Soft pretzel products still worth hard look from bakers and grocers

Just a few years ago it seemed that mouthwatering soft pretzels were impossible to track down unless you frequented mall food courts, county fairs and renaissance festivals. Times have changed quite a bit over the past few years,¬†considering how easy it is to find a pretzel burger these days. While new food fads seem to roll out every year, it’s less common for flavors to see a niche trend build up an audience, explode across numerous industries and establish staying power as a customer favorite. Pretzels, it seems, are the exception to this rule.

In addition to finding a spot on menus in quick-service chains across the country, soft pretzels are also taking off as a menu item featured by bakers and grocers. While a healthy serving of carbs and salt may not be an ideal addition to every selection, the pretzel trend is one that’s worth a second look from restaurant, grocery and business managers alike.

“The era of the pretzel has arrived.”

Retailers and restaurants across the spectrum add pretzels to the menu
Pretzel products have picked up a long list of converts from their days brand irrelevancy in the mid-2000s. According to data collected by food industry researcher Technomic in 2004, a measly 13 food items featuring pretzels showed up on the menus of the nation’s top 500 restaurant chain.

Fast forward a few years to 2009 and the data reveals that five times as many restaurants and retailers now had pretzel items to their menus compared to 2004. Additionally, more full-service restaurants began to offer soft pretzels as side items and entrees. By the end of 2014, the pretzel fad made its mark on consumers and retailers across the country. Considering that some restaurants have go so far as to debut pretzel pizza crusts, it’s safe to say that the era of the pretzel has arrived.

Pretzels earn full marks from consumers in search of artisan tastes
One likely reason that the pretzel fad has continued to ramp up instead of cooling off is due to a broader flavor trend sweeping the nation. Nation’s Restaurant News noted that customers have higher aspirations (and expectations) concerning the types of flavor profile that artisan breads can bring to the table.

“The snack food is now a hit among picky eaters.”

“Bread is the undisputed foundation of every great sandwich,” said Mark Mears, chief marketing officer of Schlotzsky’s Franchise. “Guests are more discriminating than ever before. They know more about food and want to explore new flavor options.” When it comes to evaluating the value of an artisan bread option, customers prioritize freshness, presentation and the chance to bite into another culture. The sweet and salty allure of a piping hot pretzel, along with the product’s German heritage, has made the one-time snack food a hit among highly discerning eaters.

Bakeries will need special equipment to rise to the occasion
Restaurant Business pointed out that grocers, bakeries, restaurants and retailers considering a knotted approach to riding the artisan bread wave will have to update their operations accordingly:

  • High-performance dough mixers ensure artisan-quality taste
  • Lye applicators help pretzels achieve dark skins and moist, chewy centers
  • Reliable rack ovens are necessary to bake at commercial volume
  • Infared¬†heating speeds up production by taking frozen to fresh less than 10 minutes

Without the right equipment, the cost of adding pretzels could quickly exceed the potential ROI. This speaks to the need for retailers, bakeries and grocers alike to identify the most cost-effective, reliable pretzel equipment available before making a serious investment. Not getting the scoop on pretzels makes it more likely for a business’s operations to get twisted.