Food Products

How sourdough bread is staging a comeback amid a stagnant US bread industry

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The rise of sourdough bread

Bread has been a staple in the human diet for thousands of years. But for the last few decades, modern diets have villainized it.

On average, American consumers spent less money on bread in 2017 than they did just four years earlier. According to Nielsen, total bread sales in the United States have been stagnant since 2015, showing little to no growth leading up to 2020.

In an industry where small players battle low margins and excess capacity, the bread business has had to consolidate. Publicly traded Flowers Foods bought out Wonder Bread, one of the biggest names in bread. It also acquired licenses to the Sara Lee and Earthgrains brands in parts of the U.S.

Another big problem for bread? It's facing increased scrutiny for some of its extra ingredients, such as chemical dough conditioners, preservatives, added sugar and GMOs. The additives allow manufacturers to produce a loaf in less time, prolong its shelf-life and keep the bread soft.

But bread is making a comeback, specifically sourdough bread. According to Nielsen, sales of sourdough bread grew about 11 percent from 2015 to 2019 to over $325.9 million. Sourdough is also becoming more popular at restaurants. Last year, sourdough bread was on 14.3 percent of restaurant menus, up from 11.6 percent 10 years earlier.

A study by Grand View Research saw the market value of sourdough jump from $298.7 million in 2014 to $2.4 billion in 2018.

The question now — is the sourdough market destined to keep on rising — or is this just another fad, destined to fade? Watch the video above to learn more about sourdough's comeback.

Correction: This story was revised to correct that Flowers Foods acquired a license to Sara Lee in parts of the U.S.