It’s never been more challenging for retail bakery owners to satisfy consumer demand for one reason: Customers today want it all.


They are looking for health, indulgence, freshness, shelf life, all natural and all flavorful, among other factors. So what’s a small business owner to do?


The best advice is stick to your plan, be authentic and original, and be honest and upfront. Customers today value transparency, as much as any factor, when shopping for food, including bread and sweet bakery products.


One expert in the foodservice field predicts the rise of niche consumer groups.


“Overarching trends related to increased demand for high-quality, better-for-you fare and unique yet convenient foodservice experiences will not subside,” says Kelly Weikel, Technomic’s director of consumer insights. “However, the way that consumers define these important elements and their willingness and ability to pay more for them increasingly varies from one consumer to the next. This year it will be especially important for operators to understand niche consumer groups and meet expectations at a range of value tiers.”


Highlights from Technomic’s 2017 Consumer Trends Forecast include the following:


  • Patronage polarization — Instability has reached new levels due to increasing uncertainty. Though lower- and middle-class consumers will curb foodservice spending until instability subsides expect few cutbacks among affluent consumers.


  • Creating community — Concepts will increasingly be positioned as places for people and communities to connect, give back, recuperate, and foster diversity and inclusivity.


  • Old World Revival — Today’s consumers crave new foods and experiences but seek the comfort that familiar options provide. Look for more modern, unique twists on classic fare.


  • Food beyond fuel — Healthy intentions are starting to drive heathier orders, even away from home. Operators will increasingly tout a balanced approach as the “best medicine” to support an overall healthy lifestyle.


  • Robotic takeout tech — More operators will provide technology such as delivery drones and robots, chatbots and enhanced online ordering to drive off-premise sales.


As you can see, the challenge to keep pace with consumer demand is a never-ending one for retail bakery businesses.