Flavors and colors are taking a natural turn in the retail bakery world.

At Dawn Foods, Elena Taylor, senior marketing director, points out the use of natural colors and flavorings is becoming mainstream. As a result, the expectation consumers have for natural colors and flavorings is that they are a “no compromise” substitute for artificial alternatives.

“This means natural options taste great and do not impart off-flavors and the colors are rich with strong appetite appeal,” Taylor says. “At Dawn, we continue to test and implement new and improved high-quality colorings and natural flavorings. “

Marie Wright, president of creation, design and development and chief global flavorist at ADM, explains that the consumer desire for clean and clear labels is one of the most important factors driving growth of plant-based colors and flavors.

Shoppers looking for clean-label products expect short ingredient lists that are free from artificial flavors and colors and certain additives, she says. ADM OutsideVoice℠ research found that 69% of consumers say simple, recognizable ingredients influence their purchasing decisions, while 66% say they are looking for labels with the shortest ingredient list.

“Additionally, consumers have become hyper-aware of their personal health,” Wright explains. “They are increasingly seeking out foods that can help support aspects of holistic wellness such as immunity and mental well-being. Natural flavor use is important in providing a great taste experience to better-for-you food formulations. Flavors that signal possible health benefits are appealing to consumers. For example, citrus flavors are often associated with naturally occurring vitamin C, which is perceived to help boost immune function. These flavors are also uplifting and refreshing, provoking feelings of happiness and energy, whereas warm flavors like cinnamon and allspice prompt physiological stress reduction.”

Flavors also elicit emotional responses due to taste activating the same area of the brain where we form memories, she says. Throughout the pandemic, consumers have been relieving stress with nostalgic flavors that elicit feelings of comfort, including vanilla, pumpkin spice and birthday cake.

Single-serve portions

In the COVID-19 environment, one of the top trends Dawn is seeing in the bakery is smaller, single-serve portions, says Taylor of Dawn Foods. According to a recent Nielsen study, grab-and-go bakery products have grown significantly (+7.6% as of 8/10/20) since the start of the pandemic, according to a proprietary report completed by Nielsen and done specifically for Dawn Foods.

“We are also seeing bakeries uncover new ways to maximize their budget while still customizing items to fit consumers’ needs,” Taylor explains. “To customize on a budget, we recommend that bakers use icings to show their creativity and glazes to turn a traditional baked good into something new.”

Beyond COVID-19, Dawn continues to see consumers prefer better-for-you products, whether it’s vegan, reduced sugar, natural flavors, etc. Ninety-one percent of consumers believe recognizable ingredients are healthier, according to Technomic’s Away from Home Bakery Study. Many bakers have incorporated these items into their bakeries and we strongly recommend they continue with this trend to best meet consumer needs.

Vegetable extracts are a great way to receive natural flavorings and colors.

“For example, at Dawn, we use beet and radish extract to give baked goods a bright red color,” Taylor says. “Carrot extract can also be used for orange coloring. Incorporating natural fruits are another way to add sweet flavor without the refined sugar.”

Dawn’s line of Cleaner Ingredients mixes, fillings and Naturally Brilliant icings contain natural colors and flavors. This line of products was tested with consumers and exceeded sensory score benchmarks. Dawn uses a wide range of fruits, vegetables and/or plants as sources of color and flavor including beets, carrots, pumpkins and more, and plans to continue to innovate in this space.

“Natural colors and flavors have become more mainstream because they can be used across a wide range of applications,” Taylor says. “Natural colors and flavors are robust enough to be bakeable and/or heated and can be added to ready-to-use products like buttercreme icings. There are beautiful natural colors available in various shades including red, blue, green and more; flavor options are similarly varied across various fruits and other flavor profiles.”

Dawn continues to explore various natural colors, flavors, and sweeteners to help ensure they use the best available options to meet customer and consumer expectations.

Benefits abound

With full-service capabilities, ADM offers flavor solutions to all product categories including baked goods, Wright explains. Vanilla, mint, citrus, fruits, berries, savory, dairy and more are part of our expansive portfolio of natural flavors and extracts, from the name fruit (FTNF) flavors and distillates.

“Because our flavor portfolio includes natural flavors, we are able to assist product developers in providing ingredients that appeal to consumers, as our research finds that 50% of consumers prefer foods or beverages containing natural ingredients that they consider beneficial to their health,” Wright says.

Citrus flavors are currently booming within the industry as shoppers seek out functional products with better-for-you positioning. In fact, 57% of global consumers report being more concerned about their immune system because of COVID-19, according to FMCG Gurus, June 2020. Refreshing citrus flavors also signal holistic wellness attributes like mental clarity and increased energy.

ADM is the world’s largest citrus oil procurer and processor, providing a portfolio of true-to-fruit flavors including lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, and mandarin flavors.

Vanilla product sales are also soaring as consumers are baking more at home. Vanilla is one of the most popular flavors in the world, and vanilla extract remains a key ingredient in comfort foods like cakes, cookies, ice cream and more. As consumers look for natural flavors that offer perceived physiological or emotional benefits, many choose nostalgic flavors like chocolate and vanilla. ADM is a global leader in the vanilla industry with a responsibly sourced, traceable supply of pure vanilla extracts, cured vanilla beans, paste and natural flavorings.

“We also offer a broad portfolio of mint flavors, including natural mint oils, acetates, cooling compounds, non-GMO varietals and more,” she says. “Mint serves as another signaling ingredient, as many consumers associate mint with refreshing and awakening attributes. Our mint varieties are specially bred to help create the highest-quality sensory experience without a bitter menthol taste.