In a recent interview with Baking & Snack, Erin Sharp, Group Vice President, Kroger; and American Bakers Association Chair, discussed current trends and challenges she sees in the baking industry, as well as what to expect in the future.
“We are clearly seeing more artisanal, European-style products at retail,” Sharp stated. “They are very hot right now. This is leading to the need for quicker changeovers and greater production flexibility. We also are seeing a lot of interest in plant-based dietary patterns. This presents some opportunities for the baking industry. After all, bread may be the original plant-based food.”
Prior to joining Kroger, Sharp served as the Vice President of Manufacturing for Sara Lee, which gave her multiple insights into baking logistics.
"The baking industry is being pressed to meet consumers where they shop and in the manners that they purchase. The whole e-commerce and click-and-collect markets are evolving very rapidly, and bakers need to work with retailers to bring insights and distribution efficiencies to the table,” she said. “Bakers also need to retool their electronic and social media marketing to keep core customers. The good news from the A.B.A.-F.M.I. “Power of Bakery 2019” study shows a strong connection between consumers and bakery. We just need to adapt to the new sales paths.”
Sharp also detailed ways in which baking companies can differentiate themselves in the bread aisle.
“It is interesting, and I wholeheartedly agree with the ‘Power of Bakery 2019’ findings that, while in-store is getting the lion’s share of attention, the real trip driver and sales strength is in the center bakery aisle. What was very telling for me was that we need to stop looking at the perimeter and center store as competitors but as complementary opportunities. Our consumers don’t see them as separate, so we need to reorient our thinking,” she explained.
Another subject that Sharp remarked upon was the necessary qualities of a company leader—ones she sees as critical to staying afloat in the industry.
“It is vital for today’s industry leaders to be flexible, nimble, and able to adapt to the changing workforce and marketplace,” Sharp stated. “They have to inspire and motivate their teams to be fully engaged in moving toward the future. It isn’t an easy process, but it is vital. I am not aware of a single baker who isn’t going through some cultural transformation to be nimbler in the new, constantly evolving landscape.”
To read the interview in its entirety, click here. And as always, keep reading Deli Market News for the latest in all things bakery.