Capitalizing on Breads & Rolls


By expanding on these items, deli departments can take cross-merchandising and foodservice programs to the next level.

The perimeter of the store has always been distinguished by its fresh and innovative offerings. With bread and rolls, the deli department has the opportunity to no longer be overshadowed by the bakery section.

“Fresh bread from the deli is more than just a product; it’s an experience,” says Karen Toufayan, vice president of marketing, Toufayan Bakeries, Ridgefield, NJ. “And 2024 is showing a shift in deli sections, with consumers craving not just convenience but culinary adventure. From plant-based protein options to artisanal bread pairings, the deli aisle has evolved into a hub of innovation and exploration.”

When compared to items in the grocery aisle, the deli provides a bigger spotlight due to cross-merchandising opportunities as well as the incorporation of bread and rolls into foodservice programs.

“Now that the cost of living is up, consumers are still looking to treat themselves well at home,” says Jake Huber, U.S. sales director, St Pierre Bakery, Manchester, Lancashire, U.K. “This is backed up by the data, too — with ‘specialty rolls’ growing in both value and volume (15% and 3% respectively) in the last year and ‘brioche’ as a category growing at 16%, according to Nielsen’s data from Dec. 30, 2023.”


Today, the deli section is witnessing a surge of innovation in bread offerings, with artisanal, gluten-free and health-focused launches.

“Some notable developments include artisanal bread varieties crafted with unique grains, seeds and flavor profiles as well as a growing demand for healthier bread options, including whole grain, multigrain and sprouted grain breads,” says Toufayan.

“Delis also are expanding their bread offerings to accommodate individuals with dietary restrictions or preferences, such as gluten-free, nut-free and dairy-free options,” she says.

Last year, St Pierre launched its take on pretzel rolls with the Brioche Pretzel Roll.

“Artisan breads are also growing in both value and volume in the last 52 weeks, [according to Nielsen data], and both of those bakery subsectors highlight the demand for products that offer quality, with new flavors and textures — an easy trend for supermarket delis to tap into,” says Huber.

In addition to artisan and rustic breads, there have been more clean-label items introduced in this category.

“Clean label doesn’t define what it is, so we use real ingredients,” says Tasos Katsaounis, founder and chief executive, Bread Man Baking Co., Houston, TX. “The market is trending more toward real bread that isn’t chemically leavened and filled with unpronounceable ingredients.”

The deli department can unveil more innovation than the grocery aisle, with unique varieties and small-batch brands.

Carrollton, TX-based The Cloud Boys Bakery focuses on better-for-you lines, and recently launched the Bright Sky Bakehouse brand as part of its gluten-free portfolio.

“We developed a gluten-free proprietary recipe that has a 20-day shelf life and soft texture like traditional bread,” says Bruce Kratt, president and founder of The Cloud Boys Bakery. “We also offer our Bright Sky Bakehouse line, which is free of the top nine allergens. It uses hemp protein, which is easier to digest.”

Although gluten-free is still a small portion of bread sales, Kratt says this segment is growing in double digits.

Jenni Bonsignore, marketing manager, Valley Lahvosh Baking Co., Fresno, CA, notices more of a global influence on bread types and flavors, along with gluten-free and healthier options.

Valley Lahvosh makes various sizes and shapes of its line, which can be used as a pizza crust, as part of a charcuterie board or in a breadbasket.


In the deli department, there are numerous ways to put bread and rolls front and center.

“[Delis can] create displays that showcase bread alongside popular deli sandwich ingredients, such as sliced meats, cheeses, spreads and fresh produce,” says Toufayan. “Stores can set up recipe inspiration stations within the deli area featuring recipe cards or digital screens displaying creative sandwich ideas and recipes that incorporate the featured bread to encourage impulse purchases and inspire customers to experiment with different bread varieties.”

She adds endcap displays can be used at the perimeter of the deli section to showcase bread varieties alongside related products.

It makes sense to pair high-end meats and cheeses with premium bread items.

“Retailers offering a trade-up in one area of the grocery store can drive increased sales in other areas,” says St Pierre’s Huber. “For example, a shopper who opts for a premium brioche burger bun from St Pierre is more likely to pair it with premium meats and cheeses. That applies equally to in-store foodservice options.”

The Cloud Boys Bakery recommends and participates in cross-merchandising programs.

“The best way for consumer trial and awareness is through digital marketing,” says Kratt. “Also, the gluten-free community is loyal and tight-knit, so we use influencers in that community to get the word out about our product’s unique attributes.”

Designating usage ideas can inspire consumers. Valley Lahvosh offers seasonal lines, such as its Heart, Star and Christmas Tree-shaped crackers that are geared for charcuterie boards and entertaining.

“Lahvosh is a natural carrier, so it can be cross-merchandised with many deli items,” says Bonsignore. “The larger sizes of our Lahvosh crackers make great pizzas or tostadas while also offering a healthier bread option. Lahvosh Minis can be paired with fruit and cheese for a healthy snack.”

Bread items sold on deli shelves also can be highlighted in foodservice programs to provide additional visibility and trial.

“Signage or a branded rack with the same item used in deli foodservice spaces can encourage customers to purchase the same bread,” says Bread Man Baking Co.’s Katsaounis.

New packaging technologies are not only assisting with bread merchandising but also extending shelf life. In recent years, there has been a bigger focus on environmentally friendly materials.


“Bread packaging has seen a significant evolution to meet consumer demands and environmental concerns,” says Toufayan.

This evolution has resulted in eco-friendly materials like compostable wraps and recycled plastics gaining traction. Toufayan also says innovative features such as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) and resealable bags extend the shelf life of bread while maintaining freshness, catering to consumers’ desire for convenience and reduced food waste.

“Additionally, transparent packaging allows consumers to visually inspect the product’s quality,” she says.

The Cloud Boys Bakery sought to avoid MAP, also called gas-flushed packaging, with its products. This is because, although it can provide up to a 40-day shelf life unopened, once the packaging is breached, bread will start molding in four to five days.

“Gluten-free bread historically has used MAP, but we decided to attack shelf life with a bread formula and processing [instead],” explains Kratt. “All retailers are looking for eco-friendly products and ingredients, and fair trade and certifications for raw materials are important and won’t go away.”

Much of today’s state-of-the-art packaging innovation originates in Europe.

“We’re seeing bags come from flow-pack machines that use a piece of plastic that gets rolled around a product, which is then clamped and heat sealed,” says Kontos Foods’ Stoll. “We use bags that can be resealed. There is hard shell packaging with a layer that is heat sealed that offers greater printing quality on the bag.”


Deli foodservice programs are benefiting from incorporating premium bread, rolls and pizza crusts. This provides not only cross-merchandising opportunities but the ability to upscale offerings.

“St Pierre’s range of brioche burger buns, brioche hot dog rolls, brioche subs and brioche pretzel rolls are all pre-sliced, so they’re easy and quick to serve as part of a menu, while offering authentic, premium brioche to encourage increased spend,” says Huber.

Delis can get creative with these products, incorporating different formats to elevate foodservice menus.

“From our mini croissants in sandwich platters to tandoori and pita being used for ethnic sandwiches and flatbreads, deli breads bring a sense of artistry and authenticity to sandwich offerings, catering to discerning palates seeking culinary adventure,” says Toufayan.

Kontos Foods offers panini bread with and without grill marks to provide options for deli retailers who may not have a panini press.

Kontos Foods’ new Rustics Collection by Kontos is offered in both retail and foodservice sizes in three flavors. The company also offers pre-grilled pizza crust with grill marks.

Despite the ongoing labor challenge, focusing on foodservice can pay off big for delis.


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