Is bread being burnt by the trend for free-from? While it’s still one of the staples on weekly shopping lists, the rise in low-carb diets, concerns about gluten and an increase in lunch alternatives to the humble sandwich – such as protein pots, salad bowls and sushi – means sales have been hit.
The biggest bread casualty has been the basic sliced loaf, with sales volumes dropping about 12% over the last five years, research from Mintel showed. That amounts to a loss of about 23,000 tonnes. Bread rolls and freshly baked bread sales are also down.
Rising ingredient prices have also been a dampener, with the price of a loaf up 4% over the last year, says Kantar Worldpanel, due to the increase in wheat and other commodities.
So what’s a baker to do? According to Matthew Jacobs, global product line leader at Cargill – an American food processor – the answer is protein.
“As bakeries look for growth opportunities, adding protein-rich baked goods to their product ranges provides an opportunity to reinvigorate what has been a relatively stagnant market,” he tells Food Spark.
“In the last five years, interest in protein has exploded. Where once high-protein products were exclusive to the sports nutrition market, today they are considered a healthy item for mainstream consumers.”
Bread’s bad image
So what’s happening to bread? Well, less people are reaching for a slice. About 42% of Britons eat bread on a daily basis, down from 52% two years ago, according to a poll commissioned by The Grocer. Only a quarter of 16- to 24-year-olds are eating bread every day, compared with about half of those over 45.
One supermarket executive told the Guardian last year that there was declining interest in bakery items from shoppers, as they had a negative image and were seen as highly calorific.
But Bill Gilbert, master baker and principal food technologist at Cargill, says that as consumers continue to look for ‘better for you’ products, the bread aisle is a great space for added protein. The market for whole grain and fibre breads is pretty much saturated, he adds.
Cargill is taking it one step further by creating clean-label bread items that are made with pea protein, which also reduces costs.
“Plant-based proteins like pea and soy are being used to replace higher-priced dairy proteins, while maintaining quality in the finished product. I suggest blending multiple protein sources to manage cost and product integrity,” Gilbert says.
“As a result, it’s possible to develop bakery products, including bread, that achieve ‘good source of protein’ claims, while maintaining great taste and texture.”
Partnering on peas
The way to go is not to scare off consumers with peculiar protein supplements. Instead, manufacturers and retailers should be working with recognisable ingredients that consumers can understand, says Paige Ties, technical service manager at Cargill.
On the back of that, Cargill teamed up with Puris, which produces plant-based, non-GMO, sustainable food ingredients, to develop a pea protein that taps into the free-from trend.
“Puris pea protein offers some additional advantages for label-conscious consumers. It is processed in the US without chemicals, something many of our customer’s appreciate. It is also available in organic varieties. In addition, for those looking for allergen-free options, pea protein avoids the top eight allergens,” Ties says.
Specially selected pea varieties have also been chosen to minimise the off-flavours normally associated with pulses.
Currently, a quarter of Cargill’s plant-based protein consumer base is in the bakery category, with plans to launch more protein-added bread items within the next year or two, including promoting the pea protein in the UK.
Meanwhile, Emma Clifford, a food and drink analyst at Mintel, said while less bread is being eaten, when people do indulge they want to enjoy it, so they are likely to trade up with options that are more special.
Beefing up bread with protein could stop it becoming toast…