The older we get, the faster time goes. When I’m trying to guess how long it’s been since this or that happened, I make my estimate, then double it. Even then, I often miss the mark on the short end.

But there are exceptions to this rule, and COVID has been among the most glaring of them.

When the International Dairy, Deli and Bakery Association holds its annual show in early June in Atlanta, it will have been three years since the last show, and it feels like three years — if not four or five.

Ditto for many of the retail instore delis and bakeries that IDDBA exists to help serve. The last two-plus years, for many of them, have seemed like an eternity.

Delis and bakeries were the areas of the grocery store hit hardest by the pandemic. Hot bars, salad bars and other deli staples were either scaled back sharply or shut down entirely. Self-serve donut cases and other “hands-on” regions of the bakery often fared even worse.

But things started to come back in 2021, and as the industry gears up for IDDBA, 2022 is looking really good.

For instance, IDDBA Covid-19 Impact Report data from December showed that dollar sales in the instore deli were up 11% from 2020 – even outpacing 2019 levels by more than 13%.

And even when “normal” is out of reach, with some pandemic patterns likely to be permanent, the past two years have made operators and their supplier partners dig deep and innovate out of necessity. That hard work will pay off.

Retail foodservice is one area that’s primed for huge growth. Four in ten consumers view retail foodservice as a substitute for a both a home-cooked meal and a restaurant meal, according to FMI data.

Here’s to a great second half of the year for instore delis and bakeries and the rest of the fresh perimeter.

IDDBA ’22 is a great place to start — and long overdue.