Bringing Bakery Out of the Low-Carb Shadow

From gut health to personalised nutrition, bread is poised for healthy revival and innovative product development is paving the way to a new era of opportunity for those in the sector.

Since low-carb diets pulled the rug from under their sales, bakers are facing one of the best opportunities to capture a bigger share of consumer shopping baskets. A growing awareness that good gut health means more than digestive comfort has the potential to drive bakery innovation to a higher level of sophistication.

In a recent special report, Mintel noted that consumers have begun treating their bodies like an ecosystem. This is prompting their search for functional food products that complement their personal health needs.

There is a melting pot of development possibilities where many of the ingredients that bakers already use can be reframed in new nutritional concepts that use gut health as a starting point.

The Mintel Global New Products Database gives a good indication of where bakery growth is heading.

Digestive Health on the Rise

Gluten-free and other claims related to digestive health have risen steadily year-on-year since 2016. Sourdough products have leapt in popularity and there is growing mention of added fibre and sprouted grain on bread labels.

There is plenty of room for further product development, but there are challenged to hurdle before bakers can make the most of these opportunities. Some gluten-free breads, for example, continue to stand out for their poor sensory quality despite improvements in bakery technology.

“The technical challenges surrounding gluten mean there is a huge space for quality improvement,” noted Signe Causee, innovation marketing leader at ingredient company IFF.

“Although some markets, like the UK, have made major progress within the gluten-free product development, the choice of products remains largely poor, fresh-keeping is not good, and taste is typically bland.”

Causse also noted that there are tailored solutions available now that can significantly improve the chances of successful gluten replacement or restore strength to bread dough if the gluten is compromised. The fibre gap is another challenge, here probiotics can enable fibre enrichment and support the growth of healthy gut microflora, without altering taste and texture.

Bringing the possibility to add live culture to baked goods before the baking process, new spore-forming bacteria have arrived on the market. Although currently targeted towards cereals and bars, according to Causse, it is only a matter of time before the value-adding potential of these other functional ingredients becomes more widely acknowledged within the baker sector.

“Personalised nutrition is an upcoming white space that will take the conversation beyond gut health. We’ve already seen baked goods enriched with protein and plant inclusions as well as ‘fitness bread’ for weight management. So it’s easy to imagine a future for bread products that target women’s or kid’s health, for example,” concluded Causse.

“Bakers should see this as an interesting opportunity moving forward.”