There’s bakery and there’s bakery and then there’s bakery.
The bakery category runs the gamut from the most wholesome and nutritious (think multi-grain, whole-grain bread) to innocuous treats (like an innocent cookie) to the dangerously indulgent (“must this birthday cake have that much icing?”).
But there are some trends running across all segments of this huge category. Like the desire for fresher products … concern about carbohydrates … avoidance of gluten for some consumers … and a general desire for more healthful products.
In the grocery store, bakery is found in both the center of the store and in the store’s fresh bakery department. In the center aisle, bagels and bialys experienced a sudden sales surge in 2017 – up 6.5 percent – after three years of tepid growth, according to IRI Worldwide (www.iriworldwide.com). The category is now at $900 million. Conversely, English muffins, which enjoyed annual sales increases 2014-2016, dipped 1.5 percent in 2017.
Pastries and doughnuts have been growing steadily since 2014 with a compound annual growth rate of 4.8 percent and total sales of $5.1 billion in 2016, according to IRI. The biggest category is bread and rolls, with steady but unimpressive growth of around 0.5 percent but a total category amounting to $13.4 billion.
Most baked goods are missing what’s perhaps the biggest current trend: protein. But the more innovative bakers are finding ways to work it in. The Epic Everything Bagel from Dave’s Killer Bread (now owned by Flowers Foods) promises 12g of protein each (as well as 27g of whole grains, 560mg of omega-3 and toppings that include flax, chia, sesame, poppy, garlic and onion). Kodiak Cakes Power Waffles (frozen) have 12g of protein per waffle in flavors that include Dark Chocolate. And bakery’s bar segment has long been one of the best providers of this nutrient.
On the other hand, reducing carbohydrates is a challenge but, when accomplished, is a clear positive for sales. Bakery across the board does well with other trends. Clean labels are not hard to come by. Claims such as 100 percent natural, preservative-free, organic, non-GMO, excellent source of calcium, reduced calorie and reduced sugar all are easily applied to most baked goods and are proving to be motivations for shoppers, says IRI.
Innova Market Insights lists three trends in baked good product introductions with 20 percent or better growth rates in 2017 alone: clean labels, free-from claims and products aimed at children.
If Americans are trying to lower their sugar and fat consumption, you can’t prove it by the resurgence of Hostess Brands. The company jettisoned its bread products and crawled out bankruptcy largely on the strength of Twinkies and Ho-Hos. Deep Fried Twinkies were introduced bin late 2016.
Sales gains continue with recent introductions of Twinkies in Cotton Candy and Chocolate Peanut Butter flavors and Molten Lava Ding Dongs. For even more sugar, Hostess has teamed with candy companies to produce Nestle Butterfinger Brownies and Sweet Shop Brownies made with Mars’ Milky Way Bar Pieces and M&M’s.
Ancient grains continue to work their way into dough products. The most common are amaranth, buckwheat, bulgur, kamut, millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff. All of them provide whole-grain nutrition, with each grain delivering unique flavors and textures. Ancient grains typically come in flour, flake and sprouted formats, rendering them suitable for varied applications.
Many ancient grains are also gluten-free, making them possible substitutes for wheat flours. Gluten-free remains a bakery trend, even though less than 1 percent of the population has celiac disease and a small percentage more have some gluten sensitivity. Manufacturing gluten-free products remains tricky, as processing areas must be segregated from gluten-containing areas or vigorously cleaned. Many bakers opt for separate facilities.
A need for automation
Perhaps even more than most food sectors, when it comes to labor, bakery is getting squeezed from both sides—and is turning to automation to alleviate the pressure.
“The bakery industry is currently facing a shortage of skilled labor due to an aging workforce, fewer people entering the trade, and a lack of trained candidates, so having the resources for production is a priority,” says Sonia Bal, global marketing manager for Unifiller (www.unifiller.com). “Equipment that can efficiently alleviate the demand for labor is a must. Recent increases of minimum wages mean bakeries need to turn to alternative production methods using automation.”
Unifiller has met the challenge with new equipment that brings higher degrees of automation to assembling and decorating cakes and other sweet goods. The CakeStation, rolled out at the IBA show in Munich in September, allows bakeries to deposit batters, assemble cakes, mid-fill, ice sides and the tops of cakes and decorate with rosettes or borders, thanks to PLC control and a servo-powered turntable with lifting mechanism. Similarly, other Unifiller machines use vision systems to pick up cake layers from one belt and deposit them atop other layers on another, or to decorate cakes of varying heights on a conveyor.