Data published in the Bread Product Perspective in this issue confirm what has been clear since the start of the pandemic — sales of packaged bread at retail outlets have been extraordinarily strong. In the 52 weeks ended Jan. 21, bread sales eclipsed the $10 billion mark, jumping more than 10% from the previous 52 weeks. Since the period includes almost two months in 2020 before the March 13 declaration by President Donald Trump of a national emergency, the IRI figures may actually understate the strength in the bread market in the period since the pandemic began.
Amid the strong sales, IRI figures show that pricing of bread and other baked foods has held firm. In the case of bread, The average price per unit during the period was $2.60, up 12¢, or 4.6%. Each of the leading bread vendors included in the IRI data showed a modest to moderate advance in prices. The trend aligned with statements by baking executives who have said promotional activity has been contained in recent months.
The data also show major bakers and retailers did not raise bread prices excessively over the past year. Allegations had been made, especially early in the pandemic, of price gouging for essentials such as disinfectants and food. The IRI data represent a powerful affirmation of the vital and responsible role baking has had over the past year in keeping Americans fed.