Bakery Trends Go Back to Basics

Whether in finished products or in use-at-home mixes, 'natural' is moving the baked goods category.

By Jill Russell Qualizza, Contributing Editor

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Bakery Muffin Tin

A stabilizing economy has cooled the baking and dessert mix category as consumers are no longer baking at home. Instead, they’re opting for more healthy and convenient prepared options at grocery stores and restaurants – which is great news for producers of baked goods.

Nevertheless, Mintel Group sees continued growth in baking and dessert mix sales through 2018. In fact, Mintel reports in its "Baking and Dessert Mixes U.S." research that close to half the people that use baking and dessert mixes do so to save time, while less than half use mixes because they simply taste good.

As for how mixes fit into the healthy eating trend, Mintel says “providing products that keep pace with general consumer health interests and developing products that allow for increased, responsible consumption will be key to keeping the category relevant to the greatest percentage of consumers, and growing sales.”

Food processors with product launches that fall in the “other” category are already benefiting from the healthy trend with a 24 percent increase in sales since 2008. Other mixes include coffee cake, gingerbread, pasty and more.

One such product is a premium, all-natural scone mix. Vanilla Chai Scone Mix from Sticky Fingers Bakeries appeals to consumers with its lack of preservatives, artificial flavors, trans-fat, cholesterol and high-fructose corn syrup ingredients. It's also easy to make (just mix and bake).

Providing products that keep pace with general consumer health interests and developing products that allow for increased, responsible consumption will be key to keeping the category relevant to the greatest percentage of consumers, and growing sales.

– Baking and Dessert Mixes U.S., Mintel research

Bob's Red Mill has had considerable success in providing mixes that target consumer trends for whole grains, gluten-free, organic products and ancient grains. Most of the ancient grains in the company's Grains of Discovery line (amaranth, chia, faro, kamut, millet, quinoa, sorghum, spelt, teff and now freekeh) are cooked as porridge or side dishes, but a few make it into baking mix products.

Actually, convenience might be the biggest trend. Bob's Red Mill has specialized in creating one-bag mixes that combine specialty grains and other ingredients so home cooks can quickly and easily create complex baked goods with products such as 10 Grain Bread Mix, 10 Grain Pancake Mix and Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix (containing evaporated cane juice, unsweetened cocoa, garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, whole grain white sorghum flour, fava bean flour, baking soda, xanthan gum, sea salt and cream of tartar).

Gluten-free is becoming a huge category for Bob's Red Mill. In addition to the chocolate cake mix, Bob's offers gluten-free mixes for chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon raisin bread, Irish soda bread, pizza crust and pie crust.

"We've responded to this growing need by increasing the number of gluten free products that we sell, now over 50 products, and offering unmatched selection and nutrition to those who depend on it most," says Bob Moore, founder and president/CEO.

According to some observers, flavor profiles in baked goods seem to be taming down, while flavors are being punched up in other food segments. “While infusing exotic flavors into baked goods has become popular, classic flavors are making a comeback,” says Craig Nielsen, CEO of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Waukegan, Ill.

Specifically, cinnamon, fruit and the tried and true chocolate and vanilla flavors are classic favorites that continue to reign supreme in baking. Nielsen also says that natural, organic, gluten-free and fair-trade baked goods have become especially popular.

“Whether the item is gluten-free, GMO-free, certified organic, fair-trade certified or a combination of all, the overwhelming trend is towards ‘natural.’

Consumers only want to put in their bodies ingredients they recognize as coming from nature. Ingredient manufacturers need to be prepared to meet that desire in the next year if they want to keep up with consumer demand.”

Few things are perceived as more natural than fruits. In addition to the traditional benefits of fruit such as fiber, blueberries are antioxidant powerhouses, contain several vitamins and minerals and can be used to help replace sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners in baked goods, says Tom Payne, industry consultant for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

“Food product developers take advantage of the quasi-mythical power of blueberries to rev-up interest in their products,” says Payne. “So powerful is the ‘blueberries-are-good-for-you’ message, that the simple fact they are included in the ingredient mix [can] certify the healthy attributes of a product.”

Payne calls them "the darling of today’s nutrition deconstructionists.”

Nielsen has seen a recent “tidal wave" of requests from consumers for natural products. "Long, complicated ingredient lists are giving way to simple ingredients anyone can understand," he says. "Consumers are bypassing products full of chemical compounds created in a lab and are turning instead to products that can be found in nature.”

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