“Consumers have found new behaviors,” said Corbion’s Jennifer Halliburton, speaking at the IBIE session “2022 Consumer Trends presented by Corbion.”

And it takes an average of 66 days for these behaviors to become permanent, she noted. The rise of online ordering – when bakery is such a high impulse purchase – may hurt if those bakery items are not already in their basket.

“We have seen a lot of behaviors change, and how people shop varies,” Halliburton continued. “What types of packaging we offer matters, so the product arrives as expected and the consumers have a positive eating experience.”

There was a time, years ago, when consumers relied more on brand names and familiar categories. Those days are slipping away.

“People are now shopping for key words and shifting to new claims – like ‘made with real…’ or ‘made from…’ The question is are we messaging the way consumers are searching based on these key words,” she noted.

The biggest trend that the baking – and food – industry is witnessing now is the fact that consumers want to know your story. “That’s where they want to put their money,” Halliburton said.

Of note, 78% of Americans are still making meals at home, according to Corbion research, and quick shopping trips – less than five items and a total ring of $25 or less – are on an upswing.

“People are cherry-picking and deal shopping,” she noted. “How are you going to make sure bakery is top of mind?”

Add to that the inflation factor, and you see that 28% to 41% of shoppers are buying lower cost items. Club store formats are seeing a slight upswing in traffic.

What is important to consider, though, is that 43% of consumers eat bread daily and another 44% weekly, according to Corbion.

Add to that the important trend that more than one in two consumers want to be “more adventurous” in their eating experience. Artificial ingredient free remains the No. 1 appeal that reaches the broadest base of consumers.

Clean label remains front and center as a key consumer demand, “That’s not going away,” Halliburton said, “but they want experiences.”

Vegan, GMO free and high source of protein are the top three messages growing in consumer interest.

From the bakery, she noted, consumers seek out the following:

  • Free samples
  • Assortment of variety
  • Coffee shop bakery experience
  • Rotation of global breads and sweet baked goods
  • Bakery food trucks
  • Unique flavor combinations that stimulate the senses

The latter four factors, Halliburton pointed out, are all experiences.

As for flavor trends, chocolate, strawberry and banana rank high, followed by cinnamon, hazelnut, mango, orange, and lemon.

Emerging ingredients include cauliflower, potato, coconut, and almond flour.

“We are seeing consumers respond favorably to these,” Halliburton said. “They also want to hear your story, and sustainability is coming into focus. 32% say they would pay attention to something that prevents mold in bread.”

Keto friendly

There are two types of consumers when it comes to demand for carb-heavy foods, like pizza: those who say to bring on all the carbs and those who reinvent the recipes with “keto-friendly” ingredients that can help limit carbs or the potential impact of carbs. And according to the latest data from Ardent Mills’ proprietary research, CPG manufacturers, foodservice manufacturers, and commercial bakers that want to serve up the best pizza options for their customers shouldn’t limit themselves to keto-only options. As it turns out, nearly any carb-conscious1 offering will do.

Why? Because there is a significant—and often overlooked—difference between consumers who identify as wanting to reduce the amount or impact of carbs they consume in their diets (and look for products and dining experiences that cater to that desire) and consumers who claim to be “keto.” So how many carb reduction-focused consumers are we talking about here? Well … quite a lot. About four times the number of consumers who self-identify as “keto” report attempting to reduce or eliminate carbs from their diet. A quick reminder: “Ketosis is a process that happens when your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy. Instead, it burns fat and makes things called ketones, which it can use for fuel.”

In fact, while only approximately 6–8% of consumers follow a keto diet, many say they structure their diet to minimize or avoid carbs regularly (16%) or occasionally (31%). And 28% of those consumers claim they will reduce carb intake more frequently over the next 12 months.4

This is good news for CPG manufacturers, foodservice providers, and commercial bakers that experiment with carb-conscious pizza options—and fantastic news for you as you move to meet rising customer demand.

We don’t need to look any further than the $4 billion of products sold in the “carb-conscious category” in 2020—a 20% YOY increase over 20195—to know where consumer interest lies. But shopper online search behavior makes it especially clear that carb-conscious options are in high demand on both retailers’ shelves and in restaurants, even when compared to interest in explicitly “keto-friendly” products.6

According to recent data from Semrush, several low carb and carb-conscious keywords have a notable number of average monthly searches (in the U.S. alone), consistently trumping search terms that contain “keto”:

  • “low carb bread” (33,100 searches per month)
  • “keto-friendly bread” (4,400 searches per month)
  • “low carb pizza” (5,400 searches per month)
  • “keto-friendly pizza” (1,000 searches per month)

The carb-conscious angle has the potential to deliver big wins for commercial bakers, CPG manufacturers, and foodservice brands, but only if they expand their portfolio of products and give consumers the exact mix of great taste and nutritional value customers are looking for. And that’s much easier to achieve with the support of a partner that has the ability to influence nearly every step of the supply chain for low net carb and carb-conscious flour, from the field to the factory floor.

Ardent Mills Net Carb Flour Blends replace conventional flour options to help you make outstanding low net carb baked goods with a taste and texture that consumers love. Each flour blend is non-GMO project verifiable, keto-certifiable, and dairy-free; has no added sugar; and is made from uniquely blended grains, resulting in pizza crust, breadsticks, and breading that can help you meet consumer preferences for taste, texture, and nutrition.

CPG is not the only space making the most of customer interest in snacks, meals, and foods that are lighter on carbs. According to Ardent Mills’ data, nearly 500 items include a low carb or low net carb claim on foodservice menus today, and nearly 1 in 4 consumers said they would definitely order a pizza made with a low net carb crust.

However, when it comes to low net carb vs. keto in the foodservices space, it’s important to note that despite consumer interest in low net carb options outweighing keto, foodservice giants are leaning heavily into “keto-approved”- or “keto-friendly”-tagged menu options—often containing a perceived “better for you” marketing slant.

Foodservice organizations looking to court new customers (and build sustained customer loyalty) should keep top of mind that consumers can make low carb and keto-friendly “pizza” options at home, replacing the crust with alternatives like chicken, bacon, ground beef, and cheese. As such, foodservice providers that can master a low net carb crust made of real grains have a lot to offer customers who crave a more traditional texture and mouthfeel, like the unique grain combination offered by one of Ardent Mills Net Carb Flour Blends.

Customers walking through the bakery aisle increasingly want to make food choices that strike the right balance between great taste and a perceived underlying sense of wellness. According to proprietary research from Ardent Mills, about 45% of consumers currently participate in this taste and wellness mindset frequently, and 50% say they’re looking for new food products to meet their goals relative to this mindset. This creates the perfect opportunity for commercial bakers to adopt carb-conscious ingredients and capture consumers’ taste preferences in a manner that is reflective of their personal nutritional goals.