Customers are looking for fresher, tastier, higher quality breads. Here’s how to deliver.

Consumers are getting savvier about breads. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many experimented with baking bread—most notably sourdough—for the first time. Photos of homemade bread overtook social media. This hands-on baking experience served to elevate many consumers’ palates, awakening them to the subtleties of high-quality bread. 

“This movement toward more craft or artisan-style bread has been happening for some time, but the one thing that really accelerated this trend is the rise in popularity of sourdough,” says Mike Gleason, senior product manager at Puratos. “There was a huge growth in the awareness of sourdough over the last couple of years, and a large portion of that is attributed to the lockdowns that happened during the pandemic. A lot of people started to bake and explore at home. Sourdough—something that was just associated with San Francisco five years ago—is now opening up consumers to a whole world of flavor that can be achieved with natural fermentation.”

Fresher, tastier, more natural breads are in high demand. Mintel has found that consumers are seeking out more authenticity in the wake of the pandemic, and artisan-style bread calls up those associations for many. “We know there’s a growing number of consumers who are more and more interested in unique flavors, tastes, and textures that can be achieved in breads,” Gleason says.

Consumers also want breads that include more nutritious ingredients. HealthFocus recently found that two-thirds of American consumers are more focused on their health now than they were last year. And according to a report from Tastewise, 33 percent more consumers are turning to food and beverage to meet their health needs than in 2020. 

“When it comes to nutrition, having grains, seeds, and fiber are definitely going to be something that sets you apart from other breads at quick-service restaurants,” Gleason says. “Consumers are becoming very educated about nutrition, and they’re looking at ingredient statements. Opting for more clean-label alternatives like enzyme-based solutions is another way to attract consumers.”

Puratos’ ready-to-use sourdoughs, enzyme-based improvers, and bakery mixes help restaurants achieve crowd-pleasing taste and performance—by putting in less. The company’s R&D teams, which collectively have more than 100 years of baking experience, work with top brands and their industrial partners to develop flavor combinations and enzyme technologies. 

“Our sourdough improvers and bakery mixes provide differentiation and opportunities for cost savings,” Gleason says. “They’re really about bringing this huge and diverse world of flavors and textures to a brand’s customers in a simple, versatile product. We use our patented clean-label enzyme solutions to remove dirtier ingredients, optimize dough performance, and achieve the desired texture from the time the product is baked all the way throughout its entire shelf life.”

As the craft bread movement continues to mature, it will likely become more important for breads to have short, clean ingredient statements. Mintel has found that 61 percent of consumers agree “clean” or “natural” foods are healthier.

There’s also a growing interest in functional foods—anything understood to provide health benefits, from kombucha to fruits and vegetables. In a recent survey from The Food Group, 51 percent of consumers ages 21–30 said they ate more functional foods in the last two years. 

Gleason believes this phenomenon is setting up fermented foods like sourdough to explode in popularity soon. Research has found that diets high in fermented foods may help improve gut health. “I think the understanding of health and wellbeing is starting to evolve,” Gleason says. “We’re seeing a big area of rising interest among consumers around gut health and how the microbiome affects our wellbeing—not just on a physical level but on an emotional and mental level as well. Those areas are going to become extremely trendy in the next few years, and restaurants offering clean-label sourdough breads will benefit.”

To learn more about Puratos’ sourdough and other dough improvers and bakery mixes, visit the Puratos website.

By Kara Phelps

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