retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

There must be something in the air.  And it smells like bread baking … still one of the best smells anywhere, capable of making even the most hardened soul hungry.

Just the other day we referenced a piece in the Financial Times about how bread is back: "Real bread. Crusty, leavened rye, sourdough, wheat and country white have left the domain of hipsterdom and re-entered the mainstream … If the world is warming, continents are ablaze with unstoppable wildfires and liberal democracy is going up in smoke, who has the energy to care about carbs? You might as well have a cookie. Probably two."

Now, the New York Times has a story about "a collective of about 40 bakers, millers, teachers and wheat-breeders who work with the Bread Lab, a famed research center affiliated with Washington State University that has long focused on developing wheat varieties specific to regions of the country. Since last April, using guidelines established by the lab, the collective has pursued a common goal: making a whole-grain loaf that’s familiar-looking and affordable enough to appeal to a mass audience."

What they've come up with is something called the "approachable loaf," made in 20 states, as well as in England, Canada and Australia, each version slightly different to account for local tastes, but with 10 cents of each sale going back to the Bread Lab to fund more research and development … The Bread Lab has set three strict parameters for the approachable loaf: More than 60 percent of the flour must be whole wheat; it can’t have more than seven ingredients, all of which have to be real food, not chemical additives; and it can’t cost more than $6."

"The loaf is something of a Trojan horse," the Times writes, "a way to sneak healthy ingredients onto the taste buds of a younger generation. Its disguise as a standard-issue sandwich bread might be just the guerrilla tactic needed to get regional whole grains integrated into the developed world’s diet."  

Put simply, it is a way to get younger people to move away from squishy, white, less-than-optimally nutritious breads with which they've been brought up.

Count me as being on board for this.  And retailers ought to be, too - anything they can do to improve the eating habits of their customers, and at the same time do something for sales and profits, should be on their list of strategic and tactical priorities.

Plus … think of how great it would be if you could have that wonderful smell of fresh baked bread greeting people when they walk through the front door.

Not just an Eye-Opener, but a chance to get people's stomachs growling.  Which to a food retailer ought to be one of the best sounds on the planet.