, IDDBA’s annual publication, which houses research from several sources, including NPD Group, various Sosland Publishing publications and more, indicated that new natural and organic food sales totaled more than $4.1 billion, or nearly a third of the $13 billion total bakery sales.

“Let’s put this another way: Shoppers spent one of every three new food dollars on natural or organic foods,” she said.

Ethnic products such as flatbreads are gaining interest as well.

“Consumers see the flatbread segment as being conducive to recipe experimentation and convenience in the kitchen,” Ms. Atkins said. “Manufacturers and retail bakers are responding with new formulations, flavors and colors to add extra appeal. That’s very important to the new consumer. They want to try new things and experience flavor.”

Ms. Atkins also said naan and tortillas are entering the market with new iterations such as smaller formats and new colors.

Portion size is also attractive for health-conscious and time-starved consumers who are mindful of sustainability and want to avoid food waste and large packaging.

“Retail bakeries have increased volume by maintaining production but dividing finished goods into smaller portion sizes,” she said. “We have seen the rise in the half-pie clamshell as well as numerous other packaging innovations that enable bakeries to sell products in various quantities.”

At IDDBA’s annual conference and trade show, set for May 31-June 2 in Indianapolis, the association will highlight several trend-based retail concepts to help retailers drive consumer engagement and bakery manufacturers provide products to accomplish that goal.

“With the right messaging and fixturing, we believe there is still a large consumer base with an appreciation and desire to purchase products like artisan bread,” she said.

At the “What’s in Store Live” interactive feature on the show floor, attendees will experience concepts, displays and demonstrations to develop new ideas to drive bakery sales.