How the bakery category can take advantage of nutritional trends

Permissible indulgence is currently the biggest buzzword in bakery, with the latest trends in health and nutrition providing plenty of opportunities for NPD.

18 December 2019
bakerybiscuitscaloriesmeet the expertnutritionproteinsugar

Meet the Expert

Who: Julian Mellentin

What: Founder

Where: New Nutrition Business


Amid all the discussion about health and nutrition, we should never lose sight of the fact that pleasure and honest indulgence is one of the biggest advantages that baked products have.

Earlier this month, at FIE 2019 in Paris, I presented and discussed the following points, evidencing that honest indulgences with exciting flavours and ingredients open up lots of opportunities for new product development and better margins. Many bakeries are already doing well by offering truly indulgent products made with ‘real’ ingredients like butter, eggs and premium chocolate.

Thanks to the powerful trends in health and nutrition, the next 10 years will be filled with challenges and opportunities to renovate existing products and create new ones – and the biggest opportunity in bakery is the strategy of permissible indulgence.

Advantages to being thin

Positioning a product as ‘permission to indulge’ has consistently proven to be one of the smartest strategies any company can adopt. What people want most from a product is a ‘healthier’ message that gives them permission to enjoy themselves and still feel good about their choices.

Many bakery products can now be found in smaller or thinner formats that give consumers permission to indulge. Oreo Thins, the ‘better for you’ variant of the world’s most-successful cookie brand, is a good example.

In the US, Thins picked up $100m in first year sales – all incremental business – with its promise of enjoyment without guilt. It’s a similar story in most countries – and it has achieved this despite selling at a 100% premium to regular Oreos.

Warburtons Thins – a narrow bread pocket – are enjoying 20% annual growth in the UK and will soon outsell the company’s regular bread loaves.

Nutella’s B-ready is a biscuit containing Nutella (an ingredient which is 56% sugar) and promises just 100 calories; it’s done well in France and Italy, and in 2018-19 was the most successful new product in the UK.

Plant power and killing carbs

Vegetables will be showing up more in baked goods. One of the best examples is a bread marketed since 2016 by Fazer, in Finland, which is 30% vegetables in place of flour. Other examples are bread and wraps with added beetroot, carrot or spinach, and pizza bases made from cauliflower. Caulipower in the US has built a $100m annual sales business on its ‘grain-free’ cauliflower pizza bases.

The gradual shift by consumers towards eating ‘fewer carbs’ and ‘better carbs’ has big long-term implications, and no-one should mistake it for a fad. In 2019, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) listed low-carb and very low-carb as a scientifically valid way of reversing type-2 diabetes – and it’s already mainstream medical practice in the UK. The side effect is significant weight loss, and that’s drawing in a growing number of mainstream consumers.

Shunning sugar

Less sugar – the ultimate ‘bad carb’ – is now mainstream and will continue to drive NPD.

In Australia, the Noshu brand of doughnuts and cakes has grown steadily by focusing on permissible indulgence, offering ‘decadent products’ that are also sugar-free and low-carb, such as its Guilt-Free Donut. Noshu claims to use only “natural sugar substitutes” – honey, for example, is seen by many consumers as a ‘better sugar’ because it’s natural.

One of the biggest winners among sweeteners is date paste. For consumers, its sugar content is acceptable because it’s natural fruit sugar – which many people see as a heathier choice. Dates have become an ingredient that ‘can do no wrong’ and you will find them at the core of healthier new product launches from Kellogg and many others.

Healthy push

Authenticity and provenance matter more and are an opportunity for more value-added products. You can see this in the rise of the sourdough bread, from Spain to Hong Kong. Many consumers want to reconnect with the authentic and traditional processes and methods – and if they provide an extra perceived health benefit, all the better.

Protein will show up more in baked goods. It’s got a ‘naturally healthy’ halo, it’s easy for people to understand and it has an association in consumers’ minds with fitness, weight management and a good body shape.

An example is Ryvita crispbread with added plant protein – pea protein in this case. This won’t be a big trend, but it’s still an opportunity for a differentiated product in your range. If you look at the successes in the dairy and snack bar categories, they are those products which offer both more protein and less sugar. I think that’s a consumer interest that’s transferable into bakery.

Adding some protein to a baked product in combination with an indulgent flavour gives people the protein they want – plus permission to indulge. A good example is Unilever’s successful Graze snack brand, which includes protein brownies and protein cakes.

Everyone wants to make a lasting difference to their business, get more volume, get better margins, renovate existing products or launch new ones. And the best way to achieve that in bakery is to embrace these key consumer trends - and, if you can, give the consumer permission to indulge.

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