Everybody has heard the misconceptions: White bread makes you fat. Store-bought bread isn’t “fresh.” The list goes on and on, according to the Grain Foods Foundation (GFF).
Then the coronavirus (COVID-19) came, and sales soared as homebound families flocked to supermarkets. During the four weeks ended March 28, sandwich bread sales skyrocketed 37% to $721 million, according to Nielsen data supplied by Todd Hale, principal, Todd Hale LLC, during a webinar sponsored by the American Bakers Association.
Overall, the amount of packaged bread sold in March alone resulted in an absolute dollar growth of $194 million compared with March 2019. Mr. Hale called it “an amazing turnaround,” especially when he contrasted that jump to last year’s total performance for sandwich bread sales. For the entire year, they fell $40 million for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 28, 2019.
“When you look at the top-selling categories in March, you have to call out sandwich bread,” Mr. Hale said. “Let’s face it. It’s not been a category that has been delivering strong results.”
Sandwich bread wasn’t the lone benefactor from the bounty of binge-buying. Cracker sales rose $195 million in March, or nearly as much as the $227 million for all of 2019. Cookie sales leaped $144 million in March compared with notching a $127 million upswing for the entire previous year. Keep in mind that these numbers reflect the sales growth of mega categories that range from $5 billion to $7 billion annually at retail, where a double-digit percentage hike hasn’t been seen in decades.
Bread was never dead. People were just buying it in restaurants and eating it at schools. The shutdown just brought that message home.