New product launches within the bakery (baked or par-baked products) category have remained strong between January 2005 to December 2007. Europe accounted for 40 per cent of launches, North America for almost 25 per cent, and Asia Pacific and Latin America for more than 16 per cent each, revealed the data. Healthy and natural products are becoming more popular worldwide as consumers become aware of the potential dangers of ingredients such as fat, cholesterol and - in North America and Latin America - trans fats on health. In response, most new products claim to offer added health benefits. Wholegrains The wholegrain category accounted for most launches over the past two years, said Mintel. From a total of 861 bread products listed on GNPD (Europe), 123 (15 per cent) of new breads and bread products launched in Europe last year claimed to contain wholegrains. As consumers become increasingly aware of the health benefits of wholegrains, they increasingly seek out products containing these, and Mintel's data shows that industry has been quick to pick up on the trend. Recent research has demonstrated how wholegrain foods can have a protective effect against heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Whole grains are also said to keep weight down, as components within whole grains contribute to favorable metabolic alterations that may reduce long-term weight gain. No additives/preservatives Health concerns have forced the bakery sector to find alternatives to ingredients considered as less healthy, such as sugar and sodium, which have traditionally been used to preserve the longevity and taste of bread. Consumers are also increasingly looking for more natural breads with nutritional ingredients, resulting in the number of products with the 'no additives/preservatives' claim growing steadily during the past two years. Last year, 122 new bread products launched in Europe claimed to contain no additives/preservatives. This category accounted for the second highest number of new launches in 2006 and 2005. Vegetarian Vegetarian bread products were the third most popular category for new launches in Europe last year, with 78 products carrying the claim, compared to 45 in 2006. Three years ago, the vegetarian category accounted for the top position, with 91 new product launches. Low/no/reduced allergen Bread marketed as low allergen is also gaining in importance as food allergy and intolerance incidences increase. Some 63 new bread products (7 per cent) fell under this category in 2007. Organic Organic food has also shown strong growth since it is perceived as being more nutritious than standard products, and also better for the environment. In 2007, 56 products in the bread category claimed to be organic. Other popular claims In addition to more natural and healthier products, today's consumers are also interested in convenience and ease of use. Last year, 53 bread products launched in Europe carried such claims. Other popular claims over the past two years include: gluten-free, low/no/reduced fat, low/no/reduced sodium products and breads containing added fibre. Forecast According to Mintel, wholegrain is expected to remain a leading claim, not only in Europe, but globally, as demand for healthier products continues to grow. Organic products are also likely to become more popular. Premium breads, using quality ingredients, and artisan breads are likely to show growth as they are thought to offer higher quality and provide consumers with healthier options than pre-sliced, factory made bread. The research also suggests that novel flour and traditional grains, like amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, or spelt, could become more popular particularly for consumers with intolerance to wheat. Similarly, superfruits like blueberries or cranberries could add value to more premium breads. Source: Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD).