Whether they’re the carrier for a juicy burger or the go-to side for a meal, buns and rolls are essential to many of consumers’ favorite foods. And as inexpensive baked goods, they’ve enjoyed staying power among those still seeking quality despite inflationary pressures. 

“Consumers are looking to enjoy restaurant-like experiences at home at a lower cost versus dining out,” said Melissa Altobelli, principal of client insights, dairy and bakery vertical, Circana. “Hamburgers and hot dogs are a lower budget meal that can feed a lot of people.”

In response to this demand, brands are introducing more buns and rolls in premium flavors like brioche, pretzel and Hawaiian, as well as other regionally inspired offerings that promote an enhanced dining experience.

“As many industry segments look to uplevel their offerings and capture more consumer spending, premium buns and rolls are effective traffic drivers,” noted Yianny Caparos, president, Crown Bakeries, Brentwood, Tenn. 

Center store buns and rolls accounted for 80% of the $5.6 billion category and outpaced many other bread segments, posting 7.6% dollar growth and 1.1% unit decline, according to Circana data for the 52 weeks ending Feb. 25. Perimeter buns and rolls performed even better, jumping 10.8% in dollars and 1.1% in units.

In-store bakery buns were a particular strong point, noted Kelsey Olsen, food and drink analyst, Mintel, with reported consumption increasing 10% year-over-year. 

“As consumers are looking for accessible and convenient solutions that elevate mealtimes at home, the in-store bakery is clearly delivering with premium fresh solutions,” she said.

Buns and rolls with cleaner labels and other better-for-you (BFY) benefits, as well as those in smaller sizes and counts, are driving consumption as well. Olsen said innovations like these are essential for buns and rolls to build market penetration going forward.

“The sliced bread segment strongly outpaces rolls and buns in consumers’ associations with household staple status, so growing the demand for buns and rolls will lie in proving versatility and convenience that meets a wider range of needs and solutions,” she said.