Fresh bakery sales are thriving in today’s “new normal,” ranking in the top three departments storewide as shoppers seek to elevate more frequent at-home meals and enjoy affordable indulgences in the face of economic uncertainty. Insights from a two-and-a-half-year series of consumer sentiment tracking surveys by Rich Products (Rich’s) chart a clear course for retailers to capitalize on this momentum through more healthy options among their fresh bakery offerings, greater variety, and smaller, more affordable portion sizes. 

Rich’s launched its ongoing consumer sentiment tracking study in 2020 to monitor changes in shopper preferences and fresh bakery purchasing behaviors across retail, foodservice and e-commerce channels. To date, the global food company has fielded 12 waves of the survey with 300 participants each. In addition, Rich’s conducted several shopper studies focused on the future of Fresh Bakery over the past 18 months. Among the significant findings:

• Fresh bakery influences where shoppers shop. Shopper satisfaction with fresh bakery is very high, with 88% of respondents ranking their in-store bakery experience as excellent or very good. What’s more, 28% of shoppers choose where to buy their groceries based on the in-store bakery’s options.

• Everyday purchases are growing. While shoppers are still more likely to purchase fresh bakery for special occasions (67%) than everyday (52%), anytime treats and comfort purchases are on the rise. In fact, 31% of respondents claimed they have purchased more anytime treats in the last two years than they did pre-pandemic.

• Fresh bakery can fuel more breakfasts at home. With inflation at historically high levels, consumers are looking to save on food. Almost half (46%) report they are purchasing fewer breakfasts from restaurants, creating an opportunity for more breakfast items from the in-store bakery.

• Cost-conscious shoppers turn to bakery breads and rolls. Among shoppers who have increased their planned fresh bakery purchases, 66% plan more bread and roll purchases to save money—another way fresh bakery items can elevate everyday occasions.

• Healthier treats are in demand. When asked what new food and beverage products they would be excited to see in retail stores, 42% of respondents indicated an interest in more healthy items in the fresh bakery. Clean labels, healthier positioning and high-quality ingredients all become more important as people consume bakery products more frequently.

• Premium bakery items are primarily an at-home indulgence. Respondents report they buy premium bakery products most often as a treat for themselves and their families (68%), followed by special celebrations (62%) and gatherings (42%). Asked what connotes “premium” in a bakery purchase, respondents were most likely to name fresh fruit (46%), visible inclusions (42%) and unique flavors (42%). 

• Think small. Smaller portion items in fresh bakery are growing much faster than average. Mini and smaller-sized, affordable indulgences like cookies, cake slices and morning sweets, can lower purchase barriers and encourage trial, personal indulgence, sharing and exploration.

• Most shoppers browse the bakery; impulse buys don’t always follow. As many as 79% of shoppers are somewhat or very likely to browse fresh bakery during a typical grocery visit when they don’t have a planned bakery purchase in mind. A smaller majority (65%), however, say their browsing spurs them to buy on impulse. Those who avoid the urge to impulse buy most often cite dietary reasons.

Three shopper segments hold the key to continued growth

As a complement to the sentiment tracking surveys, Rich’s conducted a proprietary shopper segmentation study in 2022 to identify the types of shoppers who provide the greatest opportunity for future fresh bakery growth and success.

• Engaged Explorers love variety and enjoy personalizing their choices when it comes to their fresh bakery purchases. Representing 20% of total fresh bakery buyers, engaged explorers spend the most, at $116.43 per buyer. To win them over, focus on flavor variety across all fresh bakery categories, prioritizing seasonal and globally inspired flavors.

• Special Treat Seekers are baked-good cravers who seek value and appreciate the “specialness” of fresh bakery. They represent 29% of total fresh bakery buyers. Offer a variety of smaller sized options to create more treatable moments for this cost-conscious segment, along with special deals and promotions. Packaging should have visual appeal and preserve freshness to outweigh their focus on price.

• Health Balancers are drawn to “better for you” baked goods and represent 15% of total fresh bakery buyers. Draw them in with a curated section of the bakery including premium products with clean ingredient labels and smaller portion sizes to moderate sugar/carbohydrate intake.