KANSAS CITY — Baked foods are having a banner year, despite inflation and operational challenges. Sales of packaged baked foods in the center store and fresh-baked foods in the perimeter have been “true standouts” among their peers in the food and beverage arena, said Jonna Parker, principal II/team lead, fresh foods at Circana.

The firm reported that center store bakery sales rose 11.8% to $24.8 billion while unit sales slipped only 2.7% for the 52 weeks ended July 2. Packaged bread sales increased 11% to $10.3 billion while units fell 2% for that same period.

Consumers perceive bread, even at higher prices, as a value proposition that allows them to stretch their budgets and create wholesome, affordable lunches and other meals.

“People are looking for options without sacrificing quality that still let them spend less per meal,” Ms. Parker noted during a recent webinar on monthly trends by the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association.

She added the dollar growth in packaged bread is “driven not by people racing to the lowest price point,” but by consumers seeking flavorful products that provide nutritional benefits. In the perimeter, sales of fresh bread are seeing similar results while sales of muffins, croissants, brownies and bagels are performing well. Despite all the talk about health and wellness, good old fresh donuts surged 27% to $1.3 billion while units climbed 8.3% for the 52-week period as consumers seek small indulgences to reward themselves.

With the labor and supply chain challenges that bakeries face today, the question people have to ask is whether the glass is half empty or half full. It’s definitely the latter.