Channel shifts: What to watch for in 2021

With COVID still very much with us at the beginning of 2021, it’s hard to predict which channel shifts will be most prominent in the baked goods industry in the coming months.

But one trend is almost certain to continue its rapid rise, which has only accelerated during the pandemic: consumers ordering food online.

“A massive number of people have now used a grocery-delivery app and will likely continue to appreciate the convenience,” said JoAnn Rupp, Global Insights Manager for Lenexa, Kan.-based Corbion.

According to Earnest Research, online grocery sales surged 200% in 2020. As a category, online purchases of breads and baked goods are up 41.7% vs. the same time a year ago, according to Supermarket News. That’s the highest increase of any food category with the exception of packaged non-fresh food and frozen food.

The pandemic, Rupp added, has fundamentally changed the way people shop for their bakery items. Namely: today’s shoppers are far more likely to rely on third parties.

“Whatever we can do to communicate safety and quality will help improve our reputation with customers. The majority of people are still doing their own shopping, but we’ll need to remain cognizant of new technologies as they emerge.”

The online trend, however, may not continue at the same pace, as Gallup notes that around half of shoppers are visiting grocers, while McKinsey & Co. surveys indicate as many as 70% of shoppers have continued going to stores.

The migration of shoppers back to offline shopping should continue, as stay-at-home restrictions lift, economies reopen and consumers become more accustomed to life during the pandemic.

Staying power?

Another question bakers and their supply chain partners are eager to get an answer to in 2021: Which pandemic trends are short-term, and which are here to stay?

The home-baking trend, for instance, was great to see during quarantine, Rupp said, but it doesn’t likely have staying power.

Increased attention to labels, quality, and safety, however, does, as COVID-conscious consumers make more efforts to get and stay as healthy as possible.

Whatever trends wind up ebbing or flowing in 2021, Rupp said it all comes down to communicating and showcasing quality.

Even for those who got bit by the baking bug, for instance, Corbion has to show its partners that they’re experts, delivering consistency (and value) that can’t be replicated.

“Extending shelf life will be important to consumers as well as grocery store decision makers, but it cannot come at the cost of other bakery item attributes,” Rupp said. “Baked goods will likely change as it relates to keeping the product fresher longer due to pantry stocking. The challenge will be to keep food safe and still fresh.”

Take Corbion’s Ultra Fresh portfolio — a comprehensive freshness solution that protects the quality of finished products and ensures they stay fresher, longer. In an industry where every extra day on the shelves is precious, Rupp said, there’s nothing else in the marketplace to match it.

And for bakers who are looking for clean-label baking solutions that remove unfriendly conditioners and oxidation systems — and all with a cleaner ingredient declaration — there’s Corbion’s Pristine® family of branded bases, mixes and functional ingredients.

To keep sweet goods fresher longer, Corbion’s Ultra Fresh Sweet is a revolutionary new enzyme solution designed for that specific task. A high-performing alternative to simple enzymes, gums, starches and sugars, Ultra Fresh Sweet delivers up to 45 days or more of superior eating quality, with smooth, tender and resilient crumb texture.

Corbion products are also a natural fit for grocery instore bakeries, Rupp said. For instore, reducing waste by producing products that keep longer either on shelves or in a shopper’s home is a win-win.

“It’s a balancing act of putting out products shoppers will love while also delivering on a bottom line that makes store owners/operators happy.”