Bakery can benefit from clean, natural and snack-friendly concepts

By Kristine Sherred

- Last updated on GMT

Natural colors and flavors have hit mainstream, according to bakery ingredient importer and distributor ifiGourmet. Pic: Getty Images/invizbk
Natural colors and flavors have hit mainstream, according to bakery ingredient importer and distributor ifiGourmet. Pic: Getty Images/invizbk

Related tags Baking industry Baking IBIE Natural colors Natural flavors natural food colors Clean label Consumer attitudes Pastry Indulgence

Clean label continues to dominate the entire packaged food industry, but natural flavors/colors pose a unique challenge to bakers. BakeryandSnacks asks two decoration and coloring suppliers what's trending and how bakers can reach new audiences.

Given the artisan focus at this year’s International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE), held in Las Vegas, US, in September, BakeryandSnacks sought the perspective of suppliers – those who catch first glimpse of what producers are looking for to satisfy consumers. The underlying theme: embrace the challenge of creating practical, all-natural baked goods, and keep consumers on their toes.

Clean label and natural colors

Efco Products works with wholesale, retail and supermarket bakeries around the world, as well as foodservice operators and other food manufacturers. Its range of fillings, mixes, syrups and toppings help bakers create both cutting-edge products and classic standbys.

Clean label continues to win over consumers,​ president and CEO Steven L. Effron told BakeryandSnacks.

“Each customer has their definition of that, but clean label is not only trending – it’s resonating and staying,”​ he said.

Rick Brownstein, CEO of ifiGourmet, a US importer and distributor of premium baking ingredients, concurred. The Chicago-based company has definitely noticed an uptick in customers embracing its range of naturally colored sprinkles, fondants and other decorations.

“The last three-plus years, we’ve really seen a lot of interest outside of the Whole Foods world, which is where that came from in the past,” ​he told us. “We have a lot more manufacturers producing for other retailers – whether it’s Trader Joe’s, even Kroger, Safeway, Albertsons, those types of people – that want more natural products.

“When you start to have the Krogers and the Albertsons of the world asking for it,” ​he continued, referring to two of the biggest grocery store chains in America, “you know it’s made its way.”

Using color and fresh flavors to attract new consumers

Consumers are increasingly planning their indulgent food choices,​ according to Euromonitor, which has cut down on impulse buys while benefiting value-added goods.

Dawn recently launched a 'Naturally Brilliant' line of clean-label icings and buttercreams, the colors derived from ingredients like spirulina and beet root. Here, an example of 'eatertainment' and 'blissful indulgence' designed by applications chef Melissa Trimmer. Pic: Dawn Foods

Additionally, research firm NPD found ‘mindful snacking’ has created opportunities for snack producers to walk the line between indulgence and moderation​.

That void is precisely one the baking industry should seek to fill, said Efco’s Effron.

“We’ve got to understand this whole snacking piece – and certainly we think that there’s a good place for bakery in snacking – but some of it is going to be different flavors than we’ve seen traditionally. Also, the opportunity for us and for our customers is to understand how we can be more relevant during other dayparts,” ​he said.

In-store bakeries and specialty bake shops could, for example, innovate on the standard cake size to create a smaller, two-person cake. “How can you appropriately position product… so that you can keep cakes on somebody’s option list multiple times a week?” ​continued Effron.

Flavor-wise, he noted the rise of tropical tones (coconut, banana, guava, passionfruit); cream cheese with fun add-ons, such as seasonal favorite pumpkin maple; and savory notes.

Brownstein also sees floral notes as a rising star. His company debuted a hibiscus flavor at the show, alongside its existing lavender and rose options. These highly concentrated flavors – derived from natural sources – allow producers to add a small amount (3% to 5% by weight) to icings or mousse, for instance, to add a subtle taste and vibrant color simultaneously.

The challenge of natural colors in baking

Natural colors pose a unique challenge to bakers, however; natural sprinkles cannot be baked.

“The natural color world has not tackled that one,” ​admitted Brownstein. “You have to rethink your Funfetti cake: maybe it’s not in the dough, and it’s just in the decoration, or it’s different colored icings. That’s the challenge for the baker or the chef: How do I rethink what I was doing that wasn’t natural… because people who want natural, who want non-GMO – they’re passionate about it, and they just won’t buy a product.”

These demands have changed the way the industry views innovation.

“Now we field requests for non-GMO, all natural, more and more vegan, [but] all of those present great challenges, and it makes it hard to source products. It’s a challenge for all of us – for us on the import side, the distribution as well as all of our manufacturing partners,” ​said Brownstein.

Nonetheless, companies like ifiGourmet and Efco work closely with their manufacturing partners to conjure up new solutions and find new inspirations.

“Disruption is occurring so quickly in the industry that everybody – the good ones at least – are saying, ‘Here’s what we’re seeing,’” ​said Effron.

“Obviously they look for our support, and where it’s most effective is if can get a triangular relationship, where you can get even the vendors involved… and then have a dialogue around what we are seeing and how can we adapt to that change.”

Social media has played a vital role in this disruption, but the industry should find the silver lining of that connectivity, he added.

“Social media, in some ways, makes the world smaller. Yes, there are definitely trends based upon demographics, based upon certainly spend capability if you will, but in other ways, what’s awesome now is, if something goes on a menu in LA or in Bangkok, you know about it pretty quickly, which I think – as also a foodie myself – I love that idea.”

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