Consumers were snapping up both indulgent and healthy breads during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but it was the healthy breads that are low carb and high in protein and fiber that did particularly well.
“The healthy segment had been growing but it really jumped last year, and we’re seeing this year it’s still one of our biggest growing segments,” said Jeff Sobotta, vice president of sales at Schmidt Baking Co., which is a division of the H&S Family of Bakeries, Baltimore.
He added that the company’s 647 Bread (6 grams net carbs, 40 calories, 7 grams fiber per slice) has been a good seller.
Younger generations are driving interest in healthy products, said JR Paterakis, co-principal and senior vice president of sales and marketing at H&S Bakery.
“Consumers are changing, especially millennials and Generation Z, and they require more improved nutritional attributes to the characteristics of better-for-you products, which is product with protein, fiber, whole grain,” he said.
The carb smart breads have also been a winner for Aunt Millie’s Bakeries, Fort Wayne, Ind., as well as the bakery’s artisan breads. Taste, as always, is king.
“People are buying more bread that they want to eat at home, and they want it to be good,” said Bohn Popp, executive vice president of quality and brand strategy at Aunt Millie’s. “They don’t want it just to be a filler.”
Consumers expect excellence and consistency, said Tony Martin, executive vice president of Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe Inc., Chambersburg, Pa., which saw a 34% gain in 2020 sales, according to IRI.
“We need to keep our quality at a high level,” he said. “During pandemics and beyond, sharing meals with your family with food that tastes great and is made from wholesome, high-quality ingredients is always a good plan.”
Whole wheat and whole grain, however, was the one lackluster category singled out by bakers. Some consumers don’t perceive them as healthy as the low-carb or high-fiber versions, and it isn’t as tasty as some of the more indulgent varieties.
“It seems to have plateaued right now, and I think flavor is part of that,” Mr. Popp said. “A baking company that can come up with a good-tasting whole grain is going to do well.”