Inflation: challenges and opportunities

When the worst inflation crisis in decades hit the US last year, soaring general grocery prices were among the headline-grabbers from the food world.

In a recent survey of North American consumers, 89% said they’ve changed their grocery buying behavior due to rising prices at least somewhat, if not significantly.

Less noted but no less impactful to shoppers has been the rise in bread prices. In some cases, the result has been what in the past would have been unthinkable: double digit prices for single loaves of some premium breads.

Consumers are adjusting accordingly. Of those who buy bread products at least weekly, 60% say they’re looking for sales, and 51% say they’re looking for less expensive varieties or brands.

When planning bread purchases, almost half of consumers now rank price as the No. 1 attribute they consider. While 30% of weekly bread consumers say they’re trying to buy products that last longer.

“With higher prices, consumers are looking across a number of ways to help them save money and not waste food,” said Jennifer Halliburton, director of global insights for Lenexa, Kan.-based Corbion. “Thirty percent of consumers say they are consciously trying to buy brands/products that last longer, and 38% say they store bread in the refrigerator to help preserve freshness and prevent molding.”

As consumers navigate their shopping paths in this changed world, balancing price and shelf life with their values and ideas of what is healthy (not to mention perennial top-of-the-list factors like taste and texture), they have many decisions to consider.

With higher prices, consumers are more conscious of the shelf life on baked goods. They are looking for a number of ways to save money by making their bread last until that ‘best by’ date, but also looking for ways to not throw their bread away.

Americans have mostly positive attitudes towards the bread category, with 48% saying bread makes them feel satisfied and 39% saying bread is still an affordable option, despite price increases.

Giving a product a longer shelf life isn’t just helping the bottom line, it is helping keep those positive emotions towards bread soaring. Consumers are looking for baked items that have the same taste and softness from the moment it’s baked to their pantry shelves.

As shoppers look for ways to save money on bread purchases and make the bread they buy last as long as possible, bakers and manufacturers searching for the right solutions can take comfort in the good will they’ve worked so hard to earn from bread consumers.