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.
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.
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.
Vision systems and other automation allow Unifiller equipment to decorate a variety of baked goods on the same line.
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.
Reiser (www.reiser.com) is using automation to handle the challenge of size consistency. Dough is tricky to handle and portion, especially at high speeds. Reiser now offers a feedback loop that furnishes continual correction to its dough divider from a checkweigher, allowing automatic adjustment to dough portions.
Reiser’s Vemag Process Check 715 transmits the calculated average weight from the last 50 portions, or however many the end user wants, to the dough portioner, which recalibrates itself independently within a tenth of a second if required. The checkweigher also performs the normal function of rejecting any product that falls outside the range of acceptable weight.
Servomotors can help with both product consistency and flexibility. Reading Bakery Systems (www.readingbakery.com) has rolled out a new servo wirecut machine that can produce up to 300 cookies, bars or other individual small pieces with high accuracy and consistency.
Thanks to its servos, the wirecut machine has 50 percent or fewer moving parts than comparable equipment, says Sam Pallottini, RBS’s director of cookie, cracker and pet food sales. It accomplishes this by substituting the linear motion of servos for mechanical components like eccentric couplings.
“A typical wirecut machine requires eccentrics and cams in order to make the stroke or drop of the wirecut path,” Pallottini says. “In short, you are taking a rotary motion provided by a gearmotor and converting it [with servos] to a linear movement.”
Servo operation also makes the machine more flexible. “These types of servomotors enable us to use recipe control from the HMI [human-machine interface],” Pallottini says. “It also gives the ability to adjust the stroke, drop, wire height and up-shoot while the machine is in operation.
Gary Seiffer is sales specialist for EnSight (www.ensightsolutions.us), which makes processing and material-handling for several food segments. He says one of the biggest differences between bakery and other segments is the demand for versatility, which EnSight is using automation to handle.
“Our newest design is a dough hopper/chunker with integral oiling system that can be operated manually or automatically from the lift control panel,” Seiffer says. “We can build to suit any quantity of dough. Our new design for a spreading conveyor-reciprocator is servo-driven for accurate placement of product with HMI control.”
EnSight’s Likwifier division features cookers, mixers and other equipment for icing and glazes. “I would have to say that our Likwifier division tends to see more demand on formulation control and record keeping than the rest of our lines,” Seiffer says. To help with formulation control, some Likwifier equipment comes with optional variable-frequency drives to allow variation in blending speeds.