While traditional white buns and rolls may remain best sellers, an expanding variety of elevated flavors are attracting more consumers in their pursuit of premium. 

Brioche leads the way among such offerings and shows little sign of slowing down, posting double-digit unit sales growth, said Melissa Altobelli, principal of client insights, dairy and bakery vertical, Circana. She cited Horsham, Pa.-based Bimbo Bakeries USA (BBU)’s Sara Lee Artesano Brioche hot dog buns as a successful example, which drove much of the brand’s growth over the past year. 

Jennifer Aranas, senior manager, consumer insights, BBU, added that brioche’s success is partially due to the versatility it offers consumers.  

“For example, our butter-flavored brioche buns can be used for savory options like sandwiches or burgers and even sweeter snacks like ice cream sandwiches,” she said. 

She added the company has seen an uptick in onion and potato rolls as well as ciabatta and pretzel products. 

“Bimbo Bakehouse started offering more pretzel buns, rolls and baguettes to stay on top of these trends, meeting both consumer and foodservice needs,” she said. “Brioche, as well as French rolls, sourdough and sweet flavor options, have also shown steady growth over the past few years as sandwich options in restaurants.”

Cheese is another flavor performing well across buns and rolls, increasing units by 9%, Altobelli said. 

Growth for fellow category leader King’s Hawaiian, Los Angeles, has been driven by some of its newer formats, Altobelli said, such as its Hawaiian hot dog buns and 4-count dinner rolls, as well as its Pretzel hamburger and slider buns and Honey Wheat dinner rolls. 

Calise Bakery, Lincoln, RI, put a sourdough spin on its bestselling rolls with the debut of Sourdough Bulkie Rolls. 

“Given the popularity of our Sourdough Italian Round Bread and Classic Bulkie Rolls, we can’t wait for our customers to get a taste of the best of both worlds,” said Michael R. Calise, president, Calise Bakery.

More regionally inspired offerings are finding footing as well. Zaro’s Family Bakery, New York, for example, introduced The Challah Collection, a line of challah products including burger buns, dinner rolls and hot dog buns.

“Our challah recipe has been passed down for generations, and we’re thrilled that homes across America can have a small piece of our family tradition,” said Michael Zaro, owner and chief operating officer.

More brands are exploring globally inspired flavors as well, though they have yet to reach the mainstream, noted Kelsey Olsen, food and drink analyst, Mintel. Trader Joe’s Pao d’Agua Portuguese ready-to-heat frozen rolls, for example, allow consumers to try a less familiar product but in a more approachable frozen format, she said.

Buns and rolls inspired by regional or global heritage further enhance the eating experience, said Brie Buenning, director of marketing and La Brea Bakery brand manager, Aspire Bakeries.

“We have seen some unique French-Asian product concepts emerge from operators,” she said. 

Buenning added that consumer desire for an at-home restaurant experience has led to growth in ready-to-eat and heat-and-serve meals. 

“La Brea Bakery has an entire line of artisan Take & Bake breads that make it easy to enjoy warm, freshly baked bread at home, right out of the oven,” she noted.

This article is an excerpt from the May 2024 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Buns & Rollsclick here.