For the third time this year, Puratos will show off its MyBreaD technology: an app that allows consumers to build their own loaf through the convenience of a tablet. Onsite bakers will make the bread to spec, then attendees can pick up their fresh bread later that day.
“There are a number of different ingredients that people can choose from, and so there’s the opportunity to put together things that are really yummy but also things that could be really disgusting,” said Brimacombe.
“We do guide people a little bit on some of the things that will fit well together or not, but you kind of choose your own experience.”
We spoke to Brimacombe about what IBIE attendees can expect to see and learn at the Artisan Marketplace and why the boom in craft bread and baking matters. We also dug into the company’s comprehensive survey that was revealed earlier this year at the Taste Tomorrow event held in Chicago.
The below interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The MyBreaD experience taps into the trend of customization and the role of technology in packaged food and retail. What does this mean for the future of instore bakeries?
AB: First of all, there’s a lot of hard work that goes in by our bakers. We’re expecting to bake over 500 customized bread on a daily basis at the show.
More widely in terms of the application in the industry, I don’t think we’re going to see machines completely take over and every store have people buying bread only that’s made on a completely custom basis – because not every consumer wants to interact and make every single choice. But I do see this as being an interesting and emerging section of the market.
This idea of having such a focus on artisan and sourdough: how do you see that playing out in commercial baking? What are the challenges in bringing this kid of artisan ideology to baking on a mass scale?
AB: We do see an evolution and a movement actually backwards in time to more simple practices. When you look at the history of bakery – which is something at Puratos we trace back and have done studies on – of course, it was only with [Louis] Pasteur in the 1800s that yeast was actually commercialized and used in baking. Before that, sourdough was the method by which people leavened bread.
Obviously, we don’t expect the whole market to move overnight to sourdough, but with the growth that we’re seeing in artisan bread, we’re seeing more and more consumers who are interested in the health benefits and the simplicity of sourdough recipes. It’s an area that [will] continue to grow and continue to generate interest.
What do you want to point out to the baking industry about the Taste Tomorrow data? Notably, it showed that consumers are really interested in freshness, taste and health. How has the idea of freshness changed?
AB: We weren’t hugely surprised from our experience to see that taste continues to be really important. We saw that in the 2015 and 2012 editions [of the Taste Tomorrow survey], but if anything, taste has continued to become more important – and health and freshness are two key elements around that.
One of the really interesting insights for the baking industry, though, is that consumers are looking for more and more around texture, and they’re seeing texture as an extension of taste. It gives us a lot of opportunity as bakers to think about bringing different inclusions [and] different grains into breads and other sweet goods to give the consumer variety.
The other thing is that people are looking for great experiences. Where you see unique experiences – a craft approach combined with a great tasting product – you really see an opportunity to command a price premium and deliver really interesting experiences.
In terms of the value proposition, how important is it for the baking industry – no matter the size of business – to not toss these ideas as being too challenging?
AB: The pace of change in the industry continues to accelerate, and I think all of us who have been in the industry a while have seen that, within the past three to five years, the pace has accelerated even more. My advice wouldn’t be to abandon your core business. Over 60% of consumers [in our Taste Tomorrow survey] were focused on familiar products, but an almost similar number wanted new experiences. We’ve seen a lot of products which are a twist on the familiar do really well.
I think the trick for all of us in the industry is spotting those trends, understanding the direction, and continuing to meet the consumer need. With changing generations and changing demographics, those needs are going to continue to evolve – not just for millennials or Gen-Z, but Boomers are going to have different requirements as they continue to age.
We've hear similar feedback from industry analysts that instore bakery mirrors what you said about not abandoning your core business. At the end of the day, sometimes people just want to buy a loaf of bread, and they want it to be a loaf that's familiar. Finding that balance between special occasion and everyday seems to be the ultimate goal. Would you agree with that assessment?
AB: I think that’s the holy grail.
The old adage is people buy with their eyes. When some of the channels and buying experiences change, they may buy with other senses. We have to think about the product offering and how we’re going to evolve that in each of the different methods by which people buy [baked goods].
The Taste Tomorrow data revealed that 75% of consumers don't want to lose brick-and-mortar stores. How can the business capitalize on the fact that they still very much desire that in-person experience?
AB: I think it comes back to the two findings around taste and experience. In Taste Tomorrow we said: ‘If taste is king, then experience is queen.’ I think that holds true in this situation. Great tasting products and a fantastic experience are going to continue to drive traffic into stores.
It’s really interesting to look at the market in China. [They have integrated] digital not as a separate channel but [as] a complete digital experience where you can go into stores, order in the store and have it delivered [to your] home.
The business models are going to continue to evolve. Our job is to look at both the quality of the product to create interest and intrigue – and to give people great experiences. I think it’s always been true that people will respond to both of those things, and I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t continue to be so.
Listen to the podcast for a deeper dive with Puratos' Brimacombe.