Store Owner’s Guide to Storing Bread
Most prevailing wisdom for keeping bread fresh suggests things to do once the bread is out of the store and in someone’s pantry. Your customers can always keep their baked goods purchases in a quality bread box to maintain the best storage conditions. If you’re facing spoilage before your bread has a chance to reach your customers’ carts, it can be frustrating. After all, your grocery store can’t keep its entire bread aisle in a bread box.
The good news is, you and your clerks can do plenty of things to preserve bread’s freshness on the shelves. We’ve compiled this guide to storing bread for store owners to show you how to maximize your baked goods inventory.
The Science of Keeping Bread Fresh
When bread goes stale, it’s undergoing a chemical reaction. Technically, staleness is the first sign that bread is going bad or rotten. Though slightly stale bread is safe to eat, you can’t sell it at the grocery store.
Bread goes stale when the starch reacts with the air around it. Cooler temperatures make the starch crystallize or retrograde. Moisture in the air can also contribute to retrogradation. As crystals form on the outside of the bread, it dries out, with the edges going stale faster. This condition happens regardless of the temperature. So, even bread stored at room temperature will go stale. However, it happens much faster when refrigerated.
Bread begins to go stale at room temperature after one to three days. It lasts longer when properly packaged. Sliced bread begins to go stale in about an hour unless it’s in packaging. Bread also goes stale due to temperature variations. Moving from a refrigerated area to a heated area can cause staleness.
The other cause of spoilage is mold, which thrives at room temperature and in moist environments. Mold is an organic microbe. Its small spores travel by air and find their way into all kinds of food, including baked goods. Sugar and carbohydrates are excellent food sources that allow mold spores to bloom into visible colonies. Mold begins to form on bread after five to seven days.
While refrigeration can extend the bread’s shelf life by preventing mold, it’s not ideal since it causes staling. Freezing preserves it from staling and mold growth for two to three months, which is why many grocery stores choose to source frozen bread from their bakeries.
10 Tips for Storing Bread and Keeping It Fresh
Whether you get fresh bread delivered a few times a week or store it frozen on site, keeping it fresh for as long as possible is critical. Preventing bread from going bad benefits your bottom line by reducing inventory loss, and it simultaneously lessens food waste. While all bread eventually spoils, you can optimize your storage conditions to help it last longer. Here’s how to keep bread fresh in a store.
1. Practice Temperature Control
Many consumers toss their bread right in the fridge when they arrive home from the grocery store. They might even wonder why the store doesn’t keep it in the refrigerated section. Since refrigeration speeds up staling, this is not the best storage strategy.
Room temperature is best for storing most bread, at around 68 degrees. Studies show white, semi-white and black bread varieties all keep best at room temperature for the first 24 to 48 hours. In-store bakeries do well to control this temperature as much as possible. It’s best to keep the bakery section far away from the refrigerated aisles to maintain the right temperature. The bakery should also stay out of direct sunlight, so think about the locations of your store’s windows, too.
2. Maintain the Air Circulation Balancing Act
While reactions with the air can make the bread’s soft inside go stale, the crust needs enough air circulation to keep it crusty. When the bread comes right out of the oven, it needs air circulation to aid the cooling process. If your store’s bakery thaws frozen bread in its ovens, allow for appropriate airflow over the loaves as they cool. A general rule of thumb is to configure your air handling system to provide 20 to 25 air changes per hour.
Packaging the cool loaves in paper bags prevents moisture from getting trapped next to the bread. Allowing a small amount of air circulation over the loaves while they’re on the shelves can help maintain the crispy outer crust.
3. Beat Mold With an Air Filter
Besides staleness, the other worry when it comes to bread storage is mold. Microscopic mold spores can float into your store from anywhere and plant themselves on bread. Your loaves packaged in paper bags are most susceptible to air exposure. Preventing mold growth is a smart investment for your entire store. Everything from your produce to your dairy will last longer with cleaner air.
A HEPA filter can install easily into your current air handling system and filter out 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold and bacteria. It’s also essential to have your HVAC system cleaned regularly, especially the drip pans. Consider installing an ultraviolet germicidal irradiation light in your HVAC system. The UV light cleaner can kill mold and bacteria within the HVAC system itself — on the cooling coils, drain pans and ductwork — and prevent it from recirculating into your store. Work with an HVAC professional to design an air filtration system to keep all your products, including bread, as fresh as possible.
4. Dehumidify the Air
Humidity is another balancing act when keeping bread fresh. A bit of moisture keeps bread fresh. Too much can make it go stale, and crust go soft. A recipe with a lot of salt can absorb moisture from the air if the humidity is too high. Humidity also creates an ideal environment for mold to flourish. The best condition for baked goods is a relative humidity of under 50%.
5. Organize According to Shelf Life
It’s best to thaw only the amount of bread you plan to sell in a day, so you can sell it fresh. It might even be beneficial to warm bread in small batches, so you’re continually putting out the freshest product for your customers. If you find you have loaves left over at the end of the day, organize them so they’re at the front of the shelves and sell first.
In the sliced bread section, where goods can last for several days to a week in their plastic packaging, keep careful watch over expiration dates. Organize the shelves according to first-in-first-out principles, with the oldest bags in the closest reach. This organization encourages customers to buy the products before they expire to minimize inventory shrinkage.
When stocking bread, pay attention to the dates on the labels. Some bread brands may use different types of quality, freshness and expiration dates. These variations can be confusing to consumers, and a grocer who sells several brands must keep track of what each date means.
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t mandate expiration dates for bread, you might see date labeling such as the following.
- Best if used by/before: This date doesn’t indicate safety or prescribe a purchase deadline. Instead, it suggests when a product will have the best flavor or quality. It’s the most commonly used date for perishable goods. Grocery stores should try to sell bread a few days to a week before the best-by date.
- Sell by: This date is the easiest to understand as a grocer. Anything past the sell-by date shouldn’t be on display. Prioritize packages nearing their sell-by dates. After the sell-by date, the bread is still safe for consumption for at least a few days. Consider donating bread past its sell-by date to food banks.
- Use by: This date is similar to the “best if used by/before” labeling. It gives a recommendation for peak quality.
- Freeze by: Bread is a commonly frozen grocery store product. This date lets your customers know when they should freeze a product to maintain its quality. While it doesn’t indicate safety, bread clerks should prioritize sales about a week to a few days before the freeze-by date.
- Guaranteed fresh: Perishable baked goods often use this phrasing. Bread will stay fresh until at least the printed date.
- Expiration date: Don’t sell or donate any bread past its expiration date. This date label is the only absolute safety indicator.
6. Package Your Bread Properly
If you receive fresh bread in your store, your manufacturer will package it to preserve freshness. If you receive frozen bread products, it’s crucial to repackage them correctly. After thawing frozen bread, wait for it to cool completely before packaging it for sale. Packaging bread while it is still warm will trap moisture near the bread, speeding up crystallization or mold growth and leaving bread slightly soggy as it cools.
Customers expect sliced bread, rolls, English muffins and the like to last a week or more in their homes. You shouldn’t package these products in paper bags like you might with bread meant for same-day consumption. The best way to make this bread last is in plastic packaging, which preserves the bread from outside air.
New technologies can also prevent staling and molding to extend shelf life. Modified atmosphere packaging limits oxygen inside the bag, slowing down microbial spoilage due to mold and bacteria. Selective gas barrier foils reduce both moisture and oxygen inside the packaging.
7. Use Merchandising to Sell Bread Faster
At some point, all bread turns stale. While you can delay the process in-store with the right air quality conditions and packaging, you won’t be able to extend its shelf life beyond its natural end. The best way to keep your bread aisle fresh is with speedy inventory turnover.
Grocery stores can use all sorts of tricks to unload bread before it goes stale. A buy-one, get-one sale can encourage customers to buy an extra bag when they’re nearing the end of their shelf lives. When you focus on merchandising, you’ll quickly learn that displays sell! According to the Point of Purchase Advertising International and the Shop Association, in-store retail displays can generate an impressive 193% sales increase, depending on the execution. Creative displays, sale pricing, planogramming, product demos and cross-merchandising can all help you sell bread most efficiently.
Not all bread suppliers have dedicated merchandising teams to maximize weekly sales. Gold Medal Bakery is different. We have committed sales and merchandising teams who personally visit our customers’ stores to assist your bread clerk with marketing and merchandising. We perform market trend analysis, program tracking, point-of-sale materials, product demos, in-store training for bread clerks and other services to help you get the most out of your sales.
8. Reorder Bread More Frequently
If you’re doing everything right and still ending up with stale bread, one solution may be to order smaller quantities more frequently. If you buy in smaller amounts, you can sell quickly and restock fresh bread, so your inventory never reaches its expiration date. Just-in-time inventory management can help you maximize shelf space and is especially useful for perishable goods like bakery products.
At Gold Medal Bakery, we can analyze your weekly sales trends to find all your bread products’ optimal stock levels. When you reorder through our online ordering tool, you can expect fast five-day delivery. If you’re in our direct delivery range, you can adjust your order up to 72 hours before delivery. We also offer overnight delivery, weather-sensitive order planning and holiday order planning, so you can always strategize your bread aisle restocking for maximum freshness. All our fresh deliveries arrive on the same day we bake them.
9. Buy Frozen
Gold Medal Bakery lets you customize a fresh and frozen program for your store. When you buy frozen bread, you’re buying full baked bread that is immediately frozen and packaged in boxes.
Freezing lets us ship our delicious premium bread products all over the country. If desired, you may continue to store it frozen on-site and bake it in your commercial bakery as needed. Once thawed, it has a similar shelf life to non-frozen bread. Unlike refrigeration, freezing baked goods does not quicken retrogradation. The freezer prevents moisture, mold and bacteria from reaching bread products.
10. Understand Your Bread’s Ingredients
In general, storing white bread is no different from storing wheat bread. However, the bread’s ingredients can affect its shelf life. Understanding your bread’s ingredients lets you know the shelf life you have to work with. Bread with preservatives will last longer unfrozen than it will without. If you partner with a manufacturer to co-package your bread recipe, it’s even more crucial to understand how your chosen ingredients can improve your product’s shelf life.
Commercial bakeries use two types of ingredients to slow spoilage — emulsifiers and enzymes. Emulsifiers keep bread from going stale by preventing oil and water from separating. Adding emulsifiers sometimes goes by the names “crumb softening” or “dough conditioning” because it works to preserve texture. Some emulsifying ingredients include:
- Soy lecithin
Enzymes can also improve baked goods’ shelf lives. Enzymes like amylase enhance the flour. By enabling more carbon dioxide in the baking process, the finished product becomes fluffier. Other enzymes help the crumb stay soft and taste good. They include:
Since enzymes aren’t on most ingredient labels, ask your supplier or co-packager about the enzymes used in your bread and how they affect the shelf life.
It’s also essential to note moisture affects shelf life. High-moisture bread varieties tend to spoil sooner because they give bacteria an ideal environment to grow. Adding sugary ingredients, such as sugar, honey and glycerol, can reduce water activity in bread. Bakers reduce moisture in high-fiber doughs by adding the enzyme cellulase. Any of these ingredients yield a drier bread with a longer shelf life.
Contact Gold Medal Bakery for Your Bread Needs
Gold Medal Bakery is your partner for private label and co-packaged bread and all your bread aisle needs. We go above and beyond other bakeries by visiting you at your store and helping you optimize your baked products for freshness and minimal inventory loss. We bake high-quality bread with a difference your customers can taste. Ask us about our products’ shelf lives and learn other tips for keeping bread fresh from our helpful team. We’d love to tell you more about our bread programs, so give us a call or reach out online.