Demand for natural ingredients and cleaner products is on the rise—and when leveraged appropriately, this trend can create a promising sales opportunity for baked goods manufacturers.
According to a recent survey from Nielsen, 67 percent of consumers in the U.S. want to know every ingredient in the food they buy. Separate Nielsen research found 68 percent of global consumers are willing to pay more for items that don’t contain artificial colors and flavors.
These preferences have stemmed from increased awareness of processed and unprocessed foods, according to Julien Bonvallet, food ingredients brand manager for event organizer UBM, which coordinates the biennial Fi Europe global food and beverage and Ni natural ingredient conferences.
“Clean label is definitely a consideration, especially in industrial baked goods production,” Bonvallet says. “Bakers can score points if they are transparent about the ingredients in their baked goods. Clear labeling and a comprehensible list of ingredients are vital.”
To know which ingredients baked goods manufacturers should market as being included—or not being included—in a product, they need to keep up to date on ingredient trends.
“Broadly, the main ‘nasties’ that people want to avoid are artificial flavors, preservatives and colors,” says Steve Harman, account director at U.K.-based food and beverage PR consultancy Ingredient Communications.
Bread manufacturer Canyon Bakehouse, based in Johnstown, Colorado, U.S., built its business on gluten-free products. But due to the increasing attention its target consumers have been paying to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the company has also made a point to highlight that aspect of its products.
“We lead with the fact we’re gluten-free, but we mention that we don’t use GMOs,” says Kevin Brouillette, vice president of sales and marketing at Canyon Bakehouse.
Manufacturers can lean on their suppliers for insights on the key product attributes popular among their customers’ target consumers, as well as the tools and techniques they can use to effectively create and market these clean label products.
In addition to ingredient names and label claims, consumers are increasingly interested in the origins of the products they buy. Canyon Bakehouse, for instance, has had consumers inquire about what part of the country its ingredients are grown in.
And although 91 percent of consumers feel it’s important to know where food comes from and what’s in it, nearly two-thirds say they aren’t given enough information on that topic, according to a survey from brand solutions provider Trace One. And separate research shows that 4 in 10 consumers would switch from their current brand to one that offers more ingredient transparency, according to Harman.
To keep pace with this trend, manufacturers can prioritize displaying this information on product labels, on their website and in promotional materials.
Consumers want to buy items that don’t include artificial preservatives—but they want them to remain fresh nonetheless.
To maintain the shelf life of natural products, manufacturers are looking to optimize their production and packaging methods. They’re also employing non-artificial additives, such as cane sugar vinegar, which Canyon Bakehouse uses to reduce pH.
Another, potentially more cost-effective, way to ensure freshness with clean products is by using premade bakery mixes that are free of the ingredients consumers mistrust (including artificial preservatives, colors and sweeteners), yet still maintain taste. Recent recipe functional testing demonstrated that these mixes perform just as well as conventional mixes in most areas, and that their finished products meet the same shelf life requirements as the ones made from equivalent conventional mixes.
In some instances, products featuring extra elements that provide a health benefit—such as superfoods or protein—elevate clean label products. Items containing probiotics, for instance, experienced a 16 percent increase in annual dollar growth from 2016 to 2017, according to Nielsen. Plus, a 2017 Cargill survey found 69 percent of consumers purposely seek out ingredients with nutritional value.
Italy-based Galatea, which manufactures semi-finished products for gelato shops, crafted its Spirulì flavor using Spirulina algae—which, according to CEO Stefano Pillot, includes purifying, detoxifying and strengthening qualities.
As an added bonus, the all-natural ingredient includes the gelato’s signature blue hue. Using fruits, vegetables and plants for natural coloring is a strong way to visibly emphasize a commitment to clean products.
“We love colors, not colorings; we love the beneficial properties of natural ingredients, instead of chemicals,” Pillot says. “The primordial algae that lives in freshwater is very rich in healthy nutrients, which help with balancing cholesterol, protecting against free radicals and boosting your immune system. It’s a natural base for a healthy and delicious gelato.”
Galatea, which offers vegan, organic and other health-minded lines, says its dedication to offering preservative-free products has helped distinguish the company in the market.
With these trends continuing to grow, baked goods providers have everything to gain from making cleaner label items a cornerstone of promotional efforts.
“Clean label is a massive selling point, so much so that consumers are willing to pay a premium for it,” Harman says. “There’s no question that clean label is here to stay—and that manufacturers who ignore it risk being left behind.”