Everyone loves hot honey, and muffins are the perfect platform to add some “swicy” heat and create a more savory product with the perfect amount of sweetness, explains Catherine Barry, vice president of marketing for the National Honey Board, Erie, Colorado.

“Honey is the ideal ingredient in clean label muffin development by the very nature of what the ingredient is. This all-natural sweetener comes straight from nature. From the bee to the hive to the bakery,” Barry shares. “Honey is simply honey. A 100% pure ingredient. On ingredient listings, honey also is simply labeled as honey. It doesn’t get more clean label than that.”

Other new menu ideas include:

Savory Honey Muffins. Honey, chives and gruyere cheese provide a clean label spin on a classic.

Blueberry Muffins with Salted Honey Crumble. Combining clover honey, fresh blueberries, butter and vanilla remix a sweet take on a fan favorite.

Pumpkin Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting. Bakers can add to their fall menus with this clean label recipe that includes honey, pumpkin, cinnamon and buttermilk.

The National Honey Board has been tracking the clean label trend since the term first entered the food and beverage lexicon. As an all-natural sweetener derived from honeybees, the board has a vested interest in the success of bakery product developers seeking to streamline their ingredient listings with all-natural ingredients that consumers can feel good about eating.

“Luckily, clean label is no longer a trend. It has transcended the next big thing status and firmly established itself as a formulation goal,” Barry shares. “In fact, clean label formulation has even spawned new trends, such as bakers only using ingredients that consumers can find in their pantry. We’re glad to see clean label development and marketing now established as a core tenet of bakery product development.”

A C&R Research study showed that many consumers will say no to baked goods with ingredients that are hard to pronounce (37%), perceived to be unhealthy or not “good for you” (29%), or unnatural (22%). Consumers tend to interpret “clean” descriptors as having to do with ingredients. Consumers said they prefer products made with recognizable ingredients (56%) and short ingredient lists (65%).

Bakers making clean label muffins with honey should position the products for their simplicity, familiarity, natural ingredients, transparency and sustainability. 

Honey is most known for its sweetness, and for good reason. The first leavened breads were sweetened with honey. In fact, there are more than 3,000 varietals of honey, creating endless flavor combination opportunities.

“However, honey is more than a sweetener,” Barry explains. “The ingredient’s flavor profile also helps bakers use a clean label ingredient to mask or smooth the off-flavors of some ingredients. For example, the increased use of whole grains in muffins has been an excellent addition to the overall healthfulness of many products. However, wholegrains sometimes carry a bitter flavor profile not accepted by consumers who are used to the sweeter flavor profile of white flour. Honey has played a starring role in whole grain muffins, helping to mask specific off-flavors and smoothing out a product’s overall flavor profile.”