Sourdough boasts a number of ontrend advantages – including a simple ingredients list of just flour, water and salt - along with a mounting assemblage of research that it acts as a prebiotic, meaning its fibre content helps feed ‘good’ bacterial, which are essential for a stable, healthy digestive system. Its beneficial bacteria and low phytates not only make it easier to digest, it is lower in gluten than other breads and may also help with weight loss.
Currently, only a very small section of the British public not already won over by the time-honoured product recognise its health benefits. However, research conducted by Good Sense Research on behalf of Puratos earlier this year found 48% of non-users say they could be swayed.
This has led Puratos to identify the need to educate consumers in four key areas - namely, the nutrition benefits of sourdough, the flavours and formats available, and its versatility. It believes this can be done at store level by bakers and retailers, along with stronger on pack messages, on menus by out-of-home (OOH), and online promotion.
According to the global baking and patisserie business, the opportunities are already there: 62% of Brits already consider freshness to be the number one purchasing consideration, followed by taste (61%) and healthiness (27%). A further 21% of the company’s Taste Tomorrow survey say they would eat bread made with sourdough as part of a healthier diet, while 13% say naturalness and the source of ingredients (8%) are key influencers.
Sourdough certainly ticks all these boxes.
While the health benefits is a major factor of choice among 83% of sourdough advocates, Puratos has also acknowledged that playing with flavour profiles, formats and marketing messages could help drive sales.
When non-users were asked what dissuaded them from trying sourdough, 19% said they were worried about taste. Among the occasional users, 41% said they could be encouraged to up their consumption with different flavours and varieties.
On a whole, sourdough has a slightly creamy flavour with mild fermented notes that appeal to most consumers, but digging deeper, Puratos research found that different consumer groups are attracted to diverse tastes and textures.
As such, the company is encouraging bakers and retailers to stock up on three distinct flavour profiles - one with mild fermented notes for wider appeal; an option with a high sour/tangy profile for sourdough devotees; and one with a malty, toasted flavour to attract new consumers.
When it comes to formats, 71% of the bread purchasers said they also bought other sourdough-based products like crumpets and crisps. Heavy users are also more likely to try different varieties of sourdough such as rye (89%) and with inclusions such as grains (78%).
On the other hand, those not entirely won over by sourdough as yet are open to suggestions, with 32% of occasional users already confessing to buying sourdough products other than bread. More than 60% also declared they would be more tempted if offered different variants.
Puratos said its research suggested that educating consumers on how to use sourdough in a variety of meals could encourage increased consumption. Currently, 72% of heavy users consider it a great ingredient to include in various recipes, compared to 42% of occasional users.
Educating consumers on its nutrition benefits and versatility may also help to justify its higher price - a concern among consumers across the board, from cynics to those on the fence and even committed fans.
Marketing messages can also keep the product at the forefront of consumer’s attention, eventually making it a habitual choice when shopping. Research found 39% of non-users say they don’t buy sourdough as it simply doesn’t cross their mind. On the other hand, the same research found that many heavy users were first introduced to sourdough when eating out - suggesting the OOH and hospitality route are key to introducing consumers to the category.
On the plus side, once converted, consumers tend to remain faithful, with most purchases taking place in bakeries (45%), supermarket bakeries (44%) and off the shelf (30%).
This roundup of results is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the complex subject of sourdough, said Puratos UK, adding that as interest will inevitably grow among British consumers, it will continue to conduct research and invest in solutions - such as the recently launched British-made living sourdough - to ensure it can meet the UK’s current and future sourdough needs.