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Bakery report: oooh that smell!

A bevy of better-for-you breads with creative ingredients is adding innovation to the bakery category

If customers don’t have baked goods on their list when they walk into the Country Grocer in Ottawa, the smell of fresh baking (and samples!) will soon change their minds. The store’s fresh-baked baguettes are a hot commodity and customers are falling in love with anything that contains seeds, flax or multigrain.

And in the deli area, wraps are one of the highest-growth items in the store, while focaccia buns and wholegrain paninis also do a brisk lunchtime trade, says François Bouchard, the store’s president. In the past, shoppers usually picked up two or three loaves of white bread at a time, says Bouchard. Today they’re buying just one loaf, and it’s an artisan one. “They haven’t switched back to the basic breads,” he says.

It isn’t just fresh smells in-store driving the artisanal bread trend. These breads are perceived as “better for you” by shoppers, and tastier to boot. To meet the demand, in-store bakeries are adding more grains and coming up with creative ways to spice up bread. For instance, they’re adding pumpkin and chia seeds for an Asian-influenced flavour, exotic fruit such as mango and guava, herbs and hazelnuts. And shoppers are responding.

16 times as many consumers say they prefer to buy bread that is naturally rich in vitamins compared to bread that is fortified with vitamins

According to figures from the Nielsen Company, in the 52 weeks ending Jan. 11, 2011, the commercial bread category showed a 2% rise in sales, with a 1% increase in volume. White bread is flat, whole grain down by 6% and multigrain is down by 3% in dollar sales. On the other hand, baguettes increased 17% year over year; specialty rye/pumpernickel by 9%, focaccia by 48% and flatbread by 18%.

Paul Hetherington, president of the Baking Association of Canada, is not surprised. Bread is a mature category, he says. “We’ve seen the white category cannibalized over the last number of years. People are switching from white to whole wheat, or whole wheat to whole grain or some hybrid in between.”

Hetherington says another recent trend is a movement toward flatbread. “It allows people to make different types of products at home, such as a wrap versus a sandwich. It’s an effort by the industry to provide a product that’s a bit different, but [also] healthy and nutritional,” he says.

For the first time since, well, the invention of sliced bread, perhaps, the bakery is becoming a hot spot for innovation, says James Fraser, partner and retail analyst at Hunter Straker. “The Canadian food palate is becoming far more adventurous and the bakery is merely a sign of this evolution.”

“Our bread size matches perfectly to our customers and can be eaten by one person within a week”

Gottfried Boehringer, president and CEO of Stonemill Bakehouse, says healthy food means different things to different people–low sodium for heart health, no sugar for diabetics, gluten-free for celiac, dairy-free for lactose intolerance. “The point is, consumers are looking for individual solutions. They are overwhelmed by the food industry, with new quick-fixes every time they walk into a store.”

Stonemill recently introduced a cranberry-pumpkin-seed loaf. Boehringer says that because his products do not have chemical preservatives, he produces a smaller loaf. “Our bread size matches perfectly to our customers and can be eaten by one person within a week.”

Joel Gregoire, industry analyst at the NPD Group, says one of the larger trends is an increase in consumption of breads with special label callouts such as whole grain, trans-fat free or omega-3. “The importance of promoting added benefits in breads are amplified by the fact that adults over the age of 55 are the heaviest consumers of bread,” he says.

Top 3 Merchandising Tips

1. Good things come in small packages. Mary Soares, bakery manager at the Market on Millstream, sells 18 varieties of cheesecakes, and she sells more when sold by the slice. Selling cupcakes individually or in packs of two moves more product, she says.

2. Time your baking. At the Country Grocer in Ottawa, François Bouchard finds that combining multiple baking throughout the day with sampling sells more bread. “We systematically bake at specific times,” he says. “The smell within the store generates more sales than any display can do.”

3. Break out the baked goods. Scott Logan at the Village Market in Sooke, B.C., says putting the fl an cakes and sponges in with the fresh fruit and the garlic bread by the pasta promotes impulse buys. vitamins

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