Bill Schwab knows bagels.
Zayde’s Bagel & Bake Shop in Saugus has been boiling the hard, crusty rolls since his father-in-law set up shop 80 years ago. But business has been slipping lately, as the bagel goes from old-world wonder to mass-marketed commodity.
Schwab’s ancestors would be shocked by what’s out there now: bagels with chocolate chips, jalapenos and cheese. And they’d be stunned to know who has become one of the nation’s biggest bagel retailer nowadays: Dunkin’ Donuts.
Dunkin’ Donuts’ parent, Allied Domecq PLC of Britain, began rolling out the bagels nationally last June. Sold in 2,100 of the chain’s 3,100 U.S. stores, they are expected to account for 15 percent of sales by year’s end.
Dunkin’ Donuts claims to be No. 1 in bagels because it has more stores selling them than anyone else. But the Randolph-based chain sells only about 4 million a week; Bruegger’s Bagels claims to sell approximately 7 million at its 480 stores.
Bagels are a $2.6 billion-a-year industry that will probably grow to $3 billion within a few years, according to Patrick Kearns, associate editor of Modern Baking, a trade magazine. Fresh-baked donuts, by comparison, have annual sales of about $1.8 billion, Kearns said.
Last year was the first time the magazine tallied bagel sales.
“Nobody really used to track figures. It’s only been within the last three to four years that everyone’s really been smitten with bagels,” he said.
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