Notable bread market, election parallels

by Josh Sosland
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Josh Sosland

Offering insights into its latest financial results, Flowers Foods, Inc. recently made an observation about an unusual situation in the bread market that perhaps could be seen to echo surprising societal developments that have emerged over the past two weeks. While overall bread sales volume was down in the company’s most recent quarter, sales of Flowers’ white bread, particularly its Nature’s Own Butter Bread, enjoyed growth. Further, the company said the white bread category overall has enjoyed growth in recent months.

U.S. white bread sales have been in a secular decline for nearly 50 years, losing volume over this period to variety bread in general, whole wheat bread in particular, to organic bread and to other baked food choices. While organic bread sales have continued to gain recently, Flowers said its variety bread business was weak, and there is considerable evidence the whole wheat bread category is flat at best.

It’s not too much of a stretch to connect this surprising sales shift to the stunning victory of Donald J. Trump in the presidential election. White bread long has been a popular metaphor for traditional, homogenous and, yes, white America thought to be receding in prominence in the nation. While it would be imprudent to ignore the demographic shifts reshaping the electorate and the bread market, developments in the election and in the baking business serve as a reminder that white bread America is not going away any time soon.

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