Taste Takes the Center Stage

Consumer interest in a diet with wellness benefits was already on the rise before the onset of COVID-19. But the pandemic forced consumers to think more about their lifestyles. That also aroused the desire to better understand ingredients and enjoy delicious – the most important aspect – products which can incidentally protect and promote good health.

According to a report by Friesland Campina Ingredients Food & Beverages, consumers are keen to pursue unforgettable experiences and adopt new definitions of indulgence. “Today, it’s all about a total and immersive experience that tickles all the senses. They are finding more time to experiment in-home, get more creative and discover new flavor combinations,” the report notes. Cookie cheesecake cupcakes, double brewed milk tea frappe with salted chips milk foam, extreme milk tea tasting sliders and excessively fluffy waffles are now seeing the light in the homes of consumers as they create their own feel-good moments to cherish. Out of home is also joining the party, by bringing unforgettable experiences to consumers’ doorstep through DIY kits or online baking classes.

“The bakery industry finds itself caught between two competing headwinds,” says Tate & Lyle in a recent analysis. “The powerful desire for moments of comfort and indulgence and the ongoing trend towards healthier living. The latter of these is being driven by consumers’ increasing preference for healthier options, as well as government policies intended to boost public health.”

The importance of reducing calorie and sugar content came through strongly in a survey they conducted. However, it’s clear that positive nutrition is also gaining ground as a way to deliver health benefits while still offering consumers the sweet, indulgent treats many are looking for.

This could also reflect various government policies that aim to educate consumers on the nutritional profile of products in order to drive changes in consumption habits, as well as advertising restrictions on high-fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) products.

“These have given rise to initiatives such as Nutriscore and ‘traffic-light’ systems, and scoring well on these measures is about more than just calorie and sugar reduction.

Overall, what emerges from our data is a picture of a sector that is innovating rapidly in the face of significant changes in the market,” Tate & Lyle points out.

Innovation

Across Europe, specialist breads are seen by bakery professionals as the single biggest area of growth. Tate & Lyle’s survey reveals that in Spain, 21% named the sub category as the most promising, while in Germany and France it was highlighted by 20% and 19% respectively. The only exception was the UK, where regular bread was named the biggest opportunity, being mentioned by 23% of respondents.

Mintel research shows that, as the coronavirus crisis unfolded, consumers have gravitated towards bread as a trusted, reliable, adaptable and comforting food. This suggests a positive boost to both the volume of bread consumption and the image of bread in general.

According to Mintel, in the years running up to the pandemic, many consumers were becoming more cautious about their bread intake, with wheat increasingly being viewed as an ingredient to avoid. As a result, bread products that demonstrated better nutritional performance – those with greater fiber content or gut-health boosting properties – were growing in popularity.

It’s interesting that specialist breads topped the list overall despite the differences in consumer bread buying habits – wrapped loaves being significantly more popular in the UK, while the continental nations favored fresh bakery.

Otherwise, the growth areas look broadly similar across all countries – although cake mixes feature in the top five areas for the UK (7%), perhaps reflecting the increase in home baking among Brits as a leisure activity.

There is also a focus on innovation products – such as new hybrid products or unconventional flavors – in France, where it appears in the top 5. Interestingly, when asked which categories would generate the highest consumer demand, it is UK firms that place innovation products first, perhaps indicating that these innovations have already reached greater maturity for UK manufacturers.

You can read the rest of this article in the Winter Issue of World Bakers Digital magazine, which you can access by clicking here.

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