King Arthur Baking Company Co-CEO discusses trends and future of baking

King Arthur Baking Co. sold over 156 million pounds of flour in 2020, an increase of almost 60% from 2019. And while sales have slowly declined over the year, the company sees still cooking at levels of around 25% to 30% from the previous year, a trend which, according to Karen Colberg, Co-Managing Director of King Arthur, has made the company “excited about this. means for our future ”.

In a March 2 interview with Alexis Christoforous on Yahoo! Finance Live, Colberg weighed in on some of the trends that have played out for King Arthur over the past year.

“The winner was the leaven for us,” Colberg said. “And what that means is the making of bread. And what we do, what’s at the heart of what we do is teach people how to cook. And we were thrilled to be both the resource for the inspiration, the know-how, and the what to do, and then helping people hopefully get the product. …

“And the flip side is indulgence. And I think baking brought a lot of comfort to people, as well as an activity. And it has become a hobby – again, great for our future. But I think we see the indulgence of baking bread.

As King Arthur thinks about the future, health and well-being will play an important role, she said.

“Health and wellness is an area that you don’t necessarily associate with baking, but we have new products in that space because I think when people explore and want to do more with baking, they want to do it in a healthy way. way, ”she explained. “So we see that health and wellness, forgiveness and baking bread are all very important.”

Colberg mentioned two new products that King Arthur says fit into the realm of health and wellness: a baked sugar alternative and a keto flour.

“The alternative to baked sugar is a calorie-free, carbohydrate-free product,” she said. “And it cooks really well. And it took us a long time to get there. And when we bring a new product to the market, it has proven itself and it has to perform well for the baker. And so we are really excited about the alternative to baked sugar. And when you pair it with keto flour, you have new opportunities for people in a kind of healthier baking avenue.

She added that the sugar alternative and keto flour have also sparked interest from consumers who, while perhaps not interested in health and wellness, have shown an interest in experimenting because cooking has become a hobby.

Another aspect of King Arthur’s business that helps set it apart is its relationship with consumers, Colberg said. The company has seen a significant increase in the number of calls to its baker’s hotline as well as visits to its social media websites.

“I have always believed that what sets us apart in the market is our bond with our customers, our deep bond with bakers and being that resource,” she says.

The company’s bakery hotline has been around for 25 years and is here to help consumers solve a range of baking issues they may encounter. Social media efforts, meanwhile, are relatively new, and King Arthur has gone to great lengths over the past 12 months to create content that helps people learn how to do new things, as well as how to do it. publish recipes very quickly so people can learn to cook, Colberg said.

“And for us, so that’s probably one of the biggest learnings for us in the pandemic, is that we could do it, and we could do it quickly,” she said. “We pivoted.”

Colberg said maintaining the supply chain was a major challenge at the start of the pandemic, but the company has rallied and is now in a good position. However, it was a “big trip” between those two points, she said.

“We probably produced twice the amount of our all-purpose flour from the previous year, three times the amount of our bread flour,” she said. “These same levels also apply to our gluten-free category. And we disappointed a lot of customers early in the pandemic by being out of stock, both in our direct-to-consumer business, as well as on the grocery store shelves.

“So we committed to really significant stock levels so that during the peak cooking season, November, December, we were in stock and continue to be at this time. And having the inventory that people need is as important as inspiring them to cook. I think our priorities are inspiring, innovative and in stock. And we’re back where we want to be with inventory.

Asked about her take on King Arthur’s affairs once the pandemic is over, Colberg said, “So we’ve doubled the number of clients who have come to us this year. And for that – you know, I still think of it like this is our wasting opportunity. We need to both do everything that we do very well, which is engage consumers that I was telling you about and inspire them how to cook, and be in stock so they can cook. So we challenged us to say, let’s do everything we can to keep the market share we’ve gained.

“That said, we expect that, current society included, once we can travel and go out to dinner and have fun, go to entertainment and get together with friends, the time people spend in their home kitchens will drastically down from what it was in April, May of last year.

“But what we believe and predict – and we’re optimistic about baking – we think it’s going to be at levels that are, you know, probably 20%, 30% above what they were before COVID, which is aggressive, but again,… because people come to us and are lovers and passionate about baking and learning more with us, they stick with it, and these amateur bakers use a lot of flour.


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