For bakers, adding excitement to the traditional packaged bread aisle has never been so urgent, especially after the pandemic hit and drove consumers to retailers in unprecedented numbers.

In March, packaged bread sales shot up nearly 40% while fresh bread sold at in-store bakeries jumped 27% from the same four-week period a year ago, according to IRI data supplied by the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association. More recently, monthly data from the IDDBA show supermarket bread sales remain well above the same period in 2019.

For the four weeks ended July 26, for instance, fresh bread sold at in-store bakeries rose 8.3% over the same period in 2019. Packaged bread and roll sales jumped 9.7% over the same period a year ago. For wholesale bakers, who supply both the bread aisle with packaged bread and in-store bakeries frozen par-baked and other baked foods, now is not the time to let up on the pedal.

In fact, bakers need to ramp up their merchandising and marketing programs to further engage those consumers who have rediscovered their products sold in the retail market.

Innovation such as The Rustik Oven by Bimbo Bakeries USA is an example of how bakers can draw more attention to the category. Brought to the United States after a successful launch in Spain, the Non-GMO Project verified bread comes in sourdough, artisan white, and hearty grains and seeds varieties and is baked in a stone oven, allowing the loaf to develop a firm, golden crust.

Consumers are looking for something special to serve their families during the upcoming holidays.