Deliver Cleaner Bakery Product Shelf Life

Consumers have made it clear: They want foods that are made with cleaner, more recognizable ingredients and taste great.

“When you look at consumer trends, we see the demand for more transparent ingredient labels, shorter ingredient labels and ‘free from’ statements,” says Courtney Schwartz, marketing director of Kemin Food Technologies in Des Moines, Iowa.

Specifically, those “free-froms” include artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners, as well as high-fructose corn syrup, trans fat and certain chemical preservatives, among other ingredients.

For bakery manufacturers, altering existing formulas to eliminate these undesirable components can seem like a costly, complex endeavor that could jeopardize the product stability, taste and shelf life customers have come to expect. But with 77 percent of bakery consumers stating clean label is important or very important, according to Technomic, working through the challenge is worth it. And with the right approach, it may be easier and less costly than bakery manufacturers anticipate.

Baking with Alternatives to Artificial Preservatives

One approach that has proved successful for some baked goods manufacturers: natural preservatives. 

Allie’s GF Goodies in Hicksville, New York, sells a variety of allergy-friendly cakes, cookies, pies and other baked goods wholesale to country clubs, restaurants, hotels and schools, as well as health care and recreation facilities. Because the company’s products are often shipped, founder Allison Luckman has had to find ways to create clean baked goods without sacrificing their shelf life. 

“There are indeed some fully natural alternatives that, when used correctly, can effectively preserve freshness without altering the overall integrity of the product,” Luckman says.

For example, during the mixing process, she adds a flaxseed oil-oregano extract mix to the wet ingredients. Oregano contains the phenolic compounds eugenol, carvacrol and thymol, which are antimicrobial compounds, and the essential oil also contains antimicrobial compounds that fight foodborne pathogens. 

However, working with these natural preservatives presents new challenges, such as ensuring they don’t impact sensory appeal, color, texture or flavor, Schwartz says. This often isn’t a concern with artificial ingredients because they’re colorless, odorless and don’t impact flavor.

A number of bakers are also testing products made with alternatives for artificial emulsifiers traditionally used to strengthen dough and extend shelf life. Enzymes (alpha-amylase, xylanase and protease), gums and humectants are common options, Schwartz says. 

 

Cleaner label bakery manufacturing

 

Cleaner Bakery Product Packaging Considerations

Product packaging can also impact the shelf life of cleaner label baked goods.

At bakeries where products aren’t run on mechanical lines, packaging can be sealed with a blast of nitrogen during the sealing process, Luckman says. The nitrogen is a natural, harmless preservative, and the seal is airtight.

She also explains manufacturers that package by hand can use heat sealing or other methods to ensure that air and moisture can’t get to the finished product and to prolong the life of baked goods.  

That’s a labor-intense practice, though. And for certain bakery items, the shelf life may have to be shortened by as much as 50 percent to maintain similar quality standards as the synthetic preservatives, Schwartz says.

The Manufacturer’s Solution: Cleaner Premade Bakery Ingredients

Because of the time and resources required to work with natural preservatives from scratch and reconfigure packaging, it’s worthwhile for manufacturers to consider an alternative that may eliminate several steps in this process: cleaner label bakery mixes, fillings, glazes and other premade ingredients.

These solutions are specially formulated to ensure the stability, shelf life, taste, texture and appearance of manufactured baked goods. For example, the need for these results drove the development of the Dawn Balance Cleaner Ingredients line of cake, donut and brownie mixes, as well as fillings, icings and glazes. The process started with identifying alternatives for artificial flavors, colors and certain preservatives, along with high-fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, bleached flour and other unnecessary ingredients. 

“Formulation isn’t simply about removing ingredients,” says Adam Graber, senior director, customer & consumer experience at Dawn Foods. “Oftentimes, it’s just as much about what we put in as what we take out.”

In addition, all products in the Dawn Balance Cleaner Ingredients line went through meticulous functionality, performance and sensory testing against traditional alternatives to ensure they can be substituted seamlessly into bakeries’ existing formulas. That removes much of the testing and trial work on manufacturers’ part.

“There are no additional steps or need to bake the product under different conditions,” says Senior Food Scientist Darcy Clark. Speaking specifically about the line of cake mixes, he says, “Bakers can use the same equipment and will have the same prep time. In fact, we were able to simplify the mixing process, not make it more complicated.” 

As consumers’ demands for food transparency continue to evolve, strategically adopting processes and ingredients to make cleaner label baked goods enables manufacturers to meet their needs.