KANSAS CITY — Summertime, the traditional period of cookouts and parties, has looked quite a bit different this year. Stay-at-home orders across the United States have put a damper on the number and size of social gatherings.

But while social gatherings have been sliced in size, the amount of food being consumed at home has been on the rise, and that has been a good thing for bakers of buns and rolls.

In the 52 weeks ended July 12, dollar sales in the hamburger and hot dog buns category totaled $2.39 billion, up 11.4% from the same period a year ago, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm. Unit sales, meanwhile, increased 7.4% to 1.23 billion.

All other fresh rolls/bun/croissants also experienced stepped-up demand, as dollar sales in the category neared $2.25 billion, an 11.7% increase over the same period a year ago, according to IRI. Unit sales in the category totaled 718.53 million, up 6.3%.

Grupo Bimbo SAB de CV, Horsham, Pa., experienced a hamburger and hot dog bun dollar sales surge of more than 21% in the 52 weeks ended July 12, climbing to $479.17 million. The company’s other fresh rolls/bun/croissants also advanced, increasing 5.4% to $402.28 million, according to IRI.

New product launches during the early stages of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic were limited, particularly in staple food categories like bread, buns and rolls. Instead, companies focused on baking their most popular products to meet consumer demand. That is beginning to change, though, and Bimbo is among the companies rolling out new items.

The company in late July announced the national expansion of its Thomas’ Mini Croissants. The mini croissants may be found in the bread aisle at a suggested retail price of $4.49 for an 11-oz bag containing about 19 rolls.

“Today’s typical mealtime looks significantly different than it did a few years ago,” said Eduardo Zarate, senior director of marketing for Thomas’. “As a leading breakfast brand, we would be remiss if we did not evolve our line of breakfast offerings as the needs and demands of our loyal customers progress over time. With the national expansion of our Thomas’ Mini Croissants, we find comfort in knowing that families across the country can enjoy this delicious on-the-go option without sacrificing real, high-quality ingredients.”

Flowers adds to organic line

Dollar sales at Flowers Foods, Inc. in the hamburger and hot dog buns category increased 14.5% to $302.02 million in the 52 weeks ended July 12, according to IRI. In the all other fresh rolls/bun/croissants category, dollar sales for the Thomasville, Ga.-based baker rose 12.4% to $87.82 million.

In May, Flowers expanded its Dave’s Killer Bread line with the launch of organic burger buns.

“Consumers are hungry for organic buns, which make up less than 1% of the category, despite significant increases in demand for organic meat and plant-based alternatives,” said Cristina Watson, DKB brand manager. “We wanted to give people a bun packed with the flavor and nutrition they expect from DKB, that will elevate anything they pile on it. They deserve a great organic bun.”

The new organic buns are available in two varieties: 21 Whole Grains and Seeds and Burger Buns Done Right.

DKB’s organic 21 Whole Grains and Seeds Buns feature a hearty texture, subtle sweetness and the brand’s signature 21 whole grains and seeds blend. The buns contain 12 grams of whole grains and 6 grams of protein per serving.

DKB’s Burger Buns Done Right are a take on a classic artisan-style bun. The buns contain 8 grams of whole grains and 6 grams of protein per serving, and have no bleached flour or high-fructose corn syrup.

The two bun varieties are certified USDA organic and Non-GMO Project verified. The eight-bun packs retail for $5.99.

King’s Hawaiian, Martin’s expand

King’s Hawaiian, Torrance, Calif., continues to build out its presence in the buns and rolls categories. In the 52-week period ended July 12, King’s Hawaiian pushed its share of the all other fresh rolls/buns/croissants segment to nearly 27%, as dollar sales surged almost 16% to $601.95 million on a 6.2% increase in unit sales to 163.41 million.

The company’s success with its sweet bread offerings has spurred a flurry of similar private label products looking to piggy-back off King’s Hawaiian success. For its part, King’s Hawaiian has continued to innovate, adding slider buns to its lineup that also includes sandwich bread, hamburger buns and hot dog buns.

Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe, Chambersburg, Pa., in January expanded the availability of its products to H-E-B retail stores located in Houston and Austin, Texas. Other products now available in Texas stores include Long (hot dog) Potato Rolls, Martin’s Old-Fashioned Real Butter Bread, Martin’s Potato Bread, and Martin’s 100% Whole Wheat Potato Bread.