The Future of Bread and Its Role in Healthy Diets

The future growth of artisan bread depends on the ability of bakers to produce “healthy” breads that look as good as they taste.

Bread plays a pivotal role in the fabric of the world. This is sometimes forgotten in discussions about the future of bread and where it fits into a healthy diet.

“There are a lot of traditions around breads in many countries,” Antoine Baule, managing director for Lesaffre, told attendees of a Feb. 5 educational forum during Europain 2018 in Paris. “I think bread leads to childhood memories for many people.”

Baule points out that bread bakers worldwide are dealing with three main trends: snacking breads, traditional breads (thicker crusts, stronger flavors) and healthy breads.

“More and more, we see bread consumed as snacks,” he says. “Even in Asia, food spots are developing more and more. I think bakers are already developing their snacking corner.”

“Healthy but sexy” are the words Michel Suas uses to describe the future of artisan bread in the United States. The founder of the San Francisco Baking Institute and co-founder of the award-winning San Francisco retailer b. patisserie (with co-owner Belinda Leong), Suas told a Europain Forum audience that healthy bread with whole grains “is moving up” and that “retail bakery is coming back to the big city and the small city” in America.

Leaders from Lesaffre and other prominent organizations spoke about the future of bread trends during Europain 2018. 

The challenge to future growth for artisan bread depends on the ability of bakers to produce whole grain and “healthy” breads that look as “sexy” as they taste, Suas said.

“When you look at it, it looks great. When you taste it, it tastes great,” he said. “If it doesn’t taste good, don’t do it. Those types of breads are worst to consume if not made properly.”

What strikes Lesaffre is the growing diversity of the global bread marketplace, Baule says. Some consumers seek out healthy breads. Others demand traditional breads. Still others want snacks.

“If you go to a German bakery, the selection is extraordinary,” he says. “I see more crusty breads, and that segment is very much on the rise in many countries. The croissant is also very trendy. It is following crusty breads, and that is good.”

There is a multiplicity of segments, and the challenge for bakers is to adapt to a broader range of demands globally.

Lesaffre has 38 baking centers worldwide to create breads of the future, Baule says.

“Go — try the adventure,” he exclaims as a passionate plea to bakers. “Our baking centers are here to help.”

Examining whole grains

The Wellbeing and Health Lab was a new addition to Europain, addressing health, quality, and authenticity.

New data revealed during the Whole Grain Summit in Vienna in November reveal that replacing refined grains with whole grains globally could reduce the burden of chronic disease more than any other change.

Incorporating more whole grains into the diet may do more for health than steps taken to reduce sodium, eliminate trans fats or cut sugar-sweetened beverages, the researchers noted.

The research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation was presented during the keynote address at the Whole Grain Summit. More than 200 scientists from 36 countries participating in the Whole Grain Summit worked to draft a two-year global action plan to increase whole grain consumption.

“Worldwide, cereals provide nearly 50% of energy intake,” said Fred Brouns, scientific chair of the Whole Grain Summit. “Yet the vast majority of these foods are composed of refined grains and flours. Research shows that health benefits from whole grains are associated with replacing as little as two servings of refined grain/flour foods with whole grain foods.”

Chefs conducted ongoing product demonstrations at the Wellbeing and Health Lab.

Researchers participating in the Whole Grain Summit said numerous studies dating back more than two decades show a positive link between consumption of whole grain foods and several health issues, including lower mortality risk and reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and bowel cancer.

Academics, non-profit organizations, government policymakers and industry, working together at the Whole Grain Summit, identified key goals and action points which aim to do the following:

  • Reach a consensus on a global whole grain definition, to support clear product labeling that will help consumers distinguish whole grain products from those with misleading claims.
  • Establish a quantitative, science-based whole grain intake recommendation and document the health and economic benefits that would result from adopting this recommendation. Use this information to motivate governments and international food authorities to incorporate whole grains into dietary guidelines and promote their consumption.  
  • Document the carbon footprint of whole grains, compared with other dietary choices, in the context of growing world populations and climate change.
  • Form strong public-private partnerships to develop campaigns to encourage whole grain consumption and to increase the variety, availability and desirability of whole grain foods.

Six international working groups already have been established to carry out the goals agreed to in Vienna.

The groups will spend the next two years collaborating as part of the “Whole Grain Initiative” and will interact with the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the European Food Safety Agency and other consortia and food authorities as part of the plan. The Oldways Whole Grains Council will be participating.