Interviews for an upcoming feature article on the bread business have generated fascinating observations by bakers commenting on the challenging environment currently ruling in the industry.

Of notable interest were ruminations of a regional baker trying to make sense of the overall weakness in bread volume trends. The baker expressed the view that gluten-free demand is having an impact (“Definitely, the No. 1 request we get right now is for a gluten-free product.”) but wondered whether the persistently weak economy was prompting consumers to reduce waste. He asked, “I don’t have data to support this, but what if people are eating the quarter of a loaf they used to throw away? Even if it is only 10%, it would make a major difference.”

The baker also expressed the view that thriftiness and a proclivity toward trading down rather than trading up was a reality for baking that was not going away.

“I don’t know if we will ever see consumers go back to free spending ways,” he said. “I think that will be true across every product, from cars to bread. I think they will be more price sensitive than they were in the past, at least over my lifetime.”

In case you are wondering, this baker is not old.