Bread and Other Bakery Products, Except Cookies and Crackers

SIC 2051

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry is comprised of establishments that make fresh or frozen breads or rolls and perishable bakery products such as cakes, pies, and pastries. Manufacturers of dry bakery products such as cookies and crackers are classified in SIC 2052: Cookies and Crackers. Establishments involved in manufacturing frozen bakery products other than bread are classified in SIC 2053: Frozen Bakery Products, Except Bread. On-premises, retail bakeries are classified in SIC 5461: Retail Bakeries.

Industry Snapshot

The value of goods shipped by the commercial bakery industry in 2008 was approximately $24.9 billion. Although consumers were buying less bread than in previous decades by the mid-2000s, they were buying more expensive, higher-profit labels. As a mature industry, bakeries generate most of their growth through higher-end specialty breads. Cost cutting and industry consolidation also have helped to buoy profits. During the 2000s, trendy sandwich shops, bakery cafes, and high-end bakeries became increasing popular, which opened new markets for local and regional bakeries that could provide "hot-out-of-the-oven" European-style breads. In addition, once the diet research moved away from saturated fats and toward whole foods, the low-carb craze lifted the industry's profits back up, since bakers make the least profit on white bread and the most on whole grain, low-carb varieties, which the low-carb diets promoted.

In the late 2000s, there were an estimated 4,400 commercial bakeries in the U.S. with industry-wide employment of 112,100 workers. The majority of commercial bakeries that made fresh or frozen breads or rolls and perishable bakery products such as cakes, pies, and pastries were located in California (655), Texas (463), New York (396), and Florida (234). Collectively, these four states were responsible for nearly 40 percent of industry share. Bread, cake, and related products category accounted for 41.4 percent of the industry total, followed by the doughnuts, except frozen, category.

Organization and Structure

Historically, the baking industry established itself close to population centers. Because bread and cake products were perishable, proximity to a customer base was a primary concern. One way growing bakeries overcame this geographic constraint was through the purchase of companies in other areas. Many acquisitions and mergers within the industry during the last decades of the twentieth century transformed baking establishments with regional shipping systems into large conglomerates with national distribution networks. In addition, large baking establishments often attracted the attention of other investors. Since 1960, many of the nation's top wholesale bakeries had been purchased by food processing companies.

The practice of buying or merging with existing firms had benefits in addition to overcoming problems related to delivering fresh products to the marketplace. Buying and refurbishing existing facilities was often less expensive than building new plants. Buying also helped avoid problems associated with creating excess capacity in specific geographic areas. Despite the trend toward building large corporations, many independent family-owned bakeries remained successful. In 1987, an estimated 56.3 percent of all wholesale bread and cake plants operated with fewer than 20 employees. These small establishments, however, captured only 2.3 percent of the industry's total sales.

The baking industry was monitored and regulated by several governmental agencies. For example, the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare set the definitions and standards used to identify wheat and related products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated product quality and mandated procedures by which food additives were to be approved prior to use. Finally, the National Research Council's Food and Nutritional Board (along with the American Medical Association's Council on Foods and Nutrition) published guidelines for enriching bread products with nutrients.

Background and Development

The oldest existing written record of a baked grain product dates back to about 2600 B.C. The earliest known breads were flat and were baked on smooth stones or clay plates. According to a theory held by some historians, the ancient Egyptians created the world's first leavened breads. Leavened bread was made with ingredients possessing the chemical properties necessary to make dough rise. By contrast, unleavened breads were made from doughs that did not rise.

The ability to bake leavened breads may have been developed along with the ability to brew beer, as both processes relied on fermentation. Fermentation refers to a complex chemical process in which organic compounds are broken down into simpler substances. In alcoholic fermentation, the yeast converts a mixture's sugar or starch into carbon dioxide and alcohol. Recipes with sufficient liquid produced beer-like beverages. In mixtures with less liquid, the carbon dioxide produced by the fermentation process made the dough rise.

Fermentation of wheat and water mixtures was accomplished through the incorporation of yeast. Yeast is a member of the fungus family. Although an individual "yeast" is a single-celled organism, it lives and grows by multiplying into cultures consisting of thousands of cells. In order to grow, the cells eat the sugar and starch in dough mixtures. Early yeasts were incorporated into recipes by letting doughs sit out for a period of time to "sour." These wild yeast cultures, once established in a dough mixture, were carefully maintained through a process whereby some dough from each batch was saved to incorporate into the next batch. Before the development of commercial yeast, all leavened bread was made from sourdoughs. Sourdough breads are still made from flour, water, yeast, and bacteria.

Although many grains and other products could be fermented, wheat flours were the only ones to exhibit leavening. Wheat possessed a type of gluten (plant protein) unlike the gluten of other grains. Wheat gluten, when kneaded, formed an elastic structure that had the unique ability to trap the carbon dioxide given off by the yeast and to stretch and expand as more gas was created. When leavened doughs were baked, the heat killed the yeast but the dough's expanded structure remained. As a result, leavened breads were lighter and more airy than their unleavened counterparts.

The ancient Egyptians are also sometimes credited with inventing ovens. According to one theory, the first "ovens" were earthen pots. Early bakers discovered that when dough was placed inside preheated pots, it cooked more evenly than it did when placed on top of a heat source. The construction of permanent oven structures soon followed. Along with the development of ovens came the development of bread varieties as bakers experimented with different shapes and different ingredients. Sweet cakes first appeared in the twelfth century B.C. During the classical era, the Greeks modified oven designs and introduced the use of more innovative ingredients including milk, oil, wine, cheese, and honey.

Commercial bakeries first appeared in the Roman Empire. Under early Roman rule, baking progressed to an art form. As the Empire began to crumble, however, bakeries were taken over by the government, and commercial baking became virtually nonexistent. White flour was a luxury available only to royalty. During the Middle Ages, only monasteries and manor houses baked large quantities of leavened products. Monasteries also were credited with the development of pie crusts, an early pastry product. Although pie crusts were originally used only with meat dishes, they gained popularity for dessert items when sweetening ingredients were used. Early sweeteners in baked goods consisted of honey, raisins, and other types of dried fruits. The use of sugar was introduced during the 1500s. Innovative bakers using sugared batters and doughs developed cakes and pastries.

Commercial baking as a trade began to rise again during the urbanization that accompanied the early Industrial Revolution. Innovations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century enabled the mass-production of baked goods. As a result, large baking facilities began to supplant small local establishments. One of the most important innovations was the development of "tame" yeast because these yeast cultures produced uniform, predictable results. Wild yeast cultures were too time consuming and too unpredictable to make automatic production feasible. The first yeasts used by commercial bakers were obtained from brewers and, in 1868, Charles Fleischmann made a compressed, distiller's yeast. The selective breeding of pure yeast cultures began in 1883 and, by the early 1900s, fast-acting yeasts were well established.

Another innovation that helped shorten the time required to make bread was the mechanization of dough kneading. Kneading was necessary to develop gluten elasticity. The introduction of harder wheat hybrids that produced stronger flours enabled bakers to formulate doughs capable of withstanding the stress of mechanical kneading. The practice was introduced in the 1920s and had gained widespread acceptance by the 1950s.

The automation of milling and baking practices, however, did not produce uniformly beneficial results. In the 1930s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducted nutritional surveys and found extensive thiamine and riboflavin deficiencies in some segments of the population. The deficiencies were attributed to milling methods that yielded finer white flours with diminished nutritional value. For example, stone-ground white flour contained 60 percent of the grain's original thiamine content, and roller-milled white flour contained only 12-20 percent of the wheat's original thiamine content. Concomitant with the surveys that identified these nutritional deficiencies, researchers developed the ability to synthesize vitamins.

During the 1940s, efforts were made to restore the vitamins lost by milling practices. In 1941, the National Research Council recommended enriching white flour and white bread. Within a year, an estimated 75-80 percent of the nation's white bread was enriched on a voluntary basis. During World War II, bread enrichment was mandated by the federal government and, to ensure continuation after the war, 27 individual states passed enrichment regulations. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which became law in 1952, defined minimum and maximum levels for thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin enrichment.

Congress gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the responsibility of establishing guidelines concerning the practice of adding nutrients to food products. According to recognized standards, the word "enriched" meant adding B-vitamins, iron, and optionally calcium to flour or cereal grain products. "Restored" referred to the practice of replacing natural nutrients that were lost during processing. "Fortification" involved the addition of nutrients not naturally present in a food. A few well-known examples were the addition of vitamin D to milk or iodine to salt. During the early 1980s, an estimated 90 percent of all standard commercial white bread was enriched.

Three bread-making techniques produced most of the commercial bread in the United States. These were called the straight dough process, the sponge method, and continuous production. In the straight dough process, all ingredients, including the yeast, were combined. The resulting dough rested during the fermentation process. Following fermentation, mechanical means were used to form loaves, and the loaves were permitted to rise again before baking.

The sponge method was based on traditional bread making techniques but employed highly mechanized procedures. Recipes were based on ingredient weight rather than volume measurements. Flour was mixed with yeast and water to make a dough or "sponge," which was then permitted to ferment for several hours. After fermentation, other ingredients and additional flour were added, and the dough was remixed. Following a time of rest, the dough was cut into pieces and placed in pans. After placement in pans, the dough was allowed to rise and was then moved to an oven for baking. Typical fermentation resulted in a five-fold volume increase. Resting times averaged 20-30 minutes, and rising times were approximately one hour.

The continuous production method was also highly automated. Flour and other ingredients were fed into a production line under carefully monitored conditions. The resulting dough was extruded through dies, pressed (or cut), and placed in pans. The pans moved by conveyor through a large oven. Slicing machines cut finished loaves and packaging machines blew wrappers open with a puff of air to receive the finished product.

The commercial baking industry produced two basic types of breads--yeast breads and quick breads. Yeast breads were leavened with yeast. Quick breads used other leavening agents such as baking powder. Baking powder, which also worked by producing carbon dioxide, produced results more quickly than yeast. Quick breads included such products as muffins, loaves, and biscuits.

According to Ed Wood, a researcher of the history of bread making, 75 percent of the bread consumed in industrialized nations is produced by large commercial bakeries. The Wheat Flour Institute calculated that during the early 1980s, U.S. bakers produced approximately 250 million pounds of bread every week. Bread products were available in many varieties; some individual bakers' lines exceeded 200 different products.

The most popular kind of bread is white bread made from white flour. French breads are made without milk, sugar, and shortening. Their characteristic texture is created by injecting steam into the oven during baking, and the flavor comes from the wheat itself. "Whole wheat breads" are made from whole wheat flour, and "wheat bread" is made from a blend of white flour and whole wheat flour. Cracked wheat breads are made from white flour and crushed wheat meal. Other bread varieties are made with white flours of varying coarseness. Rye breads are made with a mixture of rye flour and wheat flour because rye flour by itself does not possess the chemical properties necessary to produce a leavened product. Two types of rye flours are used to produce different rye breads. Light rye is made from the grain's endosperm; dark rye is made from the entire kernel.

In addition to its bread products, the baking industry also produces cakes. Cakes are typically made from pourable batters. The basic ingredients are flour, liquid, eggs, and leavening agents--plus flavorings and sometimes fat. The rising action of a baking cake is similar to the leavening action of bread. When a cake bakes, steam and gases cause the batter to expand. Different types of cakes are classified according to how they are leavened and whether they contain fat.

Two broad cake classifications are foam cakes and butter cakes. Foam cakes, typically airy and mild, are primarily leavened with air. One way in which this is accomplished is by beating egg whites and folding them into the mixture. Examples of foam cakes include angel food cake and sponge cake. Butter cakes rely on leavening agents such as baking powder, baking soda, or yeast. Butter cakes are typically more tender and possess a smoother texture than foam cakes. Examples include layer cakes and pound cakes. Other types of cakes do not easily fit these traditional distinctions. Chiffon cakes use egg whites and baking powder for leavening. Tortes are similar to sponge cakes but rely on ground nuts or crumbs to replace some or all of their flour.

According to figures for 1990, annual per capita consumption of bread products was increasing slightly. The average U.S. citizen consumed 28 pounds of white bread, 23 pounds of variety breads, 23 pounds of rolls, 15 pounds of cake, and four pounds of doughnuts and other sweet yeast products. Dinner roll consumption tapered off when pasta products gained popularity as bread substitutes. Sales of large pies, snack pies, full-size cakes, and cake-type doughnuts slackened as part of a national trend toward health consciousness. Some analysts noted that the increased consumption of sweet yeast doughnuts and snack cakes was contrary to the general trend toward more healthy products. They attributed the continuing popularity of these items to convenience.

As the bread and cake industry entered the 1990s, most of the products produced by commercial bakers were sold through grocery stores, where breads and rolls represented the fifth-largest-selling category of grocery items. Despite its ubiquitous presence, however, the bread and cake industry faced several challenges. One was increased competition from in-store bakeries. Although goods baked on the premises were often priced higher than prepackaged goods, they held several advantages. Customers perceived them as fresher, and on-premises bakeries could offer specialty cakes and breads that were not available from mass producers. In-store bakeries often promoted products as impulse items, placing them near the front of the store to take advantage of baking aromas.

To meet the competition from in-store bakeries, commercial wholesalers began offering more variety in single-serving packages and increasing the assortment of specialty products. Industry analysts disagreed about the long-term effect in-store bakeries would have on traditional distribution networks. Although sales from in-store bakeries increased from $4.9 billion in 1986 to $8.0 billion in 1990, the rate at which they were being developed slowed during the early 1990s.

Wholesalers also faced increased competition from prepared mixes. Prepared mixes were marketed to customers who wanted the convenience of purchased items and the freshness of newly baked goods. Competition from prepared mixes came not only within the household market but also in the institutional market as users such as restaurants turned increasingly toward mixes.

Another challenge facing the industry during the early 1990s was increased concern about the environment. During the leavening process, ethyl alcohol was released into the atmosphere. As a result, Southern California's South Coast Air Quality Management District Board ordered smog controls on the ovens of twenty-four large commercial bakeries. In addition, some environmental groups criticized the industry for its use of excess packaging. Officials countered the charges with claims that the packaging was necessary to prevent spoilage. To ameliorate the criticism, bakery wrapper recycling programs were instituted in some areas.

The bread and cake industry also has faced the challenge of producing products for a nation caught up in a conflict between health consciousness and a desire for taste gratification. Many items have been reformulated to eliminate ingredients viewed as unhealthy. These include such ingredients as tropical oils and other fat, sugar, and salt. The elimination of fat from many classes of bakery items was a difficult accomplishment, because the fat incorporated in batters and doughs served many technical and aesthetic functions. Technically, it assisted the leavening process by incorporating air into mixtures, enabling the even transfer of heat during baking, and giving moisture to the final product. Aesthetically, the fat produced a favorable texture and added flavor.

To reformulate recipes without fat, different types of fat replacers were studied. Entenmann's Bakery, a subsidiary of CPC Baking Inc., was the first national company to offer a line of fat-free products. It began test marketing them in 1989 and reported sales of $200 million during the first full year of production. To honor Entenmann's achievement, the American Marketing Association awarded the company with the 1990 Edison Award for New Product Marketer of the Year. Entenmann's also received the grand prize from the Gorman's New Product Contest. The introduction of fat-free items helped to increase consumption among consumers who traditionally skipped dessert items.

A new form of lecithin was developed by Riceland Foods in 1998. Bakers had used liquid lecithin for years, but it contained about 35 percent oil. The new powdered lecithin contained only two percent oil, making it useful for low-fat baking. Lecithin supplies the good taste and moistness to low-fat bakery products, making them taste more like the full-fat varieties. The product also reduced the amount of egg yolks bakers need to use, without adding any cholesterol.

In the late 1990s, more fresh bakeries opened for business, and more supermarkets expanded their fresh bakeries. Despite this, commercially prepared bakery items were gaining sales overall. Information Resources Inc. of Chicago found that commercially baked pie sales in supermarkets were up 12.5 percent and baked cake sales were up 14.5 percent from April 1998 through March 1999. Private-label cakes rose 21.0 percent and private-label pies climbed 7.1 percent in sales. Some industry observers believed the quality of commercially baked goods had improved and the number of offerings had grown, thus keeping the commercial bakers in close competition with fresh-baked products.

Spurred on by the Atkins diet, which steered people away from breads and other carbohydrate-rich foods, a large percentage of the population turned from bread completely during the early 2000s. According to Shapiro Research Group, 40 percent of Americans were eating less bread in 2004 than in 2003. Consequently, industry giants such as Interstate Bakeries and Sara Lee Corp. were struggling. However, once the dieting research became more moderate, and people turned back to carbohydrates--albeit the more unprocessed kinds--the bakeries that were holding steady or seeing increases had introduced more nutritious whole grain, low-carb varieties. These breads had the added advantage of being higher-profit items for the bakers.

With strong competition from private brands for lower-end breads, national bakeries generated their growth through the introduction of super-premium, higher-end products that peppered the supermarket bread aisle. Additionally, the number of bakeries producing hand-kneaded artisan breads increased rapidly. Selling for $4 to $5 (about twice the price of a normal loaf of bread), the specialty breads provided rich texture, unique favors, and usually a thick crust, modeled after European breads. By 2003, sales of premium breads totaled $933 million, or 16 percent of all bread sales.

Although sales dropped six percent over the previous year, private brands held the lion's share of the fresh bread market. In 2004, private labels generated nearly $1.5 billion in sales and commanded 27 percent of the market. Wonder Bread held the second position with a five percent market share, generating $301 million in revenues, which was a five percent decrease from 2003. Rounding out the top five were Orowheat, with a 4.5 percent market share and $251 million in revenues; Nature's Own, with a 3.8 percent market share and $215 million in revenues; and Arnold, with a 3.3 percent market share and $183 million in revenues. All revenues generated by supermarket sales of fresh bread in 2004 totaled $5.6 billion.

Whole grain blends made substantial gains in the bread market in 2005. Sales of fresh bread with whole grain claims on the packaging increased 18 percent, surpassing $1.1 billion. Although Sara Lee Bakery sales dipped 3.5 percent in 2005, the company introduced Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Whole Grain White Bread to great success. It used a blend of 70 percent white flour and 30 percent whole grain flour. According to Information Resources, Inc., the product sold 16.7 million 20-ounce loaves, or $32 million worth, in its first six months in U.S. grocery stores, making it the best-selling loaf of bread in America in that time span. Other manufacturers also introduced bread products containing a blend of white flour and whole grain flour.

Heart-healthy innovations also became more a trend in the mid-2000s as brands attempted to expand varieties to create niche markets. Manufacturers added omega-3 fatty acids, an ingredient from fish oil, to some products. In April 2005, Arnold Smart & Healthy launched heart-healthy varieties Fibre Goodness, Omega-3 DHA/EPA, Sugar Free, and Organic Grains. Moreover, sales of fresh bread with organic claims rose 20 percent.

Current Conditions

In fiscal 2010, according to research firm Nielsen Co., wheat bread was the top performer, with sales rising 0.6 percent to $2.6 billion, while white bread sales fell seven percent to $2.5 billion. Consumers purchased 1.5 billion loaves of white bread during this time, a three percent decline. However, white bread sales led in volume.

Rolls, buns, and croissants grew 13 percent, while bread sales fell 4.5 percent. Pie bakeries enjoyed a 7.4 percent increase in sales, and the donut category grew 5.1 percent. While sales of muffins grew 2.9 percent during this time, English muffin sales climbed 3.3 percent. Cake bakeries grew by a modest 2.4 percent, and pastry, Danish, and coffeecake sales by 2.2 percent.

High-fructose corn syrup was the latest ingredient to come under scrutiny, especially as it related to health issues like obesity. One study conducted by Princeton University and reported in the August 2010 Chicago Tribune revealed "long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup does lead to abnormal increases in body fat." Still, some companies, including Sara Lee, took note and were busy reformulating their products such as their popular Soft & Smooth bread brand.

Sara-Lee's bread sales plummeted 10 percent in 2009 to $359 million (not counting Wal-Mart sales), indicative of a rough business climate for midprice companies. Based on grocery store sales, Flower Foods whole wheat Nature's Own exceeded Sara Lee in 2009. Overall bread sales were expected to remain flat, but continued demand for various whole grains would spur future growth.

Industry Leaders

Hostess Brands, Inc. (formerly Interstate Bakeries Corp.) based in Houston, Texas, operated 39 bakeries and about 700 bakery goods retail outlets. Its major bread brands include Wonder, Home Pride, and Beefsteak while its major snacks include Hostess fruit pies, Ho-Hos, and Twinkies. The company reported revenues of $2.7 billion in 2009 with 21,000 employees.

Flowers Foods, Inc.posted revenues of $2.6 billion in 2009 with 8,800 employees. Its major bread brands were Bluebird, Cobblestone Mill, and Nature's Own. The company also produced hamburger buns for national fast-food restaurant chains.

Sara Lee's bakery division reported revenues of $2.2 billion in 2009, with operating profit falling to $33 million. Sara Lee, which began as a frozen foods producer, purchased Earthgrains to take a bold step into the bakery market. In November 1999, Earthgrains Co. announced the acquisition of Metz Baking Co. The move put Earthgrains in the number two position in the baked goods industry. Metz was a regional player, with the number one brands of bread in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis, while Earthgrains' brands could be found in the South. Sara Lee admitted in Bloomberg in July 2010 that "the unit has faced competition from cheaper store brands and regional bakeries such as Flowers Foods Inc."

Research and Technology

One of the most extensive areas of ongoing research within the industry involved investigating methods of extending shelf life and preserving product freshness. One method, modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), involved introducing a predetermined atmosphere inside special barrier packaging materials at the time products were sealed for shipping. Nitrogen and carbon dioxide were the most frequently used gases in MAP. The technique was used to replace oxygen, a primary contributor to product staleness. According to published reports, MAP extended shelf life up to 30 days and increased freezer life up to six months.

Another advanced method of controlling the atmosphere within a product package was called controlled atmosphere packaging (CAP). CAP relied on active means of manipulating the gas in a package's "headspace." Products were packed with chemical inserts to actively manipulate the environment within the package. For example, oxygen scavengers, frequently composed of iron compounds, would absorb any oxygen remaining after a package was sealed. Eliminating oxygen from packaging was important because it inhibited mold growth. Studies indicated that CAP extended the time period in which a product would remain mold-free by 300 percent.

MAP and CAP technologies presented many benefits. They eliminated the need for preservatives and reduced distribution costs by eliminating the need for freezing and chilling during transportation. They also increased customer convenience because products did not require freezing following purchase. They also helped to maintain appropriate moisture levels so that products did not dry out. Two of the biggest problems surrounding MAP and CAP usage were customer perception and price. Customers did not view bakery products with extended shelf life as fresh, and products packaged with MAP and CAP were more expensive than those packaged with traditional methods. One industry analyst suggested that CAP and MAP technologies were best suited for wholesalers with large geographic distribution networks, rather than local baking operations.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

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