Bread Ahead founder Matthew Jones and Barry Callebaut’s Beverley Dunkley were among speakers at the British Society of Baking’s (BSB) Spring Conference, which took place on Wednesday 25 April.

Attendees were treated to a host of presentations at the National Bakery School, in London’s South Bank University, on topics including cutting-edge developments in chocolate, current thinking on emulsifiers and how Tesco turned around its fortunes in the bakery department.

The evening before, attendees were treated to a session at Bread Ahead’s bakery school in Borough Market learning how to make focaccia and pizza from scratch.

Here’s a round-up of some of the key take-home messages from the day.

1. Academic studies are shaping the future of healthy bakery

With the ancient art of bread- and cake-making, it can be easy to overlook the importance of scientific and academic studies in bakery. But they are shaping the sector and are the driving force behind major consumer trends.

Some of the key strands of research, according to Professor Paul Berryman, food and drink investment specialist, Department for International Trade, include free-from, reformulation and snacking.

“Gluten-free and dairy-free are the two biggest sectors in the free-from market and where we are seeing the biggest growth,” he said, highlighting a grant given to Warburtons to research how to improve the nutritional profile of gluten- and wheat-free products.

Unilever, meanwhile, is investigating how improving crops could help to produce improved bread products for those suffering from type 2 diabetes.

And, with sourdough’s rise in popularity, gut health is another trend making waves. Oxford-based Modern Baker is at the forefront of this, having received £763,000 in funding to conduct research by using fermented sourdough and producing healthier loaves on a mass-market scale.

2. Functional and no-sugar chocolate is gaining pace

Fun fact: Chocolate has to contain 1% sugar to legally be called chocolate, otherwise it’s a compound, Barry Callebaut’s Beverley Dunkley noted during her presentation. This is increasingly relevant as bakers look to reduce the sugar content in their wares. Even more so because the chocolate supplier is working on exactly that – chocolate with 1% sugar content for launch in September.

As demonstrated with brownies, the 1% sugar chocolate, which has yet to be named, still delivers a chocolatey hit for baked goods, but offers significantly lower sugar content when used in the same recipe as its standard 811 chocolate.

Dunkley also noted increasing demand for vegan-certified and high-protein chocolate, both areas under development for Barry Callebaut. 

3. “Cinnamon buns are the new doughnut…”

…well almost, according to Bread Ahead founder Matt Jones, who noted they were on “an upward trend at the moment” proving popular for the London-based bakery.

“In the food industry in general, you can do all the mad things, but people always come back to the classics. People know what they are, and are safe with them,” he said.

This explains the popularity of Bread Ahead’s over-filled doughnuts as well as its sticky cinnamon buns. And, while others look to make sweet treats healthier, Jones believes in indulgence, suggesting he won’t be looking to reduce the sugar (or gluten) in his recipes any time soon.

“We’re known for the naughty stuff,” he said. “That’s why people come to us. We get asked ‘do we have gluten-free options’, but they often buy something else anyway.”

4.       Brexit presents opportunities but also challenges

Food and drink suppliers exporting baked goods to the EU have been advised to brace for a hard Brexit, due to rules governing the origin of products.

But, according to Professor Paul Berryman, it’s not all bad news. Responding to an audience question he said: “Brexit is a mixed bag, to be honest. In terms of exports it’s quite a good time to export because of the weak pound.”

Canada and Australia have already been tipped as good export markets for baked goods, with companies including Renshaw and Bells of Lazonby already making headway in the latter. China, India, France and the USA were also highlighted as worth exploring.

“If you’re an overseas company planning to invest for the first time in the UK that is a harder sell then before. But you must remember people don’t invest in the UK just because we are a member of the EU,” he added. “They invest because of things like the skills-based experience, the huge market we have and the fact we have good universities and R&D facilities.”

5.       Food to go is on the menu at the BSB Autumn Conference

With one conference over, another is already on the horizon. Taking place on Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 October, the BSB 2018 Autumn Conference will be all about food to go.

“We’ve tried to build on a growing theme in the bakery fixture, which is out of home,” BSB chairman Paul Turner said. “We have a number of speakers lined up for the Autumn Conference to discuss out of home and the involvement they would like to see from the industry to support that category.”

Roberts Bakery MD Stuart Spencer-Calnan and bakery technologist Stan Cauvain have already been confirmed for the conference, which takes place at Heythrop Park Hotel and Resort in Enstone, Oxfordshire.