While consumers’ preferences for fresh remains strong, most of the oft-promoted perimeter of the supermarket is recovering a major hit, especially in the in-store bakery where bulk bins have remained empty for food safety reasons because of the pandemic.

“What’s happened this year is an anomaly that we have never seen before,” said Todd Hale, principal, Todd Hale LLC, during a recent webinar sponsored by the American Bakers Association. “I wonder, when we think about the fresh departments and the whole notion of a self-service section where you can reach in and grab a donut or a bagel, what’s going to happen to that business going forward? Are we going to allow that to return?”

While shoppers are coming back, the perimeter hasn’t rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.

“What is also interesting on the in-store bakery front in general is that the indulgent items — cakes, cookies and pastries — are all trending down,” Angela Bozo, education director for the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, told Baking & Snack recently. “Yes, this is partly because of a lack of open self-service cases, but it is also at least partly indicative of what people are doing for themselves, which is baking at home. I am sure that time will be a factor post-COVID, but there are preferences being changed and possibly family traditions being formed, so this could go in many directions.”

Consumers, however, are getting together again this summer.

“I don’t believe that we know yet how that will shake out,” Ms. Bozo said. “I imagine that consumers are going to find ways to hybridize what they did pre-COVID and what they found worked for them during COVID.”