Activity of interest in the buns and rolls category has transpired at a feverish pace over the past few months, ranging from key acquisitions with potential global implications to new product introductions that may open new doors to manufacturers.
In the 52 weeks ended July 9, dollar sales in the fresh rolls/buns/croissants category (not including hamburger and hot dog buns) totaled $2,068,897,276, up 2.4% from the same period a year ago, while unit sales increased 1.8% to 722,561,823, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm.
Meanwhile, dollar sales in the hamburger and hot dog bun category fell 2% to $1,930,877,593, while unit sales eased 1% to 1,097,264,576, according to I.R.I.
Transactions playing role
Taking a broader look at the industry, potential game-changing moves have surfaced in the buns and rolls category for the food service industry in recent months. Most recently, Mexico City-based Grupo Bimbo S.A.B. de C.V. on July 21 said it reached agreement to acquire Chicago-based East Balt Bakeries from One Equity Partners for $650 million. Founded in 1955, East Balt produces and supplies buns, rolls and other baked foods to quick-service restaurants around the world, and by adding the company to its portfolio Grupo Bimbo hopes to fulfill its vision of expanding its global reach to better serve more consumers.
“East Balt enjoys long-standing strategic relationships with the largest and most established Q.S.R. brands in the world,” said Daniel Servitje, chairman and chief executive officer of Grupo Bimbo.
Leading East Balt customers include McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, YumChina, Subway and Nando’s.
A week prior to the East Balt acquisition, Peak Rock Capital, a middle-market private equity firm, added to its portfolio with the acquisition of Gold Coast Bakeries, L.L.C.
Based in Santa Ana, Calif., Gold Coast Bakeries makes fresh and frozen specialty and organic bread, buns, rolls and sweet goods for distribution to consumer packaged goods companies, grocery retailers and food service customers. The company has two U.S.D.A. organic-certified facilities in California and Illinois.
Innovation grabs hold
New bun products also are making waves at food service locations.
Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A in June added a gluten-free bun to the menu in restaurants nationwide. The individually-packaged bun may be ordered with any sandwich and is made with quinoa, amaranth, molasses and raisins. The bun was tested last year in three cities, where it most commonly was ordered with the Grilled Chicken Sandwich and the Grilled Chicken Deluxe Sandwich.
“We know our customers are looking for more gluten-sensitive alternatives,” said Leslie Neslage, senior consultant of menu development at Chick-fil-A. “They asked, and we listened. We heard positive feedback in test markets that the bun tastes better than some other gluten-free breads. That’s because instead of rice flour, we’ve made the bun with more premium ingredients like quinoa and amaranth. Our hope is that the gluten-free bun addition opens up options for gluten-sensitive customers to enjoy more of our menu.”
Chick-fil-A isn’t the only major fast-food chain to make a change to its bun lineup. A year ago, McDonald’s Corp., Oak Brook, Ill., debuted new buns made without high-fructose corn syrup for its Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, hamburgers and cheeseburgers, Filet-O-Fish and McChicken sandwiches.
Companies such as King’s Hawaiian have found food service locations to be a good outlet to grow brand recognition and, ultimately, sales. Torrance, Calif.-based King’s Hawaiian posted rolls/buns/croissants dollar sales of $459,928,324 in the 52 weeks ended July 9, up 13% from the same period a year ago, according to I.R.I. But just as important to the company’s business has been a growing trend of partnerships within food service. King’s Hawaiian buns and rolls are featured on the menus of such restaurants as Arby’s and Johnny Rockets. The company also this spring opened the King’s Hawaiian Grill at Dodger Stadium, featuring pulled pork sliders made with King’s Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Rolls and the Hawaiian BBQ Dodger Dog made with a King’s Hawaiian Hot Dog bun.
Grocers in on the action
With an eye on grabbing consumers who may be looking for something more than the traditional bun or roll, two companies have stepped forward in recent months to launch new products at supermarkets. Ace Bakery has introduced River Road Bakehouse, a new lineup of artisan baguettes, ciabatta buns and bread loaves for distribution across the United States. The products will be available at Meijer, Publix, TOPS, Food City and Roche Bros. The products are made at zero-waste bakeries, a feature that builds off the company’s desire to be a brand “with a purpose and a promise.”
In the Bay Area, La Boulangerie, which operates six retail bakery locations, in May introduced a new line of products in select Costco stores. The new products include Super Soft Brioche Loaf, Super Soft Brioche Buns, Super Soft Brioche Hot Dog Buns and Super Flaky Croissant Buns.
“This launch of our C.P.G. line is a direct extension of this mission, an exciting new way we’re bringing a little slice of France to people everywhere,” the company said.