Balancing Indulgence with Health in the U.S. & Europe

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Though the wellness trend has been growing strong across the world, developed countries have had a substantial share in triggering a paradigm shift in consumers’ perception of bakery products. This has opened a whole new world of opportunities for bakery products that are whole-grain, gluten-free, vegan, organic, or simply “healthy” in North American and European markets.

The health & wellness wave has come a long way; its impacts have ingrained significant changes in the way the bakery industry operates. The dynamic consumer demands for low-calorie and nutritious food products have influenced bakers’ strategies to mainly revolve around health-benefitting ingredients and manufacturing processes.

Regulations in North America and Europe

As the demand for healthy baked goods with labels such as ‘gluten-free’ or ‘organic’, has increased significantly, regulatory bodies have entered the landscape with a set of strict labeling requirements. While the awareness about regulations imposed on baked food products is growing, health-conscious consumers are also becoming more skeptical about ingredients before making a purchase. This is also boosting the growth of the ‘clean label movement’ in both regions. The EU has been regulating the use of food additives, flavors, and bakery enzymes with the imposition of Regulation (EC) No 1331/2008 and Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008. In January 2018, the EU announced an amendment to the Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008, which highlights the use of sweeteners in fine bakery products. With this regulation, the EU has imposed a ban on the use of artificial sweeteners, such as E 950 Acesulfame K, E 951 Aspartame, E 961 Neotame, and E 955 Sucralose, in fine bakery products with specific nutritional benefits.

In North America, the FDA has imposed stringent regulations on the manufacturing and marketing of all the food products, especially regarding baked goods that are promoted as “healthy”. The FDA recently published new standards for non-GMO bakery—an important segment in the healthy bakery industry in North America—and new labeling regulations are afoot.

Health – Universal Driver for Innovation

Bakers and confectioners are riding on the coattails of product innovation to offer healthy bakery items and ultimately to gain a competitive edge in the market. Innovations are varying in terms of ingredients, production engineering, flavors, and bakery performance.

Cargill, one of the global leaders in the bakery industry, recently launched its new palm oil shortening line, PalmAgility, to enhance performance in various bakery products such as donuts, pies, crème fillings. With the regulatory restriction on partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in the U.S., a shift is triggered towards palm-based alternatives to achieve creamier and smoother texture in bakery products, on which Cargill is planning to capitalize with the launch of PalmAgility.

Bellarise, the North American subsidiary of the Pak Group, recently announced that it has launched a new dairy-free, non-GMO, allergen-free and gluten-free alternative for egg wash in baked goods. The company also announced that it launched the new vegan egg wash replacer is a clean label ingredient to meet the changing needs voiced by industrial and commercial bakeries in North America.

Bimbo Bakeries USA recently announced the launch of its latest line of 100% organic bread in the American markets. The company has added a variety of breads to its latest product line, including 100% whole-grain breads; organic 22 grains and seeds bread; and organic rustic while bread.

Supermarkets and Hypermarkets in the U.S.

Health-driven purchasing habits of consumers have changed significantly in the past decade, directing the recent trends in the supermarket and hypermarket sector. More than 90% of the sales of organic bakery products including breads, are accounted for by conventional and natural food supermarkets and chains.

The demand for organic and bio-based bakery products is witnessing double-digit growth, reflecting in attractive market incentives for organic and vegan bakers in North America, especially in the U.S. In the country, organic products can be found in the isles in nearly 3 in 4 grocery stores. A recent study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that organic food products have reached more than 20,000 natural food stores.

Bakery manufacturers are adopting strategies to satisfy a mindful consumer with trendy healthy ingredients and smaller package sizes. With consumers adopting healthier snacking habits, bakers are focusing on introducing bakery products with small portion sizes such as packages of two buns, half loaves, and four-packs of cookies. The recent rise in demand for healthy snacking options is expected to create immense sales potential for artisan breads and healthier snack items in the coming years.

Source: World Bakers