All products that leave the Canyon Bakehouse facility in Loveland, CO, are frozen after baking and through distribution—and sometimes through the point of sale. Freshly baked loaves spend about four hours in the blast freezer to get to a core temperature below 20°F. Some retailers go the thaw-and-sell route.
This difference between frozen versus ambient product illustrates how challenging the merchandising of gluten-free baked goods can prove. Usually, you have a product, and it’s clear where it will sell in the grocery store, says Josh Skow, co-founder and CEO. “That’s not cut-and-dry with gluten-free.”
Kevin Brouillette, vice president of sales and marketing, who has a background as in sales and marketing with Nestlé USA and the So Delicious Dairy-Free brand, now owned by The WhiteWave Co., explains the challenges involved with gluten-free product merchandising. “You’re not first to market, so the people who were first to market kind of dictated where the product went,” he says. “The product they initially launched didn’t have any shelf life.” As a result, the products ended up in the freezer case.
“But Americans generally want to buy bread they can touch, feel and smell—to buy bread like people have always bought bread,” says Kevin. “And they might be a little distrustful of buying bread from freezers.”
Kevin notes that the company has data that shows Canyon Bakehouse sells five to 10 times better in ambient versus frozen. He can work with retailers to gather and provide store-level data, to have quantitative figures to show sales potential.
“Some stores sell it in the freezer, traditionally,” says Josh. “We sell really well when it’s ambient,” either via a retail-ready display or on the shelf, both in the bread aisle or the in-store bakery. “Some sell both frozen and ambient to take advantage of both.” Other retailers will have a dedicated gluten-free section or aisle. “In other retailers, we see the trend going to where they put it out among everything else, so if you want to buy gluten-free pasta, it’s in the pasta aisle. That makes sense.” In some ways, he says, integrating gluten-free products with traditional versions makes people feel less alienated.
“At the end of the day,” says Josh, “we’re all over the store.”
For more on Canyon Bakehouse, see “Canyon Bakehouse redefines gluten-free.”