Consumer tastes are becoming more complex. There is a strong preference for inclusions in baked goods in particular that provide not only a boost of flavor but also textural variety, nutrition and visual appeal.

Two of the trendiest additions to sweet goods like cookies and brownies are fruits and nuts. Consumers have an increased desire for immunity support, better-for-you nutrients and personalized diets, and these ingredients check the boxes.

According to Richard de Waal, sales manager for Chaucer Foods, by incorporating freeze-dried fruit inclusions, product developers can fulfill on competing demands for more functionality and creativity in the taste and texture of baked treats. They add new flavor profiles, a pop of color and enhanced nutrition in bakery products while acting as a natural source of sweetness.

“Freeze-dried fruits such as strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, orange and lime are ideal for baked goods, as they have beautiful bright colors and strong fruit flavors and aromas,” he says.

With the rising importance of a healthy immune system during the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a growing demand for fruits rich in immunity-boosting vitamins and antioxidants, such as blueberries and raspberries.

“Studies have shown that fruit and vegetables retain important nutrients and health promoting properties through the freeze-drying process,” Chaucer says. “This makes freeze-dried fruit and vegetables a valuable addition to better-for-you bakery products. Freeze-dried fruits also retain their natural sugars, which can act as a healthier and more flavorful alternative to processed sugars in sweet baked applications.”

On the health front, nuts help product developers enhance the energy-boosting properties of baked goods. Additionally, their crunch and natural flavor is a combination that elevates the consumer’s overall eating experience. Almonds especially pair well with a variety of sweets and offer well-rounded nutrition with significant levels of protein, fiber, Vitamin E, magnesium and much more.

“Almonds can be incorporated in the batter for baked goods like cookies, muffins, brownies and breads, or used as a topping to create a premium look for finished bakery products,” says Laura Gerhard, director of strategy and planning for Blue Diamond Almonds Global Ingredients Division. “Sliced and slivered almond inclusions are ideal for adding a slight crunch to softer baked goods, or creating visual appeal as an elegant topping for cakes, pies and muffins.”

Gerhard also recommends almond flour as a solution for incorporating almonds in both gluten-free and traditional sweet baked goods. Bakers can rely on the benefits it provides to promote the nutritional content of their gluten-free products.

According to a 2020 report from Innova Market Insights, almonds were the leading nut used in global new product introductions in 2019, showing growth in several categories including bakery. Some of the top health associations among almond introductions were “gluten free” (23 percent), no “additives/preservatives” (16 percent), “high/source of protein” (15 percent) and “vegan” (15 percent).