Here’s an alarming statistic: Only one of three people believes the health aspect of food is improving, according to findings from Puratos. Alexandra de los Reyes, health and well-being product management analyst at Puratos, points out the challenge before the bakery sector is crystal clear: “The food industry has the opportunity to make this a priority using a full team effort.”

Jaina Wald, marketing team lead at Puratos, explains that the body’s immune system is such a hot topic today that the issue is becoming the “new normal.” Puratos presented a bevy of consumer research findings and actionable strategies during the American Bakers Association June 17 webinar, “How to Meet Consumer Health and Well-Being Expectations.”

De Los Reyes is an associate product manager for Puratos and leads the health and well-being category in the United States. In 2019 she spent a year working at Puratos’ headquarters in Belgium, where she joined the Puratos health and well-being team and helped drive the approach globally.

Wald is head of US marketing for Puratos USA. Her focus is on creating world-class marketing plans to serve customers across all channels. She joined Puratos in January of 2019 to head the chocolate category, with responsibility for marketing strategy, innovation, planning and activation

Puratos, with 9,000 employees worldwide, boasts more than 1,100 research and development staff and 93 innovation centers worldwide, with products available in 100 countries. “Wherever you are in business, we are very much close by,” Wald says. “Insight and innovation are at the core of everything we do.”

Puratos US enters 41 years in operation and has six innovation centers, Taste Tomorrow (a leading global bakery, patisserie and chocolate consumer survey), Sensobus, regional innovation centers, and new business model programs. And Puratos Digital connects all areas of members’ journey into one. Wald says it is more important than ever to drive connectivity.

There is a huge transition going on now, as the drive for Americans to eat healthier is becoming more important because of the current situation, De Los Reyes points out. Globally, two in three adults are overweight or obese, and no country has been able to reverse that.

Here’s another telling statistic: Zero countries have decreased obesity in the past three decades.

Yet 79% globally and 70% in US want to seek out products which are healthier and better for the environment, De Los Reyes said. Puratos is striving to learn to support consumers with health solutions. “This is where to look at consumers caring more and more about health,” she said.

There is a $60 billion bakery market in US, and $11.3 billion of that total falls into the health and well-being category, which is growing 6% annually – more than other segments. And that percentage is projected to continue for at least another three years into 2023, according to the Taste Tomorrow global consumer insights study.

What do consumers want?

Puratos works directly with 80 foodies in eight cities, 66 experts and customers in 16 markets and conducts a questionnaire survey every three years that went to 17,000 people in 40 countries in 2019.

When asked what influences their buying practices, taste, health, and freshness are the top three driving factors. Of note, next-level factors are craft, ethical lifestyle, transparency, next level experience, ultimate convenience, and hyper personal.

Puratos is conducting the US study soon, but winning products in China and Germany reveal rising interest in healthy, freshly packaged, indulging, local and affordable. Consumers in China want more fiber, more grains, less fat and less sugar.

Demand for freshly packaged with short shelf life is also rising. In Germany, 47% agree all stores and restaurants should deliver to homes.

Taste is the No. 1 purchase factor for bread and pastries.

Puratos is enhancing online capabilities.

In the United States, De Los Reyes said, there is a huge drive for e-commerce, food safety and localism.

“We know local businesses are hit very hard,” she said. “We want to know what we can do to support them.”

Customers are more conscious of immune systems, their body’s defense against infections, De Los Reyes said, citing a huge increase in immune system awareness. Consumer studies show the immune system as a desired function is rising 66% month over month.

One very important factor to note, she added, is that no one food can help you boost your immune system and prevent or treat infection in any disease.

What we eat can help and strengthen our immune system, as evidenced by fiber. In the US, 25 grams of fiber per day is recommended. Puratos features a whole meal bread recipe with 9.2 grams of fiber and 9.4 grams of protein.

Sugar is the elephant in the room. Two-thirds of the world’s countries exceed limits on sugar, according to Puratos. In the US, 25 grams of sugar per day is recommended, and yet Americans consume 126.4 grams per day.

Approved claims in the US are sugar free, reduced sugar, and no sugar added. Puratos offers an example of a solution -- steam cake donuts.

Salt is another ingredient that Americans definitely need to evaluate, De Los Reyes said.

For Puratos, the focus is on two sides:

  • Health – grains and seeds, more fruits, reduced sugar, happy gut, reduced fat, reduced salt
  • Well-being – cleaner label, organic, plant based, gluten free

“We really want to promote both health and well-being,” she said, adding “I don’t think plant based has reached its potential yet.”

Zero-calorie sweeteners

A global yeast and baking ingredients supplier has joined forces with an innovative leader in biotechnology, sustainability, and natural ingredients to offer a next-level solution in zero-calorie sweeteners for baking.

AB Mauri North America, St. Louis, Mo., and Amyris Inc., Ameryville, Calif., announced an exclusive multi-year agreement for the sale and purchase of Amyris' Purecane™ RebM zero-calorie sweetener for baking applications.

Purecane™ is made through a fermentation process that starts with sugarcane and converts it to a pure, no-calorie sweetener without artificial chemicals or bitter aftertaste -- unlike other alternative sweeteners. This process requires one-tenth of the agricultural acreage than other leading natural leaf products and results in very low waste.

“Their technology is really exciting. I really think biotechnology has a big role to play in the future of the baking industry,” said Mark Prendergast, president of AB Mauri North America, adding that the sweetener is now available. “This gives our customers what they want in a cost-effective manner. This is one of these launches that checks a lot of consumer boxes. We’re ready to go.”

Customers can reduce sugar by as much as 50% without compromise, he added. Purecane is an ingredient solution that serves as part of a complex answer reaching the intersection of consumer demand for reduced sugar with those wanting to buy a more sustainably sourced product. Both goals are achieved. And it has a very high level of purity with no aftertaste.

This partnership is expected to transform the industrial baking sector in the United States, Mexico, and Canada by enabling AB Mauri's customers to produce reduced sugar baked goods with no loss of flavor, texture or product appeal.

"AB Mauri is ready to partner with Amyris and leverage its expertise in biotechnology for the benefit of our industrial baking customers," Prendergast said. "While sugar plays an important role in baking, creating sweetness, color and texture in baked goods, excessive consumption is a leading cause of ill health in North America. The inclusion of Amyris' innovative Purecane ingredient in our sugar reduction solutions will allow our customers to reduce sugar in their products while maintaining the same taste and quality that consumers love and demand without the negative health consequences."

Purecane™ Brand Sweetener, also known as fermented sugarcane RebM, is a zero calorie, zero glycemic sweetener that can be used as part of a better-for-you diet to reduce the intake of sugar, calories and carbohydrates. The product serves as a solution for not only diabetics but also for the growing consumer base looking for less sugar in their diet.

The collaboration signifies a promising beginning and catalyst for future growth opportunities for the Purecane™ brand, which launched in December 2019 following Amyris' introduction of its sweetener ingredient in December 2018.

"We are very pleased to partner with a leader like AB Mauri to bring our sweetener to consumers of baked goods," said John Melo, Amyris president and chief executive officer. "Like AB Mauri, we are committed toward providing consumers with healthier options from sustainable ingredients to reduce sugar in people's diets while letting them enjoy the sweetness they desire."

Pioneering sustainable sweetness through biotechnology, Amyris created a sugarcane-based process to produce a sweetener that delivers the sweetest experience without calories or artificial chemicals. Formulated with a No Compromise® approach, Amyris' Purecane™ sweetener is comprised of only clean ingredients because the company is committed to improving the health of people and the planet without sacrificing great taste.

Future insights

We asked industry leaders their thoughts on how they see the importance of clean label campaigns growing, and where does it go from here?

Nicole Rees, product director, AB Mauri North America

"Millennials and Generation Z consumers both demand transparency. It’s not just about ‘clean label’ specifically but a cleaner process overall. Now, science and biotechnology are no longer equated with ‘Frankenfood’, as younger, male influencers welcome even the genetic modification processes that makes their workout recovery drinks and energy bars functional but still question the need for genetically-modified foods like corn chips. Decisions are not black and white, but instead are taken on a case-by-case basis. This positive movement shows that when consumers care enough to ask questions, it provides an opportunity for our industry to respond with both information and ingredient solutions that will both match expectations and are received favorably."

Bill Hanes, vice president, marketing & strategy, Lesaffre

"According to ReportLinker, the clean label trend is still rising. The clean label ingredients market is projected to reach $64.1 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 6.8% from 2019 to 2026. We will continue to emphasize the development of clean label solutions."

Elena Taylor, senior director, wet ingredients, Dawn Foods

"Looking ahead, we anticipate that clean label sweets will grow in popularity – including icings, cakes and donuts. In fact, we believe that clean label will likely emerge as a new norm. Consumers will expect that products are free from artificial ingredients or additives without sacrificing the taste. And, we expect to see more plant-based replacements as consumers seek additive-free foods." 

Kathy Sargent, director of global market strategy, Corbion

"It’s important to note that though consumers are less concerned with purchasing clean-label or alternative flavors right now, historically we’ve seen bakers using plant-based ingredients like vegetable flours and proteins that come from chickpeas, soybeans or peas rather than wheat, in order to cater to consumers in search of healthier fare. With that being said, we also think fermentation is leading to some interesting innovations, as consumers become more focused on things like gut health. It’s leading to some new flavors, more natural baked goods and new sourdough applications.

With shopping habits in a tilt due to the coronavirus pandemic, Nielsen data from April 2020 show us that consumers are shifting from the perimeter of the store to the aisles. It’s hard to estimate when these shopping habits will return to normal, or indeed, what the new normal will look like. However, what we do know is that with consumers facing so much uncertainty, they are purchasing bakery items that can keep in their pantries for longer periods of time and those that are packaged by brands they recognize and trust. Many of these products use traditional ingredients, rather than clean label, so we believe that in the short term, clean label will take a back seat for consumers as they make purchases. However, when shopping habits return to normal, we expect to see a return to clean-label trends like “real” and free from."