What’s driving the free from trend?

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

British Bakels' convenient palm oil-free paste and powder concentrates give bakers a reliable foundation to build a range of doughnuts all year round. Pic: British Bakels
British Bakels' convenient palm oil-free paste and powder concentrates give bakers a reliable foundation to build a range of doughnuts all year round. Pic: British Bakels

Related tags British Bakels free from vegan dairy free Palm oil Environment Bakery ingredients

British Bakels has built its business over the past 75 years by flexing with the trends and developing products to meet them. Free from has been one of the past decade’s defining trends, with the pandemic increasing consumer desire to understand nutrition’s role in health.

According to Michael Schofield, marketing manager of British Bakels, the past year has seen a 10% rise in bakery snack sales, primarily driven by the sector’s focus on healthier options.

“Consumers’ increased concern around health has been clear to view,”​ Schofield told BakeryandSnacks.

“Not only have we seen a 400% growth in the vegan sector over the past five years, for reasons beyond ethics, but other health and diet trends have emerged, and stayed put, particularly gluten free and dairy-free.”

In the UK, around 1 in 100 Brits have coeliac disease, but many other conditions like non-coeliac gluten sensitivity also require the sufferer to follow a gluten-free diet. Expert estimates that at least 10% of UK consumers are following this lifestyle diet today.

Another to emerge is dairy free, with 1 in every 10 older children and adults though to be lactose-intolerant, meaning they cannot properly digest lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products.

Maintaining indulgence within tight parameters

“Dairy free options are increasingly important for UK bakers to offer,”​ said Schofield, noting the best way for bakers to address this demand is by offering vegan options, which are inherently dairy-free. 

Dairy-free options are also available in the fillings market, “which has exploded in popularity of late because of the application benefits.

“In addition, the nation has developed a fascination with ‘what’s inside’. Consumers love the element of surprise when biting into a doughnut with a delicious filling. There’s the pop of enjoyment, with indulgent products torn open to reveal a tasty filling and it makes for incredible Insta-worthy snaps, too.”

Schofield told this site the cake, cake bars and sweet baked goods market is also seeing growing numbers of vegan products: 10% of launches in 2020 carried a vegan/no animal ingredient claim, up from 8% in 2019 and just 3% in 2018. This has been driven by 38% of consumers wanting to see a wider range of vegan goods.

“This is where Bakels comes in with its ready-to-use Cream Fillings designed to make life easy for Britain’s bakers. These are smooth vegan-suitable fillings in popular flavours – including orange, lemon, raspberry, vanilla, caramel and chocolate – that give bakers options for lines such as muffins and doughnuts. They are also suitable for hot and cold applications.

“Consumers have in recent times shown a heightened preference for healthier baked goods, but there remains a large pool of consumers seeking indulgent, permissible treats to satisfy ​the tastebuds,” said Schofield.

“With gluten-free doughnuts, bakers can deliver on both.”

Many of the doughnut ingredients from Bakels are also suitable for vegans, including concentrates to cream fillings and even caramel varieities, giving bakers a complete portfolio to satisfy consumers actively seeking vegan options.

With environmental factors on consumers’ minds more than ever, palm oil-free is another trend increasing in dominance. Bakels’ palm oil free ingredients play into this for the benefit of bakers and their customers. Such as the recently launched Chocolate Millionaires Caramel PF, which is free from palm oil and contains UTZ-certified cocoa. Combining the two huge flavours – chocolate and caramel – means bakers can deliver an indulgent point of difference to their core sweet bakery ranges.

Complexity of the challenge

“Forward thinking is a key philosophy for British Bakels. Looking longer term, it will be increasingly important for bakers to include dairy-free products and vegan products in their range. This is because, in stark terms, it simply isn’t sustainable to carry on eating the levels of animal products we currently do worldwide, for a number of reasons.”

These include health implications – according to the NHS, high consumption of red/processed meat is linked to risk of bowel cancer; the fact that by 2050 the world population is forecast to be around 10 billion making it almost impossible to feed everyone with animal-derived products; and the environmental impact.

According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reducing meat consumption is a vital measure to tackle the climate crisis.

“Adding to the argument about changing our diet for environmental reasons, the UK’s National Food Strategy, published in August 2021, recommends a 30% reduction in national meat consumption, and a 20% increase in fruit and vegetable intake,”​ said Schofield.

“It’s not just animal-containing products that are damaging the environment, says the Strategy, but ingredients such as palm oil, promoting an increase in palm-free or sustainably sourced palm oil containing products.

“The growth of the free-from category has added complexity to the existing challenges bakers face with creating snacks and baking, because they have to prepare and bake these products in addition to their mainstream offerings. 

“We are well placed to meet our trade customers’ demand for products that save preparation time and offer ease of use and versatility, backed by British Bakels’ 75-year history of quality and reliability, with traceability of ingredients back along the supply chain.”

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