During the height of the pandemic, one bakery segment that remained a constant for Rutter’s convenience stores was doughnuts.
“With so many supply chain hurdles, our bakery case has evolved throughout the year, but doughnuts remained the king of the category,” said Joseph Bortner, center store category manager for the chain, which operates 79 locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. “We have also seen growth in other segments, particularly in cakes and muffins, which represented over 50% of Rutter’s total growth dollars.”
So far this year, Bortner said, he’s excited to see the performance of the bakery’s brownies and cinnamon rolls. Although over 80% of the bakery category is still based on instant consumables, he has seen growth in multipacks.
Decadence still sells in the bakery, he noted. So does impulse, so display is important. Customers also like to try different items, so Rutter’s will continue to showcase them through new product introductions, extensions and limited-time offers, he said.
In its April 2021 C-Store report, Datassential research firm found that, among operators offering fresh baked goods, last year was an overall good year, with 35% noting an increase in sales and 48% saying they stayed the same as the year before, said Claire Conaghan, associate director of Datassential’s content team. She predicted that the growth trend in this category will continue as many consumers opt for driving rather than flying and as a result of a general shift to interest in road trips.
Conaghan agreed with Bortner that doughnuts are strong sellers, and sales have returned to pre-pandemic levels. They are also most likely to be featured for innovations, offering examples of c-store chains introducing mini, doughnut hole and other shareable/portable iterations of doughnuts.
In the bakery, consumers are favoring pre-packaged items such as cookies and mini doughnuts. A benefit of this trend for retailers is a reduction in the need to clean the select-your-own areas as often, saving labor at a time when staffing issues are such a challenge, Conaghan said.
Tracking other bakery trends in Datassential’s MenuTrends database revealed that salted caramel flavors are continuing to grow, though increases in brown butter are taking over to add a savory touch to sweet treats. Across products, the addition of familiar candy pieces such as Reese’s and M&Ms and branded flavors such as Nutella and Ghirardelli make for crave-worthy selections.