Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery was recently able to talk to Andrew Ly, co-founder and CEO of Sugar Bowl Bakery, about COVID-19, 2020 trends, and some possible 2021 trends.
Liz Parker: How has the food industry changed over the past year?
Andrew Ly: The pandemic has highlighted certain shortcomings of our food industry and its supply chain but has also drawn attention to the hard work of our essential bakery labor. Many consumers were faced for the first time in their lives with empty grocery store shelves and the inability to purchase everyday staples. In addition, we saw trip consolidation, larger basket sizes and a surge in online shopping. With the vast majority of eating occasions and meal prep taking place at home during the pandemic, there was a seismic shift in demand for food sold at retail grocery.
As a family-owned bakery trying to respond to this shifting demand, we prioritized the health and safety of our employees first and foremost. We have proactively put in place measures to ensure their health and safety such as plexiglass partitions on the production lines and in breakrooms, and also continue to conduct daily leadership meetings to review any changes to the State and County regulations and guidelines (Alameda County has amongst the strictest regulations in the country). We’ve implemented those recommendations with strong enforcement of social distancing, daily temperature monitoring, use of PPE including face masks and shields, paid leave for sick and high-risk employees along with a significantly more focused and intentional GMP sanitation procedures.
LP: What trends were popular in 2020?
AL: Consumers have had to shift their shopping and consumptive priorities this year and behaviors formed during the pandemic may last long after we return to a closer resemblance of normalcy. One trend that the pandemic seemed to awaken in consumers is the understanding that what they put into their bodies has a direct correlation and effect on their body’s immunity and health outcomes. Shoppers have changed how they are choosing their foods by reading labels, understanding what ingredients are in their foods, where their foods come from and which foods they should avoid.
Conversely, we’re also seeing the reality that consumers are seeking foods that make them feel calm, provide a sense of familiarity and comfort and taste great. Consumers indulging in these comfort foods have sparked a number of references to the quarantine-15, the extra pounds gained during lockdown.
These two trends are not mutually exclusive and there is an opportunity for foods that elicit feelings of comfort that are made with high quality, familiar ingredients, responsibly sweetened, and sensibly portioned to help consumers make better choices and provide the moderation and balance consumers seek.
Sugar Bowl Bakery has been a pioneer in the reinvention of sweet baked goods since their founding over 35 years ago. Unlike other bakery desserts found in the grocery store, Sugar Bowl Bakery uses only the highest quality ingredients that you would find in your kitchen like flour, eggs, butter, sugar and baking powder. Our baked goods have short ingredient lists, come in right-sized portions (at less than 150 calories) and responsible sugar levels of less than 10g per serving.
LP: What trends do you foresee for 2021?
AL: We expect to see many of the trends initiated in 2020 continue into 2021, including increased demand for food at retail, online shopping habits, and the trend towards more better for you foods, such as the reinvention of comfort foods. In addition, we expect the role of packaging to play a more influential role in shopper decisions. The demand for pre-packaged items like cookies, cakes, donuts, and individually wrapped baked goods in particular, will continue to surge due to consumers desire to avoid contact and exposure of the food across the product’s life cycle and desire for safe, mess-free and portion-controlled snacks.