The baking frenzy of 2020 may still be alive and well, but in 2021 small bakery owners got their customers back. Baking sourdough bread was a popular lockdown project in 2020. Data provided by Square shows that US sourdough sales initially plummeted during the onset of the pandemic but recovered and remained stable throughout 2020. Sales of the naturally fermented bread rose from there. Bakeries are now selling more loaves than before the pandemic began.
“Many bakeries have seen their sales recover from the early pandemic decline and grow at faster rates compared to before the pandemic,” said Vanessa Qian, a data analyst at Square. “These businesses have thrived despite pandemic uncertainty and many adapted their operations early in the pandemic by offering new services like online stores with pickup and delivery options or selling staples like coffee, flour, and sourdough starters, to drive sales.”
Sourdough was not the only baked good that gained popularity in 2021. Sweets skyrocketed, with triple chocolate cookies seeing an over 5,000% percent growth in sales from 2019 to 2021. Raisin loaf followed, along with white cake, and strawberry cake. Chocolate chip cookies and molasses cookies not only remained popular but saw big growth too.
“You can’t beat chocolate chip, I feel like that’s the vanilla ice cream of the cookie world that will always take the top spot,” said Kat Gordon, owner of Muddy’s Bake Shop in Memphis. Muddy’s has also seen an increase in sales of vanilla bean wafers and toffee bark—shelf-stable cookies that can be stored and munched on over longer time periods.
What people didn’t come back for? The cruffin (a sugar-coated croissant muffin), cowboy cookie, plain doughnut, spice cake, frosted doughnut, and macarons. Sales of macarons fell 75% from 2019 to 2021.
Data from Square shows a sharp increase in demand for cake pops (cake shaped into balls, stuck on a stick, and dipped in icing) in the west.
The figures on all of the products reflect bakeries’ menus as well as consumer demand. For instance, cake popsicles (where the cake is slab-shaped rather than ball-shaped) had even faster growth through 2021, but data for it was relatively sparse in 2019. “Merchants really began selling and seeing demand for cake popsicles in 2020 and 2021,” said Ali Snider at Square. “In comparison, cake pops have been sold for longer and the product name is more familiar.”
A return to sales doesn’t necessarily mean people stopped making their own sourdough or other baked goods. Muddy’s Bake Shop consolidated locations during the pandemic and now has a larger space where its baking workshops have sold out. “We’re teaching people how to make our stuff, but it doesn’t seem like customers are looking to replace us,” Gordon said. “They want to understand it better, they want to learn something new. But the reality is they’re also busy, and it’s still going to be easier to swing by here.”