Today’s consumers seek more premium experiences from chocolate and bakery products, said Marit Allen, market segment development manager of Barry Callebaut. Simple swaps may inspire shoppers to pay higher prices, she said.
“We believe today’s brands and products need to choose a route,” Allen said during a September 8 presentation at the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) in Las Vegas. “They either need to trade up and become more premium or trade down and be all about value. But you don’t want to get stuck in between.”
Allen provided tips for elevating ordinary baked foods featuring chocolate. Adding cocoa liquor to a brownie imparts a richer, fudgier, and more robust chocolate flavor. Using cocoa powders without alkali results in a deeper color and cleaner label, Allen said.
Substituting Belgian or origin chocolate provides authenticity, transparency and craftsmanship. Sixty-one percent of North American consumers strongly or somewhat agree that cakes and pastries containing chocolate from certain origins are more premium than others, according to Barry Callebaut research.
“Consumers are increasingly aware of what they put in their mouth,” Allen said. “They want to know everything about the real origin of their food, and they also want to know how the origin is influencing pure flavors. They want believable and trustworthy information about where their food comes from, who grew it, who created it.”
Irregular chocolate chunks and multiple textures convey a handmade quality, or “unpolished luxury,” Allen said.
“Things can be less shiny, they can be less perfect, but they still have to deliver on quality at the same time,” she said.
Partially replacing butter or flour with nut butter or nut flour in recipes or adding a crunchy nut topping are ways to signal luxury, indulgence, and health, she said.
“You’re adding protein, maybe you’re providing a different texture for your baked good, and also some of the ingredients can appeal to this idea of healthy indulgence,” Allen said. “You can differentiate your product, and you’re using a plant protein, which is particularly trendy right now.”
Another better-for-you cue is the inclusion of sustainably sourced, organic, or Fair Trade cocoa.
“We believe today’s consumers are overwhelmed by choices but they’re gravitating toward a healthy sustainable lifestyle,” Allen said. “At the same time, they aren’t going to miss out on those moments of pure indulgence.”
Bakers may also generate demand through nostalgic flavor combinations and limited-time-only launches.
“We see a lot of nostalgic flavors trending right now in the world of bakery,” Allen said. “Just incorporating these unique twists on old-school flavors, whether it’s s’mores or cereal, is a big part of this trend that we’re seeing today.”
Globally inspired flavors and regional delicacies are stoking the imaginations and appetites of consumers. An example is a cookie flavored with ube — or purple yam, a Filipino staple — served at a Chicago bakery.
“We see especially younger consumers curious about cultures, and as the world becomes smaller and smaller globally inspired items can be a part of this trend as well,” she said.
Finally, Allen said, a pop of color dials up Instagram appeal for cookies, pastries, or donuts. Examples may include ice cream cones tinted black with activated charcoal or an éclair coated with ruby chocolate.
“How a product looks is critical to conveying premium,” she said. “Visual elements can definitely play a big role in making a product more appealing... You don’t want your bakery case to be monochromatic.”