Tapping into Local Flavors

Healthy living is a rising and unfading trend. As the adoption of using organic and unprocessed ingredients is becoming a common consumer expectation, many bakeries are attempting to adapt accordingly. In many ways, nurturing your environment, community and body has become an effective selling point. As a result, consumers have become more prone to purchase products composed of local ingredients, as opposed to buying non-local products.

According to a study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, shoppers are more likely to purchase locally grown products. Not to mention, they are willing to pay more.

“The average retail shopper was willing to pay 48 cents more for strawberries produced locally, and shoppers at farm markets were willing to pay 92¢ extra. If shoppers were promised fresh produce that was recently harvested, farm market shoppers were willing to pay 73¢ extra and retail shoppers indicated they would pay 54 cents more,” according to the study, which was published in the May issue of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

With this in mind, offering dessert products — particularly torte and mousse cakes — that feature local flavors, is an ideal opportunity to reasonably increase prices on products, improve quality and support other local industries. In addition, using local products can help your company show support for sustainability by reducing your energy spent shipping products.

While dessert products are rarely associated with healthy eating, flavoring your torte and mousse cakes with local produce can be a way of promoting sustainability, supporting your community and advocating healthy ingredients.

“Our everyday pastries use fresh fruit from the Bay Area. We’re lucky, because we have access to a whole variety of farmers markets on a daily basis,” says Cheryl Lew, owner of Montclair Baking in Oakland, CA. “A lot of times the farmers know when their food is going to taste best.”

The ease of including local fruits, nuts and produce in your bakery’s torte or mousse cakes is primarily subject to your region’s seasons. Even so, most areas offer plenty of opportunities to use locally grown ingredients in cake products. Also, there are a number of advantages to planning ahead. While fresh fruit will not always be available or in abundance, preserving summer citruses and fruits makes using local ingredients possible throughout the year.

Learning how to can whole and puréed fruit is a great way to broaden your variety of flavors during the winter. Also, freezing fruit is another viable option that will reduce freshness but preserve flavor. With that in mind, layering a torte or mousse cake with a canned or frozen homemade jam can introduce a summer citrus flavor during the winter. There’s also a sincerity associated with providing homemade products.

For instance, Montclair Baking cans and preserves jams in preparation for the winter. These jams and canned products are then used in many of their mousse and torte cakes. Whether fresh or canned, locally grown produce tends to have a more noticeable appeal to shoppers.

“I think people love to hear the name of the farm it came from and are definitely more willing to buy because of it.” says Lisa Clark, owner of Petunia’s Pies & Pastries in Portland, OR.

In addition to canning and freezing summer and spring ingredients, there are a number of seasonal flavors for the winter. Using locally produced chocolates and nuts is great for adding local ingredients in your products during the winter months.

“Using local ingredients is definitely more expensive, but the quality will show in your product, and that’s something I would like to focus on,” Clark says. “Work with what you have. Creation out of necessity is when some of the best things happen.”

During the winter, Petunia’s Pies & Pastries makes a number of tortes and cakes that feature hazelnuts, one of Oregon’s acclaimed produce. While in the summer, the bakery uses many of Oregon’s popular berries. Ultimately, it is essential to know what your region has to offer. If you are not preserving or canning, carefully adapting your menu to seasonal restraints is another option.

While seasonal baking is highly dependent on your region’s climate, here some rough guidelines:

Buy local produce when it is available.
Develop an ongoing dialogue with local farmers.
Shop for ingredients at local farmers markets.
Prepare for dormant growing seasons by preserving ingredients.
Adapt your menu to the products your region has available.
Use your bakery’s efforts to provide local ingredients as a selling point.