Being called "recession-proof" or even the more positive "recession-fueled" is the sort of designation that doesn’t very often happen to baking. Yet, that is the very description just won from one of the leading market research firms, Mintel.

This assessment was made by Mintel after reviewing and revising its previous forecasts of food and many other industries in the wake of the recession. For the food and drinks business in general, the firm concludes that "markets are actually being improved by recessionary woes."

In singling out industries benefiting from the downturn, Mintel gave top position to bread as "faring the recession quite well." Its original study predicted bread market growth in 2008 of 2.1%, which contrasts with figures placing growth last year at 7%. In a forecast that is one of the more positive any industry could desire, the firm says it "now predicts higher growth for bread through 2013." Along the same line, it predicts sweet spreads used on bread as experiencing 26% growth in 2008-2013, as compared with its earlier prediction of 12%.

Mintel attributes baking’s resistance to the downturn – as shown by disappointing retail sales data – to these three factors. Here are the ways these products fit into comfort/simple food categories; their availability in supermarkets at relatively low prices and ease of home preparation. Based on the latest forecasts of the broad economic outlook, including dismal employment prospects, it seems likely that conditions favoring bread will continue.