Bread. It's what everyone wants to talk about. From high-volume sweet good producers to wholesale artisan bread bakers, everyone wants to know about what's happening in the bread industry. Even outside the baking industry, people want to talk about bread. And, for good reason. The bread industry is one of the cornerstones of America. Everyone eats it (up until recently), and it's a staple of the American diet.
However, this does not make the bread industry invincible, as we have seen in the last two years. Rather, the bread industry has become quite vulnerable. According to IRI statistics, the top ten fresh white bread brands are all down in unit sales. Conversely, seven of the top ten brands in the fresh wheat bread category are recording increased unit sales.
These statistics enforce what many high-volume bread bakers have been saying for the last two years: There is a shift in the bread industry from white bread to more premium, healthful whole wheat and whole grain breads.
Baking Management covers this shift in our biggest monthly issue ever. From cover to cover, this issue dissects the current state of the bread industry, from trends and new products to formulations and cutting-edge enzyme technology. However, this issue is not just for bread bakers. Because bread represents the largest category in the baking industry, the trends and new products launched in the bread aisle can easily be mirrored in other categories, such as the cookies or snack cakes.
Although this month's Baking Management primarily features bread, it is not a "bad news" issue. Everyone already knows the ills of the bread industry. And instead of focusing on the negative, the articles in this issue will focus on opportunities and solutions.
At several trade shows this year, bakers spoke of the "perfect storm" of bad news plaguing the industry. Instead of creating a "perfect storm" of bad news, I'd like to think that the recent woes of the bread industry have created a "perfect storm" of good news.
If consumers are intent on purchasing less white bread, then lets produce more wheat, whole wheat and whole grain breads. These segments generate higher price points and higher margins. They also generate great opportunities.
If consumers are turned off by bread because they perceive it as unhealthy, then lets create more healthful products and promote the existing health properties of bread. There's opportunity everywhere, even in the white bread category. We all know the benefits of folic acid; let's start promoting this benefit on labels. Let's take advantage of the multitude of health properties in bread.
As you thumb through this month's issue of Baking Management, you may find yourself disagreeing with some of the comments made from bread bakers about the state of the bread industry. Instead of focusing on a single statement or idea, look at the big picture. The industry is changing. The depth of this change has yet to shake out, but there is no doubt that dominating trends are significantly impacting the way bread is marketed.
Bakers should look at this change, dissect the statements of their colleagues, and use this information as a catalyst for change. It may be tough to sell bread in this changing marketplace, but it also may be highly profitable and beneficial.