Trends have various shapes, and sourdough – one of the most influential breads in America today – started as a trend in 2014, said Sophie Blum, chief marketing and channel officer for Puratos during a recent International Baking Industry Expo (IBIE) session at the Artisan Marketplace, Crafted by Puratos.

“Today the wave is growing very steep,” she noted.

Puratos conducts ongoing consumer research globally to shed light on influential food and bakery trends. Latest research involved human cultural intelligence, trend frameworks, and artificial intelligence.

As for 2022 trends, “Continued Classics” is a key trend for bakery to feed innovation. According to Puratos research, 60% of consumers want to try something new and yet 67% would like to have some familiar ingredients.

“Taste and freshness remain the undisputable driver of choice,” she said. “Consumers expect food to go beyond nutrition. Mental and physical connections are increasingly important.”

Sourdough is the second most-talked about topic in the bread industry over the past two years, Blum said. And increasingly consumers buy and taste with their eyes – particularly in the digital age. Puratos research reveals that 59% of consumers say appearance enhances taste.

“Food that looks good also tastes good,” she said. “This is a major shift in consumer attitudes in the last few years.”

Holiday offerings

Baking industry leader La Brea Bakery has announced the return of two limited-time holiday offerings to its artisanal portfolio: Cranberry Walnut Loaf: Toasted walnuts and tart, slightly sweet cranberries bring this bread to life; and Take & Bake Holiday Savory Rolls: Reminiscent of stuffing, these savory rolls are full of sage, celery, thyme, and black and white pepper

“Building on the popularity of our holiday offers in previous years, we are excited to bring back these staples for our customers,” said Brie Buenning, director of marketing at La Brea Bakery. “These two products offer classic holiday flavors and artisanal quality to any holiday table, from Thanksgiving dinner to a holiday brunch.”

These two products can be found at stores across the nation – including Safeway, Albertsons, Harris Teeter and more – for a limited time during the holiday season.

Cranberry Walnut Loaf and Holiday Savory Rolls can be a delectable addition alongside a variety of classic holiday dishes. Some of La Brea Bakery’s favorite recipes using these breads are:

Smokey Aubergine Spread served on Cranberry Walnut Loaf

“Thanksgiving Leftovers” Hasslebacks using Holiday Savory Rolls

Chef Jon Davis, culinary innovation leader at Aspire Bakeries, points out the Cranberry Walnut Loaf is such a classic flavor combination. The wheat and rye flours give the bread a lot of complexity. It really goes well with sandwiches and everything.

“Our customers keep coming back to it,” Davis said. “With our Holiday Savory Rolls, we looked at portion sizes and wanted to bring the best experience of flavor and shape that goes together in a smaller format. It is a great classic for small portion sandwiches and for snacking.”

Davis welcomed the opportunity to reacquaint with new and existing technology during the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) in September. And what’s even more important now is that many grocers have limited display space, so they are looking to target unique fresh bakery items.

“We need content too, and content that is visually appealing,” he noted. “We are doing a lot more marketing like that to drive sales. Smaller stores offer an opportunity. For small independents to drive demand, they can bring in these items as Limited Time Offers (LTOs). We have visual packaging that really stands out from the rest.”

The goal is not to get lost in a sea of brown. That’s why unique packaging that communicates real benefits to the shopper is so appealing. Plus, there are cross-merchandising opportunities. “One SKU can go in the bakery department,” Davis said, “and also one can go in a cheese basket.”

As for other products from La Brea, the company recently announced its newest everyday artisan bread: cinnamon raisin. Studded with raisins and pockets of sweet cinnamon, La Brea Bakery’s Cinnamon Raisin Loaf launched at Kroger stores and became available to purchase as of Sept. 7, 2022.

“This loaf is a great addition to our portfolio, as it brings a slightly sweet option to our product line,” said Buenning. “We’ve also seen more consumers interested in breakfast at home and nostalgic flavors right now. This new product is a perfect fit, and we’re excited to bring an elevated cinnamon raisin bread experience to the market.”

The Cinnamon Raisin Loaf was developed through a Kroger-La Brea Bakery partnership, which identified a gap in the in-store bakery category. “As a classic bakery favorite, cinnamon raisin bread is versatile and continues to grow in popularity, but you don’t see it in the in-store bakery fresh artisan bread offerings,” said Christy Benken, Kroger category manager, Bakery – Bread and Rolls. “This delicious new loaf fills an unmet consumer need.”

In addition to Kroger stores, La Brea Bakery’s Cinnamon Raisin Loaf is available at other Kroger-owned stores, including Fred Meyer, Fry’s, Harris Teeter, King Soopers, Ralphs, Roundy’s, Smith’s Food and Drug and more.

The Cinnamon Raisin Loaf complements both sweet and savory flavors, pairing well with white cheddar and Brie cheeses, chardonnay, and Belgian-style ales.

Making it personal

Companies don’t run themselves. People do.

This is an important reminder spoken by Rick Oleshak, vice president of marketing for AB Mauri, during the recent IBIE show where he delivered a compelling presentation about the importance of a business-to-consumer mindset.

“It’s really all about awareness,” he said with conviction.

The industry is facing short supplies, gas shortages and other pressing issues, setting the stage for a more intuitive mindset toward effective marketing: smaller groups, specific needs, lead generation, and educationally driven.

Oleshak calls it a less traditional approach that can achieve more visibility. For example, “facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered through storytelling,” he pointed out.

There are five truths to implementing an effective storytelling program.

  1. Speak truthfully.
  2. Infuse personalities into stories.
  3. Create likeable characters.
  4. Have a start, middle and ending.
  5. Do give it away.

Craft a narrative and humanize the stats, he emphasized. Have a purpose. Be intentional. And stay authentic.

“We don’t want to be presented to,” Oleshak said. “We want to be inspired.”

Consumers are savvier than ever, he added, citing stats that show 80% of Americans get news on their smartphone or computer tablet at least often or sometimes.

“Listen to consumers and collaborate with them,” he emphasized. “That way, your job is going to be so much easier.”

Environmental impact

Global ingredient supplier Corbion teams up with Cargill and other players across the food industry supply chain to promote adoption of regenerative agriculture practices that lower CO2 emissions, preserve agricultural productivity and enable long-term food security.

Recognizing the importance of creating a more sustainable supply chain by which to meet the world’s growing need for food, Corbion has joined a collaborative effort to remove barriers to regenerative agriculture practices with financial incentives and technical support for farmers. Corbion is among a number of companies signed up to promote long-term soil health through a Cargill program that works with corn growers near Corbion’s Blair, Neb., plant to implement sustainable farming practices. These practices help increase resilience to climate change and improve farmer economics/yields, in part through the use of cover crops. The corn dextrose from these fields serves as a major raw material input for Corbion, which funded 10% of the cost of the cover crop program.

The program, established by Cargill through a partnership with the Practical Farmers of Iowa, comprises three key elements: cost-sharing for growers who implement cover crops; a technical and peer support network; and monitoring and evaluation of outcomes and progress toward supply chain sustainability goals.

“At Corbion, our purpose is to preserve what matters,” said Diana Visser, senior director – Sustainability at Corbion. “The future of our business, and that of our customers, depends in part on regenerative agriculture practices in our supply chain. Without it, we will not be able to help meet the needs of the world in terms of a safe, nutritious food supply as well as mitigating the effects of climate change. Collaborations like this one led by Cargill are essential to creating an ongoing, sustainable food system.”

Regenerative agriculture encompasses a variety of sustainable agriculture techniques that work in combination to conserve and rehabilitate ecosystems and resources, and to create a farming system that remains vital, productive and resilient over the long term. By encouraging farmers to adopt better soil health practices, including no till, planting of cover crops, and nutrient management, the collaboration is designed to reduce GHG emissions, increase soil organic matter, increase farmer resilience, improve water quality, and leverage technical assistance and farmer-farmer networks to drive change.

Using cover crops improves soil health and quality by reducing soil erosion and by increasing biodiversity. It also helps to keep nitrogen bound in the soil where it can support crop production and prevent it from leaching into groundwater or causing eutrophication of surface water. In 2021, cover crops planted in the program resulted in a 39% reduction in metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions compared to if no cover crops were planted when sequestration was included. Acreage under the program has seen a potential 17% reduction in the Emission Factor thanks to the use of cover crops, which also improved water quality by 33%.

“Taking action to help increase the security and health of our supply chain is not a selfish thing to do, nor is it a selfless thing to do,” said Visser. “It’s just a smart thing to do. The choice to advance sustainable practices recognizes that we can – and we must – meet the needs of our customers and the world while preserving the planet that feeds us all at the same time.”

A new sustainability platform from King Arthur Baking Co. released Sept. 27 sets 2030 goals and addresses topics like regenerative agriculture, greenhouse gas emissions, packaging and waste.

“The launch of our 2030 sustainability goals encapsulates King Arthur’s long-standing commitment to create a positive impact on the environment and the communities we serve,” said Suzanne McDowell, vice president of corporate social responsibility and sustainability at King Arthur Baking Co. “As a Certified B Corporation, we’ve been transparently measuring our environmental and social impact against rigorous standards since 2007. Now, we’re holding ourselves to an even higher standard with ambitious goals and an aggressive timeline because we believe we must take care of our most precious resources — our people and our planet.”

Norwich-based King Arthur plans for 100% of the flour in its bags to be milled from regeneratively grown wheat by 2030. All current company facilities by 2030 will use 100% renewable electricity while transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 30%. King Arthur by 2030 plans to achieve a 100% circular packaging system by developing all packaging to include 100% deforestation-free fibers and a minimum of 50% post-consumer recycled content. Finally, King Arthur will strive for zero waste to landfills from all facilities by 2030.

In other 2030 goals, King Arthur wants 100% of its high-risk suppliers to meet a code of conduct for environmental and social requirements and 100% of its key ingredients to be sourced sustainably. Supplier diversity will be maximized. To create a culture in which all employee-owners feel welcome, respected and valued, King Arthur will launch “belonging groups” and leadership compensation will be tied to building inclusive and diverse teams. 

Heritage grains

The terms ancient, heirloom and heritage grains (ancient grains) are used interchangeably by consumers and marketers to describe minor cereal grains and pseudo cereal grains that have not been adopted into American staple diets such as wheat, rice or corn, according to Ardent Mills. There is no scientific definition or regulatory standard for ancient grains. Historically, they were consumed by Indigenous peoples and have gained popularity in local food movements due to perceived improved nutritional and flavor profiles, according to Ardent Mills.

Most consumers in an Ardent Mills’ survey expressed interest in buying an item containing ancient grains, and nearly 90% said they wanted to know more about ancient grains. Denver-based Ardent Mills contacted 1,001 US consumers of the ages 18 or older online Aug. 19-23.

The survey found 63% of respondents said they either were very familiar with ancient grains or had heard of them. Sixty-one percent said they definitely or probably would purchase an item with ancient grains from a grocer. The percentages were higher for consumers of the ages 18 to 34 at 65% and 35 to 52 at 64%. While 85% said they were interested in the nutritional benefits of ancient grains, 82% said they were interested in functional benefits.

Consumers, as savvy as they are becoming and as resources become available to them and they use (the resources) more often, there is still a little bit of gap in their understanding,” said Matthew Schueller, director of marketing insights and analytics for Ardent Mills. “It doesn’t undermine their appreciation, but one of the things that kind of caught me by surprise was not what consumers didn’t know but what they do know. That was specifically within the questions we asked about nutritional values.”

Quinoa remains the most popular ancient grain. While 86% of respondents said they were familiar with quinoa, 40% said they were very familiar. Consumers of the ages 35 to 54 had the highest familiarity of quinoa at 91%.

“When it first came into the marketplace, it had a lot of stickiness and a lot of traction because consumers struggled with how to pronounce it,” Schueller said. “I think in some way it made it sort of sticky to the point where it gave the grain an opportunity to stay on the radar of consumers until they were able to experience it.”

Schueller mentioned buckwheat, sorghum and millet as ancient grains emerging in the marketplace.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents said they were familiar with buckwheat with 27% saying they were very familiar.

“Buckwheat has relatively solid awareness among consumers, and I think they realize that they come across buckwheat in a number of different formats in the marketplace,” Schueller said.

For sorghum, 54% said they were familiar with the grain, and 10% said they were very familiar.

“Consumers probably lack a little bit of awareness and understanding of sorghum relative to how often they end up eating it,” Schueller said.

Sixty-one percent of respondents said they had heard of millet with 13% saying they were very familiar with it.

“I think that is one that probably is poised here in the very near future to see some increased attention and adoption, both from the manufacturing side and also the consumer side,” Schueller said of millet.