Value. When it comes to products, the word typically refers to a price point on the lower end. With the way inflation has been, conventional wisdom would have said that those value baked goods would be having their moment. It seems, however, that value is just another concept millennials and Generation Z have redefined … or at least added some nuance to.  

At the American Bakers Association (ABA) Convention held earlier this year, this shift came up in both conversations around consumers and bakery trends. The data clearly states that price doesn’t drive bakery purchases. In her opening to the panel “Taking a Boundaryless Approach to the Consumer,” moderator Jonna Parker, principal II/team lead, fresh foods at Circana, formerly IRI and The NPD Group, showed that dollar sales were up nearly 12%, while unit sales were only down 2% in the 52 weeks ending Jan. 29. 

Anne-Marie Roerink, principal of 210 Analytics, which conducted ABA’s Life Through the Lens of Bakery study, summed it up this way: “Consumers want value, but they don’t want cheap.” 

So if value isn’t solely based on price these days, what does it mean? That largely seems to be up to the consumer and the specific product they’re purchasing and why. 

“Affordable means different things to different people depending on context,” Ms. Roerink said. “It’s about ‘Is this worth it to the consumer?’ ” 

Fresh and quality, for example, can prove a product to be well worth the price to a consumer looking for a loaf of bread that will be a vehicle for nutrition or a cake that will help them celebrate a milestone with friends and family.

During her panel, Ms. Parker also pointed out that, to millennials specifically, experience is more important than price point — unless they’re parents — even with today’s rising prices. And when it comes to the in-store bakery channel, fresh doesn’t cut it any more as a differentiator or value add. As she put it, “Everyone is doing that.” 

This means that even in the midst of rising prices, consumers want something special from the bakery category, whether it’s an indulgent dessert, a premium hamburger bun or an innovative snack cake that they’ve never seen before. Bakers have the opportunity to get creative with premiumization, or even help make the case for a bakery purchase with smaller package sizes or mix-and-match variety packs that meet consumers’ price points without sacrificing on taste, choice or experience. 

This brave new world where the old rules no longer apply — or at least not in the same ways — can be intimidating. But it is also good news when so often the news these days is bad or at the very least a new challenge to overcome. Consumers love their baked goods, and they are willing to pay for them, as long as you show them the value.