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The sweet tooth meets the better-for-you mindset

Today’s consumers are taking a more proactive approach to their diets and being more mindful of how their food choices affect their personal health, their community and their planet. This increasing interest in better-for-you foods continues to fuel product innovation, including in the sweet bakery market.

The category has now evolved to include a number of priorities, such as using natural colors and flavors, added protein, or reduced sugar, in addition to removing additives and (artificial) preservatives.

Better-for-you concepts will continue to develop and bring new opportunities for the sweet bakery sector. ‘Guilt-free indulgence’ will still influence consumer shopper behavior as we move into 2024. According to Dawn Foods’ recent Bakery Trends Survey, more than half of European consumers are willing to try more sweet baked goods with better-for-you claims. The industry needs to get the right balance between health, sustainability and indulgence, as consumers look to satisfy cravings with their favorite sweet bake that also has an improved nutritional profile or a positive impact on the environment.

The broad spectrum of what ‘better-for-you’ entails for consumers presents commercially interesting opportunities for bakeries. Dawn Foods’ research shows that 3 in 5 European consumers are willing to pay a slight price premium for better-for-you sweet baked goods. There are several interesting NPD avenues with promising opportunities for sweet bakery creations.

Key directions

  • V-e-g-a-n – Vegan products are entering mainstream territory: 61% of European consumers said they liked vegan sweet baked goods when they had a taste. Vegan alternatives have become better when it comes to taste, with vegan variants tasting as good if not better than the original. They create the possibility to offer vegan as a (new) standard. For vegan developments, the most important challenge is to get the same functionality with alternative ingredients for eggs, milk and butter. For Dawn’s newest – soon to be launched – addition to their vegan range, the Dawn Balance® Sponge Cake Mix Vegan, this was one of the biggest challenges to overcome. A sponge cake is traditionally made with a high number of eggs. Making it vegan means finding a solution to replace the egg with alternative ingredients playing a similar role. Dawn’s R&D teams have managed to keep the same functionality and performance of the mix. It provides a good batter structure and aeration, resulting in a cake or swiss roll with similar eating properties and sensorial experiences as a regular Sponge mix.
  • Egg-free examples – With the growing vegan and vegetarian demand and the fluctuating prices on eggs, it is great to have egg-free alternatives available. Dawn’s range of egg wash substitutes, provides a nice glossy shine on baked goods and includes a wide array of additional dietary benefits on top of being egg-free.
  • Gluten-free goodness – Similar to the vegan trend, gluten-free alternatives have become more mainstream. What was a niche product category for people experiencing severe gluten intolerance and coeliac disease has turned into a product category, with better-tasting gluten-free products, servicing a broader group of people who are avoiding or reducing gluten in their diets. For gluten-free (or other allergens) developments, the challenge lies in avoiding cross-contamination in production. Bakery manufacturers need either a dedicated area to produce these types of products or meticulous cleaning will need to be done in between production runs.
  • Clearly, clean labels – At the moment, there is no clear and uniform European position or regulation on the use of clean-label claims. Therefore, it is important to be aware of different interpretations that exist. Dawn’s criteria when developing cleaner label bakery ingredients are that they are developed with natural flavors and colors, with no preservatives, minimal e-numbers and allergens, resulting in simpler, easy-to-understand labels on the end product/baked good.
  • Protein-enriched products – Ingredients that can provide both unique tastes and enhanced nutritional properties include proteins, which are perceived to be good for you and support an active lifestyle as they contribute to the maintenance and growth of muscle mass. Dawn’s American mixes with protein offer the possibility to create a range of bakery products such as muffins, cakes, cookies, brownies and pancakes, offering consumers an option to satisfy their sweet tooth while contributing to their daily protein intake to support their active lifestyle.

Sweet bakery will always be strongly connected to indulgence, but, as the interest in better-for-you products continues to rise and broadens so, of course, do market and commercial opportunities for bakers.

With better-for-you solutions, bakers can create health-conscious, yet delicious sweet baked goods without any drastic production changes or the need to develop them from scratch.

The article was originally published in Baking+Biscuit International magazine, issue 5, 2023.

Photo: vegan sponge cake. Credit: Dawn Foods