Paradoxically, while consumers have come to expect as few ingredients as possible in their bread, they are also expressing an interest in healthier additions, reports Jonathan Thomas.
Bread consumption held up throughout much of the world during the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In certain countries and regions, sales were boosted by the lockdown measures imposed to curb the spread of the virus — for instance, the closure of many workplace increased demand amongst homeworkers for bread with which to create breakfasts and lunches that otherwise would have been eaten out of the home. Even before the arrival of the pandemic, bread consumption had started to recover from the dip witnessed in the middle of the last decade, when bread began to attract some negative attention concerning its allegedly unhealthy nature, specifically its high salt and calorie levels.
Much of the recovery within the bread market observed since then has been attributed to growing consumer interest in more premium and artisanal varieties. However, the emergence of healthier breads has also succeeded in attracting lapsed consumers back to the category, while manufacturers have undergone reformulation efforts to boost the nutritional appeal of bread. This trend has been apparent within the frozen, fresh and industrial bread categories. Away from the bread sector, consumer interest in healthy attributes such as clean label continues to increase for other types of bakery goods, e.g. cakes, muffins and biscuits.
Health remains a major driver of consumer behaviour and hence new product activity within the market for bakery products such as bread. Typically, health-related NPD has taken the form of manufacturers incorporating ingredients associated with health benefits (such as protein, ancient grains, fibre, seeds, etc.), reducing calories or launching products geared towards certain diets and/or lifestyles. These health trends remain at the forefront of corporate strategy for many manufacturers of frozen dough and part-baked products.
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