Revamping the bread aisle

The rise of healthier and on-the-go food options has not fared well for bread makers, especially when it comes to millennials. They live in a time when their busy lives are romanticized on Snapchat and where their diet can be a core part of their identity. In millennials’ minds, purchasing bread doesn’t align with their lifestyle unless they are dining out. For them, it has become an inconvenient product with few health benefits compared to other available items.

Packaged bread sales have increased only 6% between 2011 and 2016 to $25 billion — sales declined by 1% when adjusted for inflation, according to the report “Packaged Bread — US — July 2016” by Mintel. Sales of loaf bread, the category’s largest segment, have been weak as well. This may signify that some consumers are cutting back on bread and gravitating toward options they perceive to be healthier.

“Millennials are more health-focused than previous generations have been and are looking for more health-functional ingredients in their food,” said Craig Slatvcheff, vice-president of global R.&D. for global biscuits and snacks at the Campbell Soup Co.. “For example, Pepperidge Farm recently introduced sprouted grains into one of its breads, which is on-trend with millennials right now.”

Educating millennials on the health benefits will also continue to play a crucial role. However, companies should use channels associated with authenticity such as social media influencers rather than more traditional routes.

The convenience factor is also playing a part in declining bread sales among millennials. The toppings and fillings that accompany bread and the limited availability of single-portion or individually wrapped options make it problematic, according to Mintel’s “Companies & Markets March 2017” report. Offering more ­individually wrapped items with on-trend inclusions or smaller loaves of bread could bring more appeal to this item.

Innovation and education will play a large part in resurrecting millennials’ love of bread products. From ­protein-packed slices to smaller portions, plenty of opportunities are available for bakers to capitalize on. Nature’s Own, a business unit of Flowers Foods, Inc., developed its Life line of breads to address consumer health needs. The range includes breads such as Wheat+Protein, Sprouted Grains, Double Fiber Wheat, 40 Calories Honey Wheat, 40 Calories Wheat and 100% Whole Grain Sugar Free.

Many bakeries outside the U.S. offer smaller loaves that may appeal to the casual bread eater. Kingsmill Bakery produces multiple varieties of its Half Loaf, which contains 12 slices, while Productos Ramos S.A.’s Pan Blanco is available in four-slice packages.

Bakers should look outside of the category and research larger societal trends to tap into, Mr. Fromm said. Observe trends in industries such as technology or fitness and see how they can be applied to bakery products. For example, an array of customizable and hyper-convenient products are available within the tech industry that bakers may utilize. By looking outside the baking sector, manufacturers may be able to find ways to overcome stigmas attached to bread and reinterpret it for eating occasions that appeal to a millennial’s lifestyle.