Summer’s here and after all of the bad weather and miserable cold we endured this winter and spring, we can now enjoy those picnics and barbeques. Instead of the usual fare, we can surprise consumers with some new, tasty, healthy and safe foods.

Bakers always take advantage of warm weather to promote the picnic and barbeque season and help their customers do the same through in-store promotions.

Capitalizing on safety might help capture consumers’ attention. When planning new summer-related offerings or seasonal products and picnic foods, keep in mind that in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 48 million people in the U.S. became ill from foodborne bugs. That’s about one in every six Americans. Approximately 3,000 of those cases were fatal.

But there is good news: One of the most common pathogens, Escherichia coli (E. coli) has decreased 42% since 1998. To reduce it even further, consumers must know that perishable foods should be kept hot or cold—nothing in between—during processing. Obviously, we in the industry know to never leave any food at room temperature longer than two hours. If the weather or the production facility is really hot (above 90 deg. F.), food shouldn’t sit out for more than one hour. Unfortunately, consumers often leave picnic foods outside for an entire afternoon. This is not a good idea for any food, except maybe chips.

Grocers can help consumers enjoy their outdoor summertime feasts by provide nutritious, safe and creative point-of-purchase ideas in their supermarket bread aisles. Consumers should know, for instance, that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate ( nutrition guide is a good source of information when making picnic lunches. While it may sound complicated, it’s really not.

For instance, sandwiches and wraps are always popular picnic foods. Keeping the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in mind when making sandwiches can help consumers make “half the grains whole.” Those who don’t like whole-grain bread can make their sandwiches with one slice of white bread and one slice of whole wheat bread. To entice kids to eat the sandwiches, parents can cut the sandwiches into quarters and turn over two opposite quarters to make a checkerboard. Whole-grain and vegetable-flavored tortillas can be used to make new wrap favorites. 

And what would a picnic or barbeque be without dessert? For these occasions, baked goods are the perfect choice. They’re available in frozen dessert cases, on restaurant to-go menus, in in-store bakeries and even in the bread aisle. Frozen fruit pies are perfect for picnics, as they can safely thaw in time for dessert. Angel food cake, topped with sliced fruit, is a low-calorie, nutritious and safe dessert.  A container of nutritious cookies—oatmeal raisin, whole-wheat “cran-raisin,” whole-white-wheat almond-flavored or specialty—enables everyone to enjoy their favorite flavor.

Grocers can help their customers enjoy the summer by promoting the importance of good nutrition for picnics and barbeques based on the USDA’s MyPlate guide.

Meanwhile, consumers know that the retailers they frequent care about their health, while providing them with healthy baked goods. Some forethought for safety when preparing outdoor meals makes it easier for everyone to enjoy the warm weather.