Understanding disquieting flour production trends

by Josh Sosland
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Josh Sosland

Discussing data pointing to the gradual but persistent erosion of sliced bread unit sales at supermarkets, a baking industry executive recently observed hopefully that more was going on than diminished consumption of bread. Instead, he suggested sales were shifting, at least in part, from the commercial bread aisle to other parts of the store not necessarily captured in scanner data in the bread and rolls category.

Similar shifts may be at play to help explain another trend — the dogged lack of growth in flour production in 2016. The sluggish flour output along with possible clues about forces contributing to this development may be found in various articles in the current edition of this publication. One story on Page 1 describes the acquisition by a diversified food company of a baking company specializing in product baked from flour made from sprouted wheat, flour that may not be conventionally milled. Similarly, another article describes a promotion by a retail bakery chain that mills its own wheat, again baking bread from flour that would not be included in milling data.

To be sure, sprouted wheat bread and on-premise milling by baking companies remain minuscule factors affecting flour production compared to fad diets, including those advocating gluten avoidance. Still, the steady downtrend of the flagship baked food and shifts in the overall profile of grain-based foods demand close watching by bakers and millers alike.

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