Fitter, happier

Another major force driving consumers to the periphery of the store is a concern for health and wellness. Nielsen research shows that this is an opportunity still largely untapped by in-store bakeries.

“Of all in-store bakery sales, about 95% of items have no declared health benefit attached to them,” Ms. Schmansky said. “But when you also take a look at the demographics that are buying bakery goods, older consumers have special interest in health and wellness and better-for-you products. There’s a real opportunity to capture those consumers and provide products that are relevant for their changing demographic needs.”

Though the bakery section has a lot of room for growth in regard to health and wellness, items toting niche health benefits such as vegan and gluten- and dairy-free routinely find spots in unconventional areas of the store where a specific consumer base might find them.

“Sugar-free, for instance, is over in the health and beauty care area,” Mr. Van Laar said. He added that many stores remain resistant to moving cookies and crackers proven to sell well out of the way in center aisles to make room for these specialty products.

“Until those trends or fads or whatever they turn out to be mature, they’re certainly not going to carve out a large spot on the shelf,” he said.

Within in-store bakeries, private label and unbranded cookies are often the go-to for perimeter shoppers wanting to feel healthier. A study commissioned by the Private Label Manufacturers Association and conducted by SurveyLab showed that nearly one-third of consumers favor items baked on-site in grocery stores, and the same number of shoppers seek products containing “less fructose, sugar, corn syrup and bad fats.”

Fresh-baked cookies from supermarket bakery
Shoppers turn to the perimeter for fresh items that are less dependent on preservatives to keep them shelf stable.

“In-store bakery is in the best position to communicate freshness, naturalness and a lesser dependence on the preservatives needed to make products more shelf-stable,” Ms. Schmansky said. “Unbranded products can convey more of a fresh-out-of-the-oven sense to consumers.”

She also shared that unbranded and private-label sales hold the largest share of in-store bakery sales and continue to grow, up 6% and 12%, respectively.

“Unique local brands are also showing strong growth,” she said.