Back in January, Oprah Winfrey began a campaign devoted to her heartfelt love of bread. And when Oprah says, “I love bread,” America listens. It’s just that simple.
Her adoration came across social media via Twitter, and through a series of short videos tied to her recent investment in Weight Watchers—a business that, yes, sells bread. To open the video spot, which appears on the Weight Watchers YouTube channel, she declares: “This is the joy for me. I love bread!”
Oprah then followed with an Instagram post on her birthday at the end of January, posting a photo of the favorite gift she received—several loaves of hearty-looking bread sent to her by a friend, actress Daryl Roth—using the hashtag #ilovebread.
Not long after Oprah made waves with her stance on bread, The Daily Beast, a major news and opinion website, ran a piece covering the subject, “‘I Love Bread’: Oprah’s greatest—and most controversial—act yet.” The author of the feature reached out to Robb MacKie, president and CEO at the American Bakers Association, for some input, and Robb was the one who put the subject of Oprah’s bread love onto my radar.
In the article, Robb says: “It was a nice boost, psychologically, that wow, somebody of Oprah’s stature decided they were going to sing the praises of bread. It’s a nice change, if you will, from some of the environment we’ve been dealing with the past few years.”
We’ve been through low-carb, and more recently, gluten-free. Bread has taken its share of hits over the last several years.
The gist here is that Oprah can undoubtedly influence trends, and hopefully this is a bellwether of better times for bread—a category that has remained rather flat of late, up only 0.41 percent in dollar sales for the 52 weeks ending Nov. 29, 2015, per IRI, Chicago, as we reported in our February Market Trends analysis covering bread, buns and rolls.
But if you dig deeper into the IRI data, bright spots emerge. One case-in-point is Dave’s Killer Bread. For the 52 weeks ending Nov. 29, 2015, per IRI, Dave’s Killer Bread (a brand that was smartly acquired by Flowers Foods in 2015) was up 30.88 percent in dollar sales.
These breads take a decidedly better-for-you stance, with all-natural ingredient statements and products packed with whole grains, fiber, protein and other nutritional positives, with several products coated with sunflower, flax and other seeds. Dave’s Killer Bread is all about better-for-you. And they have an artisan feel, generally with a nicely toothsome crust, and mesh neatly with current clean-label sentiments.
These are the types of bread that prompt Oprah to sing her praises. She makes a clear point that when she says bread, she means “the grainiest, nuttiest, seed bread, 7-grain, 9-grain, 12-grain bread, I can find,” as she notes in her Weight Watchers videos.
This is the next layer of the onion—the nutritional story that surrounds bread. As bakers develop more breads with strong better-for-you positioning, more shoppers will internalize that not only is it OK to eat bread—as Oprah proclaims—but that it’s an essential part of a nutritious diet and loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, particularly when the formula includes good levels of protein and fiber, a diversity of whole grains, and perhaps the occasional dried fruit inclusion.
Better-for-you, artisan-style, nutrition-packed breads with clean, clear ingredient statements will continue to gain ground. But upbeat messaging surrounding bread will benefit the entire category.
With the right momentum, we can expect better days for bread ahead.