Whole grain, organic and all-natural buns,
and premium rolls compete with traditional
The buns and rolls supermarket aisle looks vastly different than it did 10 years ago. Today's consumers want options, and bun and roll manufacturers have complied. Instead of a sea of traditional options, the shelves offer selections from whole grain to fiber and calcium-added to please varying consumer groups. What's surprising is some of these specialty items are outselling conventional white buns and rolls.
Trends driving buns and rolls usually differ from those driving bread products. Buns and rolls are an impulse buy or an afterthought for some consumers who make on-the-spot purchasing decisions while shopping for a picnic or party. Building brand equity and marketing buns and rolls so consumers connect with a brand is crucial to success in the market.
On the trend front, high fiber and whole grain buns hold large appeal for consumers. Whole grain bun sales are growing at a rapid rate. “We have quite a few whole grain bun products,” says J. Bohn Popp, vice president, marketing, Aunt Millie's Bakeries, Fort Wayne, Ind. In buns, the demand for whole grain is similar to the demand for whole grain bread. “Consumers are paying more for whole grain and buying it more often, and the return percentage is no greater than for mainline products,” he adds. Aunt Millie's white wheat whole grain buns also have been popular with consumers.
Rolls, on the other hand, are experiencing a different trend. “We don't see whole grain selling as strongly in rolls as we do in buns,” Popp says. Rolls are often purchased as a holiday product and consumers still like the traditional white roll.
Traditional white buns also continue to generate sales. “Everyday white buns continue to be the foundation of the segment,” says Brent Bradshaw, Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga. But despite consumers' love for the traditional, many are gravitating toward indulgent or premium sandwich rolls and better-for-you buns.
“Premium sandwich rolls are on the opposite end of the spectrum from the classic white bun. These rolls have a richer, heartier taste and offer more variety when it comes to shape and texture. As Americans turn back to brown bag lunches and dining at home, there's opportunity for growth in premium sandwich rolls because they can turn an everyday meal or sandwich into something special,” Bradshaw says. In keeping with this trend, Flowers Foods introduced ciabatta rolls in a four-count pack under its Cobblestone Mill brand last year, after noting the growing interest in ciabatta sandwiches in the foodservice sector. “The rolls are rustic, with a soft, open texture and a chewy crust, and are a good example of bringing new flavor and texture experiences into the premium sandwich roll segment,” Bradshaw adds.
Better-for-you buns, which offer specific health benefits to consumers, are in high demand. Flowers Foods offers white wheat buns with the flavor and texture of a classic white bun, plus more fiber and calcium. “As with other bakery categories, we see demand for better-for-you bakery options continuing for the foreseeable future,” Bradshaw says. Meeting this health trend, Flowers Foods offers buns under its Nature's Own brand that include double fiber wheat, 100% whole grain, sugar-free, and honey wheat, which has been a popular flavor.
At the same time, while some consumers are demanding more vitamin supplements and healthful options in baked products, another consumer group is vying for all-natural baked products free of added vitamins. This group prefers to get nutrients from natural sources, rather than finding them added to a bun or roll. Aunt Millie's has seen the all-natural bread trend grow and has extended it to its bun line by debuting an all-natural bun this month. “We're confident the all natural trend is going to carry over from bread to buns,” Popp says. “More and more people are interested in natural and organic.” Aunt Millie's already has seen success with its organic multi-grain buns.
Bimbo Bakeries USA, Fort Worth, Texas, is catering to consumer demand for more healthful buns and rolls as well. In November, the company removed all high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) from its entire line of products. “We continuously monitor studies regarding HFCS and its health implications,” says Dan Larson, marketing director of Oroweat, Bimbo Bakeries. “Even though there are differing opinions among the experts, more of our consumers have told us they do not favor high fructose corn syrup.” Although many of the company's products were already HFCS-free, consumer feedback prompted removal of the ingredient from all products. The change will not affect the flavor or texture of the product, he adds.
“Regardless of how much health you have in a product, if the product doesn't taste good, you're not going to retain those sales. First and foremost is taste because you can sell anything once, but if it doesn't have good flavor and texture you can't sustain the sales,” notes Popp. But beyond flavor, a quality bun requires good chew and good texture that is both soft and strong. “If you have a good texture and flavor, and you can add the health on top of that, then you've really got something,” Popp adds.
|Buns & Rolls Brand Names||Dollar Sales||% Change Year Ago|
|Buns & Rolls Brand Names||Unit Sales||% Change Year Ago|
|Fresh Bakery Products||52 weeks ended Dec. 28: $ Sales||% Change Prior Year||52 weeks ended Dec.28: Unit Sales||% Change Prior Year|
|Pies (excl Snack Pies)||205,336,000||3.3||43,838,630||10.1|
|Cakes (excl snack/coffee)||48,370,490||1.2||132,918,500||1.6|
|Frozen Bakery Products||52 weeks ended Dec. 28: $ Sales||% Change Prior Year||52 weeks ended Dec.28: Unit Sales||% Change Prior Year|
|Sweetgoods (excl Cheesecakes)||212,531,400||3.1||57,516,380||1.8|
|Refrigerated Bakery Products||52 weeks ended Dec. 28: $ Sales||% Change Prior Year||52 weeks ended Dec.28: Unit Sales||% Change Prior Year|
|Cakes (excl Snack/Coffee)||71,996,740||1.6||9,126,749||5.9|
|Pies (excl Snack Pies)||22,101,400||17.5||4,123,905||20.5|
|Source: ADG Jan. 16, 2009|