Keep It Simple

For bakery and bake-off products, consumers increasingly desire simple and straightforward ingredient lists, reports Jonathan Thomas.

The bakery goods sector continues to represent one of the largest within the global food industry. The market has had to face several difficult challenges in recent years, not least the disruptions caused by the pandemic, as well as health concerns amongst large sections of the population. In the post-pandemic world, health perceptions appear to be changing – in the US, for example, the 2021 version of the Food & Health Survey undertaken every year by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) found that health concerns are leading people to focus upon what certain foods contain, rather than what ingredients had been taken out (as has been the case in the past).

According to the 2021 survey, 27% of respondents defined healthy by the presence of components such as fruit and vegetables, up from 17% five years previously. In contrast, the percentage of respondents that defined healthy foods by the absence of ingredients such as sugar, salt, saturated fats, etc. had fallen from 35% to 25% during the same period. One leading sector within the bakery goods market is that of part-baked and ready-to-bake foods.

Often referred to as bake-off solutions, this category encompasses products such as bread, rolls, baguettes and certain types of sweet pastries (e.g. croissants). Bake-off solutions remain popular with consumers, manufacturers and retailers alike, since they offer numerous advantages. These include improved convenience and timescales compared with baking products from scratch (which can assist in reducing overheads such as labour and energy costs), greater efficiencies in production (since operators can turn out higher volumes of bakery goods at lower cost) and the ability to offer a wider range of products.

Bake-off solutions can also help retailers and foodservice operators seeking to reformulate their products, a process which usually entails the addition or removal of certain ingredients. In Europe, bake-off solutions account for an estimated 20% of total production of bakery goods, a figure that increases to 30% for sweet pastries. Multinational food company Puratos expects the market to increase by around 3% per annum over the coming years, driven by the constant consumer desire for freshness and variety, as well as socio-demographic factors – examples include smaller household sizes, greater urbanisation of the population and busier lifestyles, which increase the appeal of convenience foods. 

Healthy Ingredients in Bakery

Health remains a major driver of consumer behaviour and hence new product activity within the market for bakery products such as bread. Well before the pandemic, many companies had already started on programmes of reformulation to improve the nutritional profile of their products, in response to consumer concerns that bakery goods were excessively high in sugar, salt, saturated fats, etc.

Much of the health-related NPD which has taken place within the industry of late has taken the form of manufacturers incorporating ingredients into their products to address these fears. The global food additives and ingredients market was valued at almost USD38bn in 2021 by Market Data Forecast. This figure is projected to increase to more than USD55bn by 2026, with much of the growth driven by reformulation of various food and beverages on health grounds. Fibre is strongly linked with bakery goods such as bread, especially varieties such as granary, wholemeal and pumpernickel.

Its many benefits include its digestive health benefits, as well as the lower risk of conditions such as heart disease, bowel cancer, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. In the UK, government guidelines recommend a daily fibre intake of 30g, although the average figure for adults (according to latest data) is just under 20g. Some recent studies have discovered ingredients capable of increasing the fibre content of bakery goods. In the summer of 2022, research carried out by the University of Munich (which had been commissioned by the food ingredients supplier Loryma) developed a new resistant wheat starch, which has been named Lory Starch Elara. This can potentially replace conventional starch or flour in bakery applications such as bread and biscuits, creating a higher fibre content.

Around the same time, researchers at Aligarh Muslim University in India found that adding flour from banana peel to cookie batter could raise fibre levels, as well as resulting in a higher content of minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Wholemeal products account for a sizeable percentage of the global bread market, given that they offer flavour and texture in addition to health benefits. Within the bake-off market, the Allinson’s range in the UK was extended during the autumn of 2022 with two new Heat & Eat batch-baked rolls. These can be prepared in the oven within five minutes, resulting in a crispy crust and a soft and warm interior and appealing to consumers attracted to bakery items fresh from the oven. The rolls were launched in Wholemeal & Rye and Seeded Wholemeal, reflecting the fact that products fortified with ingredients such as seeds continue to appeal to many consumers. Seeds are recognised as a good source of fibre and protein and have been linked with lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Bakery products with enhanced protein levels have also become more commonplace in recent years. Protein offers health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and improving muscle and bone strength, while it has also been linked with weight management. Numerous bakery brands now feature the health claim ‘high in protein’ – in the UK market, for example, the Warburtons range now includes loaves, rolls and wraps marketed as a good source of protein. Staying in the UK, researchers from various academic institutions have been experimenting with faba beans. It has been suggested that flour made from faba beans could potentially replace soy flour in bread, thereby raising protein levels.

To read the entire article, please access your complimentary e-copy of Frozen Food Europe September-October, 2022 issue here.