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Expert Column: America’s Love Affair With Bread Goes Ethnic


Despite Americans' flirtation with low-carb, Atkins-style diets over the past few years, nothing can get in the way of their love affair with one of their favorite comfort foods: bread. Sandwiches, pizza, a breadbasket full of warm, comforting rolls – consumers of all ages just can't get enough.

Research from The NPD Group, based in Port Washington, N.Y., shows that sandwiches are still the top main dish served for dinner at home, and their popularity is growing. At the same time, bread is the fourth most popular side dish on American tables. However, the days of squishy rolls and sliced white bread are long gone as consumers of all ages embrace café-style pita, naan, paninis, wraps, crepes and other bread products with ethnic flavors and textures.

Changing demographics and tastes mean that consumers are looking for food with flair – new flavors and ethnic offerings that provide them with diverse and interesting meal ideas. Supermarkets seeking to differentiate themselves by offering unique and colorful foods have a ready option with ethnic breads.

As shoppers walk by a bread display in a supermarket, however, they may be unsure of how to use traditional ethnic breads to create appetizers, sandwiches and meals. Plenty of people order paninis when at restaurants, but how many actually know how to make a sandwich with these types bread at homes.

Just having ethnic breads in-store isn’t enough – stores also need to show consumers how to use those products. There are several ways retailers can do this, including:

Easy-to-assemble Sandwich Recipes. Offer recipe cards next to bread offerings, at the deli counter or throughout the store, to show how easy it is to make café-style sandwiches and appetizers with fresh ingredients.

Keep it Simple. Not all bread-based meals need to involve complicated preparation. Simple recipes, such as flatbread pizza with easy toppings, will please customers more than recipes that require lengthy prep time.

Digital and Social Media. Use your store's website or social media outlets to promote sandwich or other meal ideas, accompanied by attractive photos. Weekly announcements and the store's social sites can drive customers to your web-based recipe center for great ideas about how to use different foods.

Product Sampling. Everyone gets a little hungry walking around a supermarket, right? Offering up tasty samples of prepared ethnic foods, along with recipe cards, is an ideal way to engage consumers and make their shopping experience memorable.

Cooking Classes. Many retailers offer cooking classes to drive sales of a particular specialty food item. Supermarkets can take their classes to the next level by creating YouTube videos of their learning sessions and sharing them with social followers.

Ethnic breads provide diversity and interest on your store shelves, and Mediterranean breads are just the start. The flavor forecasters at NPD predict that more consumers will increasingly turn to ethnic and spicy options for sandwiches and pizzas. Customers are interested in ideas such as Southwestern-style chicken and black beans, Thai pizza, and other ideas from Latin American, Asian, Mideast and Central Asian culinary traditions.

Consumers love bread and bread products. Virtually all ethnic groups in the United States have recipes that greatly emphasize bread as a centerpiece to a meal. Thanks to this ethnic influence on American culture, tastes are changing, prompting consumers to seek out adventurous flavors and meal solutions, and smart retailers can leverage this trend.

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