The flavor company conducted research into US consumers’ attitudes towards bread and bread products, including sliced bread, English muffins, bagels, pitas and wraps/flatbreads in September last year.
Bread is a staple of the US diet but consumers are eating it less frequently and in smaller quantities. Latest data from IRI data for 52 weeks ending June 11, 2017, saw the bakery sector experiencing a slight 0.1% growth - to $13.31bn - from the year prior.
But bread is not dead, and, according to Catherin Armstrong, VP of corporate communications for Comax Flavors, consumers are gravitating towards low-calorie, whole grains, artisanal and gluten-free breads.
Taste (58%) topped the list of determining factors when it came to purchasing a bread product across all generation groups, followed by price (47%), flavor (40%), freshness/shelf life (36%) and ingredients (30%).
It was also prevalent across all categories except sliced bread, which saw respondents determining price as the leading factor.
Taste vs flavor
Taste refers to the senses inside the mouth, including the tongue, while flavor is how a person’s brain synthesizes aromas, taste, and texture into an overall experience.
Taste receptors are situated on the tongue and identify the food item as sweet, salty or bitter. Humans also identify different food items through smell.
When this information reaches the brain, it becomes a perception and the brain registers the item with a distinct flavor that makes an impression.
It is the combined perception of both taste and smell – along with the senses of sound and sight – that make up the final picture called the flavor of a food item.
Whole wheat is the number one flavor of sliced bread consumed by all generations, while 43% of respondents noted white as their second choice, followed by multigrain (22%) and honey wheat (19%).
Rye and sourdough are equally popular, with Baby Boomers being the heaviest rye consumers. The study found millennials do not favor rye products.
When it came to muffins, 27% of respondents opted for whole-wheat variants, while 26% went for cinnamon, 21% enjoy multigrain and 17% choose blueberry.
Gen Z was the only generation that did not rate sourdough.
Open or closed?
55% of respondents said they prefer eating an open-faced bagel sandwich compared to 45% who eat it closed.
About three quarters of respondents said they favor regular or normal English muffins versus 11% who opted for the crispy/crunchy type.
Across all generations, protein enriched, vegan and gluten-free options rated the highest.
More than a third said they also consume fiber-enriched pitas, including flax, oat bran and whole wheat, while 29% said they like the ancient grains variants.
About a quarter said they prefer pita and flatbreads that are low in carbs or have fewer calories, while those low in sodium were chosen most often.
Breakfast, lunch or dinner?
This is the eighth study of the company’s primary market research program, having previously covered crackers, spirits and non-dairy products. The Bread study involved 1,000 US respondents between the ages of 18 and 70.
Centennials/Gen Z - born 1996 and later
Millennials/Gen Y - born 1977 to 1995
Gen X - born 1965 to 1976
Baby Boomers - born 1946 to 1964
Silent Generation - born 1925 to 1945
While bread is seen as a food staple and consumed by all the respondents as a snack or anytime, bagels and English muffins were chosen the morning options, followed by wraps/flatbread, pitas and sliced bread at lunch. The latter two are also popular with dinner, as dinner or as an appetizer.
Most of the respondents (85% opted for toasted bagels and English muffins, with 77% of sliced bread eaters preferring it to be served at room temperature versus 61% who like it toasted.
When it comes to toppings, 75% of bagel eaters opted for cream cheese, 64% of sliced bread eaters went for cold cuts and 51% of respondents liked their pitas to be stuffed with salads. Butter, peanut butter and jelly (or jam) also rated as popular toppings.
The Bread study highlighted the reasons why consumers dislike bread and bread products, too.
According to the study, 16% of respondents said sliced bread contained too many carbs, while 11% cited artificial ingredients as the downside. And 8% of respondents said the ease of becoming addicted to English muffins as the reason they do not like them.
Other reasons across all bread groups included the high fat and sugar content, the use of HFCS, the short shelf life, the sometimes unpleasant texture (especially in pitas and wraps/flatbreads), and the fact that there is not enough variety (7%) versus too much variety (6%/2%).