Perimeter bread unit sales have remained steady (-0.1%) compared to center store bread (-2.4%), according to Circana data for the 52 weeks ended April 24. The perimeter’s strong performance is driven in part by consumers’ desire to enhance their dining experience while still saving money. Many shoppers may be eating out less, but they still look for that restaurant quality where they can find it.

“Consumers still want a flavorful, high-quality bread that will taste like those on a restaurant quality premium sandwich, which is driving this segment as consumers select pan/sliced bread instead of eating out,” said Brie Buenning, director of marketing for Los Angeles-based La Brea Bakery. 

Brioche, for example, is a premium option performing exceptionally well and inspiring a host of new products.  

“Brioche actually has the strongest unit and dollar growth rate of the premium options, followed by pretzel,” said Melissa Altobelli, principle, client insights, dairy and bakery vertical, Circana. “Brioche is a trend that I think is going to continue. It’s here to stay. It’s trendy. It’s versatile.”

Pepperidge Farm, a brand of Campbell Soup Co., Camden NJ, debuted Farmhouse Brioche sandwich bread last fall, described as a “perfect balance of sweet, salty and buttery goodness.” The company has since named the product one of its most successful innovation launches in recent years, citing consistently strong sales and fast distribution gains at nearly every retailer. Pepperidge Farm’s Farmhouse sandwich portfolio has also seen double-digit growth with flavors like Sourdough, Butter Bread and Hearty White. 

Brands are taking the innovation even further by crafting premium breads that also capitalize on better-for-you (BFY) appeal. 

La Fournée Dorée USA, Tuckahoe, NY, for example, offers vegan brioche bread products under its Brioche Gourmet brand.

“Everyone is looking for new options to be healthier, and we saw a big market for a vegan option,” said Alba Martinez, national key account manager. “We wanted to create a vegan option that tasted good, and we didn’t see a lot of good options in the marketplace.”

Bimbo Bakehouse, Horsham, Pa., has seen great success with its The Cheesecake Factory At Home brand. The offering allows consumers to enjoy the restaurant’s famous Brown Bread at home and has less than 80 calories per slice, which is lower than the average slice, said Wendy Bobo, sales specialist, Bimbo Bakehouse.

“People are hooked on sandwiches after the pandemic, but people also don’t want to eat out as much, so the Cheesecake Factory brand allows them to eat a sandwich at home and mimic that restaurant quality at home,” she said. 

Other premium flavors with the strongest growth rates include Hawaiian, sourdough, buttermilk and cheese, said Melissa Altobelli, principle, client insights, dairy and bakery vertical, Circana. 

Thomasville, Ga., based Flowers Foods’ Nature’s Own brand, for example, last year introduced Hawaiian and Perfectly Crafted sourdough varieties. This year the company pushed premium even further with the introduction of gluten-free Classic Brioche-Style Rolls and Hawaiian Sweet Rolls under the Canyon Bakehouse brand. 

“Consumers are looking for options in the bun category with a sweeter flavor profile,” noted John Steed, senior vice president of legacy brands at Flowers Foods.

Producers are additionally promoting premium breads across more eating occasions throughout the day. Ms. Buenning observed that traditional breakfast breads like streusel and cinnamon raisin resonate with consumers. 

Capitalizing on the rising popularity of the breakfast occasion and sweet breads, La Brea Bakery expanded its artisan bread portfolio with a Cinnamon Raisin Loaf.

“We’ve seen more consumers interested in breakfast at home and nostalgic flavors right now,” Ms. Buenning said. “This new product is a perfect fit, and we’re excited to bring an elevated cinnamon raisin bread experience to the market.”

And Flowers Foods’ Dave’s Killer Bread (DKB) launched a savory extension of its breakfast line with Epic Everything bread. 

“This bread features all the onion and garlicky deliciousness of the ‘everything’ flavor that consumers love, but we’ve also added a uniquely DKB twist by incorporating chia, flax and sesame seeds,” said Dan Letchinger, senior vice president, growth brands, in an interview with Josh Sosland, editor of Milling & Baking News and Food Business News. 

“Everything” is an elevated flavor trending across bread formats, and is Dave’s Killer Bread’s top-selling bagel item, he added. 

Nature’s Own joined in on the trend as well with the launch of Artisan Style Everything Buns, as did Angelic Bakehouse, Cudahy, Wis., with the addition of Sprouted Whole Grain Everything Bread and Wraps to its low-allergen, vegan, kosher and non-GMO baked foods line.

This article is an excerpt from the July 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Pan Bread, click here.