Bread’s growing role as ‘big buddy’ to consumer health

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

The consumer trend to seek out healthier bread options is increasing. Pic: GettyImages/photominus
The consumer trend to seek out healthier bread options is increasing. Pic: GettyImages/photominus

Related tags Puratos UK Bread Gut health whole grains Fibre Probiotics sourdough

Studies have suggested that some consumers may find sourdough easier to digest due to the slow fermentation time, which has renewed interest again in bread.

Gut health is a hot topic in the food industry today as it has been found the health of the gut affects the overall health of the body and the mind, opening a raft of opportunities for bakery and snack producers.

The mature bread category is undoubtedly experiencing a renaissance, boosted by the craft bakery sector, which particularly incorporates better-for-you ingredients that offer enhanced nutritive benefits into their bakes.

Today’s consumer is far more attracted to ingredients like whole grains, fibre, probiotics, ancient grains and organic and non-GMO variants than ever before.

According to Future Market Insights, revenue generated from the global whole grain & high fibre market was estimated at over $4.3bn last year, driven by consumers’ rising awareness of the association between food and health.

A diet high in fibre and whole grains can promote cardiovascular health and help shed weight, among a variety of benefits.

Over the past year, sales of products with ‘whole grain’ and ‘high fibre’ have skyrocketed – especially among millennials – and manufacturers are increasingly positioning themselves in the healthy segment.

Bread NPDs driven by gut health

According to Philippa Knight, marketing director of Puratos UK, foods that benefit gut health will have a significant influence on bread NPDs moving forward.

“Consumers are increasingly recognising the role that bread can play as part of a healthy lifestyle and for 27% of consumers, healthiness is now one of the top three purchasing criteria when buying bread,”​ said Knight, quoting stats from the company’s survey among UK consumers.

“This was up by 10% in our June 2020 Taste Tomorrow survey vs 2019. In addition, studies have suggested that some consumers may find sourdough easier to digest due to the slow fermentation time,​ which has increased interest in sourdough.”

She added, “With gut health a growing trend, it’s not surprising that 40% of respondents said they would consume more bread rich in fibre as part of a healthier diet, 38% would look for more grains and 21% would look for sourdough.

“Going forward, consumers will continue to focus on their gut health and this will influence NPD. Ingredients such as grains will increasingly be used in new launches, alongside associated health and immunity claims.”

The gut health trend has also contributed to the surge in interest in sprouted grains, which can increase the bioavailability of micronutrients and can be easier to digest. Sprouted grains are versatile enough to be used in a number of both sweet and savoury bakery products, as well as offering a source of fibre and are perceived as natural and nutritious, according to a consumer study among 24,500 respondents conducted by Canadean (now GlobalData) between 2015 and 2017.

More readily available

Knight said bakers and ingredients suppliers are responding to these trends and making it easier for shoppers to find healthier bread options.

According to Innova, a ‘high source of fibre’ has been the biggest health claim in new bread launches over the past five years, with almost a quarter (24%) of NPDs making this claim.

In addition, digestive and gut health claims have increased by 67% in the same period, compared with the preceding five years, while ‘whole grains’ have been the fastest growing ingredient in the past year, appearing in 12% of new bakery releases.

Innova’s study also found that as an ingredient in bread, the use of grains increased by 18% while seeds increased by a massive 53% between 2015 and 2020.

“The consumer trend to seek out healthier bread options is increasing across all channels and both craft bakery and grocery retail channels can benefit from this opportunity,”​ said Knight.


Sourdough Fermented Breads are More Digestible than Those Started with Baker’s Yeast Alone: An In Vivo Challenge Dissecting Distinct Gastrointestinal Responses

Authors: Carlo Guiseppe Rizzello, Piero Portincasa, Marco Montemurro, et al.

Nutrients. 2019 Dec; 11(12): 2954.

doi: 10.3390/nu11122954

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