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America revels in the pretzel

A rarity in SA bakery books, it’s pretzel mania time in the US. The pretzel is taking over the American stomach — particularly as a holding vehicle for burgers and sandwiches. And the trend is fast moving beyond bread.

A record 160 pretzel products were launched last year, compared with 60 in 2009, says research specialist Mintel.

A national rollout of 7-Eleven’s first pretzel sandwich has begun. And next week Wendy’s, which arguably started the national pretzel mania with its summer rollout of the wildly successful Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger (pictured – and which sells for a hefty $4.69), is about to introduce yet another pretzel product: a chicken sandwich served on a pretzel bun.

The pretzel craze has extended into fall with 7-Eleven’s Diablo Chicken Ranch Sandwich and Wendy’s upcoming Pretzel Pub Chicken sandwich.

Mintel’s new-products guru, Lynn Dornblaser, is projecting the possibility that a pretzel doggie treat will hit the market. After all, many folks love to feed their pooches dog-ified versions of what they eat. “It seems inevitable,” says Dornblaser.

So many restaurants already have jumped in — and some, already out — that pretzel buns are almost becoming common. Blimpie got into the action by putting pretzel bread on its permanent menu in June. Sonic rolled out a Cheesy Bacon Pretzel Dog over the summer. Last month, Ruby Tuesday introduced four different pretzel burgers, and Dunkin’ Donuts introduced a Pretzel Roll Roast Beef Sandwich. Red Robin just brought back its Octoberfest Burger served on a pretzel bun. Even Starbucks has a Stoneground Dijon Bavarian-Style Pretzel — with the mustard inside.

But fast food’s pretzel innovations aren’t limited to sandwiches. In April, Dairy Queen unveiled what it called a Choco-Covered Peanut Butter Pretzel Blizzard.

For 7-Eleven, plopping a sandwich inside a pretzel bun was a no-brainer, says Kelly Buckley, vice president of fresh foods innovation. “We know that one of the first senses you want to hit is a visual ‘wow.’ ”

Customers’ requests drove Wendy’s to add the Pretzel Pub Chicken sandwich, which rolls out Monday, says spokesman Denny Lynch.

Pretzels have been transplanted into just about everything this year. Just this month, Aldi rolled out Pretzel Bread Stuffed Sandwiches to compete with Hot Pockets. Wal-Mart sold Great Value Parmesan Garlic-Flavored Pretzel Balls. And last month, Nature Valley rolled out Chocolate Pretzel Nut granola bars.

What’s driving all this pretzel-mania?

For one thing, says Dornblaser, pretzels taste yummy and crunchy but don’t typically come loaded with all the fat grams of other breads and pastries.

Look for crushed pretzels showing up in fancier entrees soon, she suggests, in the form of pretzel-crusted fish or pretzel-crusted chicken.

Source: USAToday

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