Bakers have had success reducing sodium, sugar, fat and chemical-sounding ingredients over the past few years, but now they may wish to focus on increasing another element — taste.

“What a great job we did as an industry,” said Ryan Smith, vice-president and general manager of bakery for Kerry Americas Region. “We reacted quickly. You can see the last 10, 13, 14 years. You can see how hard we’ve all worked to go out and respond to the consumers.”

Often leaving ingredient lists were DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate (SSL), calcium propionate and mono- and diglycerides.

“But somewhere along the way, we forgot about the world of taste,” Mr. Smith said Feb. 27 at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTech 2017 in Chicago.

Food formulators should know all the ingredients, some new to industry, that may assist in adding back taste. He gave sugar-reduced cookies as an example. Sugar modulator systems have improved, such as stevia extracts being paired with flavor modulators.

“They are really different than what was being formulated in the past,” Mr. Smith said. “They are much more effective.”

Also in reduced-sugar cookie applications, emulsifiers void of partially hydrogenated oils are available. Soluble fibers may build back bulk, viscosity, and mouthfeel.

Of clean label, Mr. Smith said, “Don’t think about it anymore as a destination.”

Clean label is just a starting point now. He compared it to a welcome mat, green fees to get on the golf course and table stakes to enter a game of cards.

“It’s a given at this stage,” he said of clean label. “The consumer is already there, and if you’re not there, you probably need to catch up.”

The baking industry could look to other food categories both for ideas and to prepare for potential future concerns.

“We see some of these other trends coming, and some of them start in other adjacent categories, whether they be meat or beverage or dairy,” Mr. Smith said.

He said meat companies are taking phosphates out of their products. Bakers might wonder what would happen if consumer demand called for phosphates to come out of their products as well. Also, cocoa extracts are adding flavor to donuts that have been reformulated to be more clean label. The baking industry could look at how other industry sectors have dealt with cocoa extracts.