If you want to predict where the U.S. and global baking industries are headed, you can’t find a more plugged-in source than Puratos.
This global ingredients supplier serves baking customers in more than 100 countries — including across the U.S. — with business in the retail, foodservice, industrial, artisan and other sectors. Puratos tracks baking trends through extensive worldwide research.
That’s why it’s significant that the company’s head of U.S. operations is relaying a strong sense of optimism about future directions, despite the extraordinary upheaval of the pandemic period. His upbeat outlook is based on emerging and accelerating consumer trends — from snacking to health and wellness — and the baking industry’s demonstrated flexibility in meeting new consumer needs.
“My position is one of optimism when I step back and look at consumer trends and also the level of innovation and response,” said Andy Brimacombe, president of Puratos USA, in an American Bakers Association podcast, Bake to the Future.
Brimacombe was interviewed by Katie Juhl, ABA’s Director of Marketing and Communications, and Hailey Blumenreich, Marketing and Communications Manager.
Pandemic’s Severe World Impact
Puratos’ global view provided a real-time picture of how the crisis was evolving. The Belgium-based company tracked similar patterns playing out across countries, from lockdowns to spikes in grocery purchases. The demand for specific baked goods varied based on country preferences. However, one common factor was a surge in demand for staples, such as breads and grain products.
The unique view of so many countries enabled Puratos to anticipate U.S. needs and act quickly on lessons learned.
“We had an advanced view on what to expect as the crisis hit here,” said Brimacombe, whose career has included roles in numerous countries.
Next Steps for Consumer Behaviors
The pandemic has accelerated existing consumer bakery trends and added new ones, creating a need for the industry to adapt to new consumer directions. Here is Brimacombe’s take on the outlook for key trends.
- Online shopping: The explosion in online sales represents a major shift in consumer behavior. “I think that’s here to stay,” he said.
- Home Baking: This activity was sparked by consumers seeking comfort. Puratos’ global research to date indicates this trend will endure.
- Snacking: The need to spend more time at home put “snacking on the rise as a trend in the U.S, and it will become an even more significant trend over time.”
- Health and Wellness: The pandemic has greatly accelerated interest in health and wellness, which supports baking attributes such as more fiber, grains and seeds. A recent ABA webinar with Puratos addresses this topic in depth.
- Other Trends: Price and affordability are increasingly on the mind of consumers, in addition to hygiene.
Supporting Digital and Ecommerce Strategies
At a time when businesses are embracing virtual communications, Puratos has been supporting customers with a mix of digital tools — ranging from a technical hotline with chat capabilities to a virtual plant tour platform that helps address issues and needs.
Another strategy is helping to support the online ordering needs of artisan bakers.
“We've launched a platform that integrates into their website and effectively allows them to set up an online click and collect service,” he said.
Doing the Right Thing for People and Communities
Puratos is known for its community and social efforts worldwide, from supporting bakery schools in various countries to giving back a portion of proceeds to farmers in its chocolate sourcing. In an innovative U.S. charity effort, the company is donating $1 to Ronald McDonald House for each sourdough social media post tagged with #SourdoughDifference, a timely campaign in light of all the recent home baking activity.
Meanwhile, Puratos is addressing this turbulent period of national protests sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd. Puratos has been leading internal education and charity efforts to battle racism as it formulates how to respond more broadly.
“The George Floyd incident was terrible, and I think the broader point is that it's not an isolated incident, which is the most troubling thing,” Brimacombe said. “People are reacting strongly, and rightly so. We're taking time as an organization to understand the core issues, reflect on it, and determine how we address this.”
Eyeing Positive Future for Baking
In the midst of such a turbulent year, Puratos has benefitted from the dedication of its teams in the face of global and national crises. Brimacombe is upbeat about the future of his company and the baking industry, in light of strong consumer demand for baked goods and the industry’s strategic adaptability to fast-changing needs.
“I think we've got fantastic reasons for optimism,” he concluded. “We’re coming from a position of strength as an industry, which is really great.”
More Bake to the Future
- Listen to and read about Episode #13 with Brad Alexander about flexibility and communication in times of crisis and about his goals as the new ABA Chair.
- Listen to and read about Episode #14 with Jane Dummer about how companies can keep up with nutrition trends.
- Listen to and read about Episode #15 with Jesse Amoroso about his take as an emerging baking industry leader.