Healthy Breads, Ethnic Flavor Propel Bakery

The bakery category is not as simple as heating up some dough to produce to produce bread, cookies and muffins.

The complex category requires attention to detail. Does the product come frozen and ready to go right into the oven? Does it come frozen, and only needs to be thawed before serving? Is the product pre-sized and inflexible, or can its parts be combined to make a larger product? What about the oven itself—what kind is best for baking bread? It’s not just about heat.

To illustrate how complex the category can be, consider that Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes’ Executive Vice President of Foodservice Jack Cushman uses seven different vendors to build a breakfast sandwich and three suppliers just for Danishes.

“It took me years to understand you can’t go to one supplier,” said Cushman. “You can’t have a canned program.”

For the record, Cushman would rather build his breakfast sandwiches with products from one supplier because “all the flavors start to marry and it’s easier to manage,” he said.

Since Nice N Easy stores don’t have fryers, it has doughnuts delivered daily. The category enjoys a strong 45% margin and the local supplier’s products are popular with hometown customers.

“It’s become a point of differentiation,” Cushman said. “While variety satisfies a lot of needs, a regular doughnut is still king. It’s what moves the most.”

Making Dough
Jerry Weiner, head of foodservice at Rutter’s Farm Stores in York, Pa., also has his doughnuts delivered by a local supplier. Rutter’s recently added muffins to its baked goods selection. The 55-store chain already baked the bread for its made-to-order sandwiches and the dough for its new-in-2010 pizza program, as well as cookies.

Weiner backed Cushman’s experience with multiple vendors within the category. Rutter’s croissants and English muffins are thaw and serve, while the bagels come from another local baker.

“In baking there are specialties,” said Weiner. “The guy that makes the greatest muffin might not make a good cookie.”

Rutter’s offers five types of sandwich bread, two kinds of ciabatta bread and a stromboli. These doughs arrive frozen and are proofed and cooked—one step removed from starting from scratch. The company uses TurboChef ovens, Weiner said, adding that if a chain wants to bake bread, it’s important to have a high-speed oven with no microwave capability because microwave action isn’t right for raw dough.

Weiner also recommended that, when choosing product, pick the program with the fewest steps of preparation from the box to the customer. This helps to cut down on mistakes.

What to Watch For
According to the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association’s (IDDBA) What’s In Store 2011 market trends report, healthy breads, ethnic fare and epicurean desserts are now mainstays of the bakery product lineup. Interest in breads with a healthier profile is accelerating: whole-grain bread consumption climbed 37% from 2009 to 2010, and consumption of value-added bread, such as iron-fortified, high-fiber and crustless, rose 28%. Artisan breads made with locally-sourced ingredients are also popular as they contribute to attributes of freshness and authenticity. Decadent desserts, such as elaborate cakes and cupcakes, have been made even more appealing in single servings and bite-sized portions—which also happen to be simple, easy, grab-and-go options that give customers control of price and calories.

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