The North American bakery company’s research found people still get a strong sense of gratification when eating their favourite baked treat – feeling ‘satisfied’ (52% of Canadians), ‘joyful’ (21% of Americans), ‘comforted’ (40% of Canadians) and ‘happy’ (49% of Americans).
Breaking bread and indulging in sweet baked goods continue to provide key moments of enjoyment and connection for consumers, however, more are aware of the importance of balancing comfort and health.
According to Irene Stathakos, VP, Insights, Digital & Design, Weston Foods, Americans are increasingly seeking out products that are made with better ingredients while also being better for the planet. The claims that impact purchasing decisions include ‘all natural’ (33%), ‘high in fibre and protein’ (30%), ‘non-GMO’ (26%), ‘made sustainably’ (25%) and ‘artisan-style’ (24%).
“By understanding consumers’ rapidly evolving needs, we can shape our strategies and innovation agenda to create delicious baked goods and satisfy what North Americans want,” said Stathakos.
Critical moment for foodservice and grocery industry
Luc Mongeau, president of Weston Foods, added, “The pandemic has created undeniable changes in our lives and affected our relationship with bakery. We’re sharing this research into consumer behaviour and expectations at a critical moment for the foodservice and grocery industry.”
The findings come from three waves of research of Americans and Canadians taken at different points throughout the pandemic – developed in partnership with DIG Insights – and complement Weston Foods’ insights into consumer behaviour in the $60bn North American bakery category.
“We stay ahead of the pulse when it comes to food trends by understanding consumers’ rapidly evolving needs. Doing so is critical to our role as a leading force in bakery. Only by knowing what consumers want can we start to shape our strategies and innovation agenda to satisfy their cravings,” said Mongeau.
Wayne Blythe, director R&D & Culinary, Weston Foods, noted that indulging in a craving was once just a guilty pleasure.
“Today, baked goods are in constant demand, consumer expectations are high, and the market is saturated. The eye appeal, freshness, flavour and textures are more important than ever before. Some people may be adventurous in their snacking, seeking out exotic flavours; others may be looking for nostalgic comfort in their treats.”
35% of respondents are eating more healthy foods; 33% are snacking more between meals; and 29% are eating more desserts.
33% say they’re more likely to buy ‘all natural’ baked goods while 24% say the same about ‘artisan-style’ bakery.
33% are eating more indulgent meals and treats; 67% say they enjoy eating baked goods that are reminiscent of their childhood.
74% say everyone in their family loves bakery items with 59% noting that bakery products bring their family together.
77% really enjoy eating bread; 72% really enjoy eating sweet treats. In general, Canadians prefer savoury goods while Americans favour sweet.
At-home baking is definitely on the up – bread by 22% and sweet goods by 36% – which has sparked a growing appreciation for the craft of artisan baking.
According to Marcus Mariathas, master baker and VP of R&D, Weston Foods, “people are baking more using sourdough starters and attempting new bread recipes. There has been explosive growth on internet searches for these types of recipes.” The great news is this is translating into retail. “Having tried it themselves, consumers now have a greater appreciation for what it takes to make amazing breads.”
The motivation behind baking at home: 53% say they love the smell; 37% bake to relieve boredom; and 34% find it to be a calming activity.
Seven in 10 say special occasions are not the same without baked goods; 58% believe a holiday meal is not the same without pie; and three quarters cannot imagine a birthday without cake or cupcakes.
Weston Foods produces many of the well-loved brands – such as Wonder, Country Harvest and Dave’s Killer Bread – found on retailer, supermarket and foodservice shelves, along with more than 35 of its own locations, across North America. It also supplies ice cream cones and sandwich wafers to the dairy industry and produces US Girl Scout Cookies under license.