The past two years have been a rollercoaster, and the craft baking industry has felt the impact as much as the rest of society – however, in many instances, this has had a positive spin.
“Our regular member surveys suggest the craft bakery sector is enjoying a generally upward trend, despite the challenges of the past two years,” Karen Dear, director of Operations for the Craft Bakers Association (CBA) told BakeryandSnacks.
Without a doubt, the pandemic dramatically changed consumer behaviour, and despite the world slowly returning to a ‘new normal’, many believe the ‘new’ behaviours will last long term.
According to CBA, these include the growing interest in products offering proven provenance, the use of ‘real’ ingredients and tried-and-tested processes, shopping locally and the opportunity for home delivery.
One lasting impact of the pandemic is the raised awareness of the link between diet and overall wellbeing.
“A focus on shopping locally and provenance, as well as consumer interest in health and wellbeing, are all trends that have had a positive impact on craft bakers,” said Dear.
“During the enforced lockdowns of the pandemic and the subsequent stay-at-home messaging, many consumers began to shop more locally and as a result, discovered their local bakeries and all they have to offer for the first time.”
She noted that interest in shopping locally has continued. In fact, several CBA member surveys (conducted in June 2020, October 2020 and April 2021) found that 40% of bakers believe the trend to remain ‘up there’ as one of the major drivers of 2022.
“There is an opportunity for craft bakers to keep up this momentum by capitalising on their locations and attract further local footfall by becoming destinations for shoppers, not just a shop.”
CBA noted environmental and health concerns also directed consumers to take a bigger interest in the provenance of their snacks during the pandemic and this is expected to continue this year and beyond.
“Many craft bakers use regional ingredients or sell products made in the local area, so this approach will benefit from this trend,” said Dear.
“To maximise consumer interest, bakers should share details on their local links both in store and online via social media or on the website.”
The fragility of health highlighted by the pandemic has strengthened the tie that food can have on overall wellbeing, “and this will impact on shopping habits for many months, if not years to come,” said Dear.
“As a result, ingredients with perceived health benefits such as grains and nutrients such as fibre are attracting interest from consumers.”
CBA reported that 30% of bakers have seen a growth in sales of ‘healthy’ bread over the past 12 months, and more than 1 in 3 bakers (35%) predict high fibre options (35%) to be popular moving forward.
“There has also been an increase in interest in sourdough, with many bakers reporting that customers are now purchasing this on a daily basis rather than just as a weekend treat.”
The Craft Bakers Association (CBA) has been the voice of the sector since 1887, working to ensure a sustainable future for craft baking. It represents around 500 bakery businesses of all sizes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, collectively supporting more than 3,000 shops on the high street, alongside wholesale companies and specialised confectionery businesses.
CBA members have access to a host of services, including health & safety and environmental health advice, online and in-house training, employment law advice and government lobbying on legislation.