Convenience, elevated dining at home and doing more with less are all trends driving new product introductions in the retail market, said Heather Davis, senior manager of customer insights at Bimbo Bakehouse, Horsham, Pa. Premium buns and rolls continue to make their mark with a wide variety of options and marketing education to show consumers how they can use them in new ways. 

Datassential reported that brioche buns have grown more than 66% on menus in the past four years, and Bimbo Bakehouse’s Traditional Brioche Bun can be used for breakfast sandwiches, burgers and ice cream sandwiches, said Dana Strain, senior marketing manager at Bimbo Bakehouse. Datassential data also showed potato buns have grown 33% on menus over the past four years, and the company offers a premium potato bun as part of its foodservice specialty bun line. Bimbo Bakehouse also offers an Everything Pretzel bun to cater to the trends of sesame seed, garlic and poppy seed flavoring.

Pepperidge Farm, a brand of Campbell Soup Co., Camden, NJ, is launching Farmhouse Brioche Buns as a way of complementing its Farmhouse Brioche Sandwich Bread. The company developed the product as it saw consumers trying new forms and flavors across fresh bread and rolls and wanted to cater to the rise in popularity of brioche. The product was also inspired by small batch recipes. 

On retail shelves, hamburger and hot dog buns continue to contribute the most dollar growth in the category, but Pepperidge Farm has found sliders are proving to grow fastest in the segment. Sweet, brioche and Italian loaves are showing the most growth from a flavor perspective, according to the company.

In foodservice, Pepperidge Farm said customers are eyeing elevated variety and unexpected forms. Using croissants, bagels and sliders instead of traditional white buns is proving popular in addition to the use of sweet flavors ranging from brioche to Hawaiian flavors and pretzel buns.

La Brea Bakery has not only introduced a brioche bun, but one that is specifically marketed as plant-based.

“The La Brea Bakery Plant Based Brioche Bun enables restaurant and foodservice operators to lean into two trends — brioche popularity and plant-based — without having to carry a secondary SKU,” Ms. Buenning said. “It gives operators the flexibility of having a single upscale bread that meets numerous consumer demands, while supporting increased revenue.”

To develop the new product, Ms. Buenning said the company used a site dedicated to producing non-dairy-based breads, and the development team had to approach the bun without eggs and dairy — the very ingredients that give brioche its classic flavor and texture.

Ms. Buenning said restaurants are facing challenges including changing consumer dining habits, high ingredient costs and labor shortages. In addition, many restaurants are opening with smaller kitchens and reduced dry storage space. The new plant-based bun supports restaurants with these challenges as brioche products generally give a dish a $1 to $3 price premium over a traditional bun or roll, and is a thaw-and-serve product allowing operators to reduce time and labor costs.

Beyond brioche, everything seasoning, pretzel buns and potato buns have been some of the top ingredient innovations in the category, Ms. Strain said. Pretzel buns have seen 11% growth on menus in the last four years according to Datassential, and Bimbo Bakehouse offers a Traditional Bavarian Pretzel Bun as well as pretzel baguettes and dinner rolls for foodservice.

Bimbo Bakehouse recently launched a Seeded Double Decker Hamburger Bun for foodservice, a 4-inch bun available in fully sliced and thaw-and-serve formats. It can be paired with burgers for a traditional value meal or be used with an upscale entrée, Ms. Strain said.

Flowers Foods’ successful launch of Classic Brioche-Style Rolls and Hawaiian Sweet Rolls from its Canyon Bakehouse brand provided more gluten-free options in the market.

“While brioche rolls have been increasingly popular in the specialty bread category, gluten-free options were noticeably absent prior to this introduction,” said Dan Letchinger, senior vice president of growth brands for Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga.

Crown Bakeries, Brentwood, Tenn., has introduced brioche buns, Hawaiian rolls, pitas, croissants, kaiser rolls and several flavored buns and rolls to its foodservice line in recent months.

Kory Mickelson, chief commercial officer for Crown Bakeries said consumer demand for global breads like Cuban rolls, bao buns, ciabatta rolls, lavash and bolillos is also driving the market, and there has been interest in regional varieties including split-top New York-style hot dog buns and split-top pub rolls. He said the brioche bun has also been incorporated on many chicken sandwich menu items.

Private label brands also present an opportunity for growth with regionally inspired varieties, such as the grocer Meijer launching Chicago-style hot dog buns with poppy seeds through its Frederik’s brand, Ms. Olsen said.

Keto-friendly buns and rolls from the Sola brand are also coming to the market, Ms. Altobelli said, to meet that consumer group’s needs. 

This article is an excerpt from the May 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Buns & Rolls, click here.