Plant bakers and major retailers are upping fibre levels in bread with a variety of innovative ingredients as interest in healthier loaves grows

Eighteen months ago, Marks & Spencer announced it was adding fibre to all its bread – declaring “the days of the simple white loaf are numbered”.

Clearly, all the ‘simple white loaves’ lining bakery and supermarket shelves are yet to get the message, but there’s no doubt that demand for products high in fibre is a key trend in the baked goods category.

For M&S, that meant setting a minimum amount of fibre of 3g per 100g for all of its white loaves and rolls, with its Supersoft White Bread’s fibre content increased from 2.5 to 3.6g, for example.

Allied Bakeries was embracing the higher-fibre trend back in 2014, when it launched the Kingsmill Great White loaf containing as much fibre as wholemeal. The loaf was this year relaunched under the name Kingsmill Hi-Fibre White, which Allied says is a clearer proposition for consumers.

Demonised as unhealthy

Many suppliers believe more needs to be done to market the benefits of fibre and nutrients in bread in a way that consumers can easily grasp, particularly in an era when bread and wheat continue to be demonised as unhealthy.

With overall wrapped bread sales static – and healthy eating, convenience and indulgence driving any growth in the market – businesses are developing added-value products with seeds, grains, pulses, and higher fibre or protein content.

Providing a fresh, innovative and premium offer using additional sources of fibre will almost be essential to gaining a share of the breads market, according to Edward Widdowson, head of in home at supplier Macphie, adding that being able to make positive health claims around fibre, satiety and protein will be a big competitive advantage.

There are many approaches to this, with supplier Edme suggesting that flakes and kibbles, whether malted or unmalted, can give products a premium taste and appearance while increasing fibre content.

“If you want to add fibre, our recommendation is to add one or more wholegrain ingredients,” says Edme sales director Mike Carr. “Wholegrain, pulse and seed flours create flavoursome, nutritious loaves with satisfying bite, a good fibre content – with no need to use fibre enhancers or additives.”

There’s an abundance of flours that can be used to increase the fibre content of a product, while also enhancing colour, flavour and texture. For example, all malted cereal flours are wholegrain, which means they are rich in fibre. Even a small inclusion can improve the taste and texture of a loaf.

Non-wheat flours can also tap demand for gluten-free foods, points out ingredients supplier EHL, which has predicted chickpea flour will be a major trend for 2017. In addition to being gluten-free, chickpea flour is high in iron, protein and fibre, and can bring a nutty taste to bread. It also binds well in recipes to create a consistent texture, which it said can be a struggle in gluten-free baking.

“Using alternative ingredients such as chickpea flour in breads can raise a product’s health credentials and enhance its appeal,” said EHL Ingredients joint managing director Tasneem Backhouse. “We expect a lot more alternative flours to be incorporated into gluten-free products in the bakery sector and across wider food products.”

Functional properties

Last year, Warburtons announced the start of a three-year project with the Canadian International Grains Institute to produce healthier baked products and advance the use of pulses, such as yellow peas, red and green lentils, chickpeas and haricot beans. The three-year project aims to develop a database summarising new and existing information on the compositional, functional and flavour properties of pulses.

Supplier Eurostar Commodities says it is working on development projects with plant bakeries and manufacturers looking for ways to increase fibre and protein from natural sources.

Sales director Jason Bull says products being used in these projects include chickpea flour (33% protein/19% fibre) and sprouted flours – as the sprouting process increases fibre content in certain grains, such as spelt. It is also working with vegetable powders, such as spinach and green pea.

“We are seeing real growth in demand so are increasing our range of products in all these categories,” adds Bull. “For us the key step is to use flours that are naturally higher in fibre, such as rye.”

Eurostar is developing a premix range of sprouted multi-seed flours with a naturally higher fibre content.

Ingredients suppliers Puratos says it is investing in innovation in the area of high fibre. It offers a product that consists of sprouts, grains and seeds that have been infused with liquid sourdough so that a baker can create grain breads from a wide variety of doughs.

Sprouted legume flours

Suppliers are addressing difficulties with digestion of beans and peas by making increased use of sprouted legume flours, which give a higher vitamin and mineral profile, a less acidic taste profile and a complex sugars profile that makes them easier to breakdown in the intestine.

The use of legume or vegetable high-fibre flours can also add softer crumb and structural integrity to bread. And while pulse and legume-based breads are no longer the preserve of small-scale artisan bakers, this is still a relatively untapped and sizeable market.

One well developed market, of course, is bread with added seeds and grains, although some industry insiders feel there are still opportunities to be embraced in this area. Seeds are an important and easy way of adding fibre and work well as inclusions in bread or as a coating. Sunflower, linseed and pumpkin are all rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins. And many consumers are already aware of the health benefits of seeds, which have the full profile of amino acids needed to form complete and digestible protein.

Flax, pumpkin, poppy, sunflower and chia seeds are among popular bakery seeds that are high in fibre, says Frank Horan, director of seeds’ supplier Unicorn Ingredients. Sales of chia seed, which have a high fibre content of 34%, are increasing and buckwheat sales are picking up, he adds.

With seeds commonplace in bread, there is now a focus on adding to the roster of seeds, with coloured seeds and grains becoming more popular.

“Often with seeds in bakery you see variations on a theme, new product development takes a long time. But there is a growing trend for the use of coloured grains, such as red or black quinoa or black sesame,” adds Horan.

Bakery expert Stanley Cauvain, director of BakeTran, suggests the range of seed options for bakers is “large and, it would be fair to say, under-utilised”.

He says: “Their potential use depends on factors such as taste contribution, impact on product texture, functionality (positive or negative), potential nutritional benefits and, of course, cost.”

Cauvain explains that the functionality of the seeds in the manufacturing processes varies according to their type. A particular challenge for a baker can be the ability of seed coats to absorb large qualities of water, even to the extent of absorbing water from the surrounding product matrix; this can lead to staling of bread and roll crumb.

Support is needed to help bakers adjust formulae and dough processing when adding fibre-rich ingredients. Extra water may need to be used, and the combination of fibre and extra water may alter the moulding characteristics of the dough, which may present challanges.

Cauvain says fibre-fortification of white bread is often assumed to be the route to raising fibre levels. However, the addition of fibres to bread inevitably brings changes in the taste and texture of white bread.

John Danby, director of Corcoran Chemicals, agrees that adding fibre to the baking process can be complex. Whether this is by addition of specific refined fibres such as potato, oats, fruit, cellulose or one of the many products available on the market, or whether this is by the intrinsic fibre benefit of adding grains or seeds, either way, end product and processing capability can be affected, he says.

Refined fibre

Refined fibre addition can take a huge amount of reformulating work, but can also contribute to shelf life extension, texture and mouthfeel, as well as giving an improvement to dough handling and workability during process.

The challenge for ingredients suppliers has been to offer products with enhanced enrichment and less impact on the baking process or end product.

Natural fibre additions such as psyllium (made from the husks of the plantago  plant’s seeds) can change the appearance of breads but can also be blended with products such as wood-based cellulose fibres that can limit any effects on colour.

Whichever approach bakers take to innovation around added fibre, it is worth bearing in mind that the mainstream consumer is in many ways a conservative beast when it comes to new product trends.

Sales stats suggest that white bread retains a firm customer base. While the overall trend is downwards, wrapped white bread sales saw a fractional growth, up 0.1% in value to £690m in the year to 21 May, according to latest Kantar Worldpanel data (see infographic).

Overall bread sales were up 0.9%, with wholemeal sales down 0.1% by value and ‘half and half’ sales down an 8.8% – possibly as consumers moved on to lunchbox alternatives such as wraps.

In these muddy waters, only one bread sub-category had a clear mandate – with sales of added-value seeds and grains bread growing 7.9% in the past year.

Healthy eating may be a selling point but taste is what matters when it comes to bread, particularly with so many alternatives now available.

Spread the word on fibre benefits, urge bakery firms

Interest in the fibre content of bread is increasing, but bakery suppliers believe more needs to be done to communicate the health benefits of added fibre to consumers.

Research by ingredients and bakery solutions supplier Puratos into consumer fibre intake and awareness shows that only 35% of Brits know bread contains fibre, although 66% believe fibre adds to healthiness (Puratos Taste Tomorrow study 2015).

This mean it is imperative that both suppliers and individual bakers highlight the benefits of all bread, says Puratos UK marketing manager Lydia Baines.

Meanwhile, Edward Widdowson, head of in home at supplier Macphie, points to Campden BRI research that shows children between four and 18 years of age are consuming only half their recommended daily fibre.

Advertising the fibre content of products can help to promote sales, as many parents are well aware of this issue among children, he says.

High-fibre messaging is already common throughout Europe, according to bakery consultant Stanley Cauvain, especially in northern Europe. The high-fibre baked product messages elsewhere in the world are less well established, with some activity in places such as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

In North America, fibre is publicised with greater emphasis on wholegrains. US dietary guidelines for Americans include a recommendation for at least three servings of wholegrain a day.

There’s no equivalent NHS recommendation here, but the baking industry could run its own campaign, starting with raising awareness among retailers, suggests Mike Carr from ingredients and mixes supplier Edme.

“We would be extremely supportive of such a move – and believe it could help counteract some of the demonisation of bread that has eroded confidence during the past decade,” he says.

Bakels’ marketing manager Michael Schofield says the company recognises difficulties in getting a high-fibre message out. It rebranded its Multiseed product two years ago with a consumer-friendly message, “The Feel Good Bread”.

Bakels also offers a range of free point-of-sale materials to help bakers market the bread and its benefits.

High-fibre cakes: are shoppers ready to blur the boundaries?

Pret a Manger sells a high-fibre muffin with wholemeal flour, carrots, seeds, superberry compote and cranberries that offers 9g of fibre per 100g, and 8g of protein.

Meanwhile, Fibre One cake bars, made with chicory root extract and sold by General Mills through supermarkets, contain more than 20% fibre. Flavours include Chocolate Fudge, Lemon Drizzle and Salted Caramel.

But whether consumers are ready to blur lines and take a dose of fibre with their cake on a wider scale remains a moot point.

Ireks national sales manager Lee Pugh comments that higher fibre sports bars using seed and grains are more commonplace than cakes.

And bakery scientist Stanley Cauvain points out that the potential for high fibre and sweetness combinations depends almost entirely on delivering a product that tastes good.

Cake products are regarded as treats and the negative impacts of many fibre-rich materials on product texture and taste will have to be overcome.

As is the case with any fibre-rich product, it is not simply a case of adding the fibre; other formulation and process changes will have to be introduced.

What it takes to make ‘high fibre’ claim

It is now against the law to make any health claim that has not been approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

To make a ‘high fibre’ claim, the product has to contain at least 6g fibre per 100g, and to make a ‘source of fibre’ claim, it has to contain at least 3g fibre per 100g.

During the past year the UK has had 106 launches of new bakery products that make fibre claims and 110 that make wholegrain claims. (Source: Mintel)

The average adult intake of fibre is 18g a day, considerably below the NHS fibre intake recommendation of 30g a day.

Bakers learn to live life on the veg

Plant-based eating is big news across the food industry and is also having an influence on Britain’s bakery market.

The inclusion of vegetables such as carrots, courgettes, leeks and spinach in breads is on trend for 2017 and a good way to attract customers

looking for an alternative to white bread, according to Miriam Bernhart, category marker leader at CSM Bakery Solutions.

Last year, Waitrose rolled out a cauliflower cheese sourdough (pictured right). Made with roasted cauliflower, cumin, coriander, and Cheddar, it was pitched as “a great way to sneak in some extra veg”.

And the winning product in this year’s Britain’s Best Loaf contest also embraced the vegetable trend with the Beetroot Multiseed Sourdough loaf produced by Seasons Bakery containing fresh beetroot.

In the US bakers are innovating hard, with a range of veg-based products on show at the Natural Products Expo West event held in California earlier this year.

This included Cauliflower-based pizza crusts from Caulipower, which are claimed to be more nutritious, higher in fibre, gluten-free and lower in calories. And pizza brand Oh Yes, developed by a doctor and his wife, is made with with a gluten-free crust made from 12 fruits and veggies, including kale, cauliflower, artichoke, green pepper, carrot and squash.

Also on show was green veg bread from Hybread, which is high in fibre and features dark green veggies, including kale, romaine and spinach.

But how far a British baker should go down the innovation route is open to debate.

Ireks national sales manager Lee Pugh says one of its best-selling breads in the UK has been corn bread, which has a golden colour to the crumb and a slightly sweet taste from the corn.

Puratos says the perception of vegetable breads is very much around health and colours, which are very appealing to the consumer. However, vegetable breads could also incorporate grains to assist the nutrient content, including fibre.

Eurostar Commodities is helping customers develop products containing vegetable flour such as spinach, pea and beetroot.

As always, the success of vegetable breads depends on consumer expectations of what bread should deliver in terms of pleasure, says BakeTran director Stanley Cauvain.

Low-GI foods hit by EU rules and consumer confusion

Seeded breads took off during the days when diabetes-friendly low glycaemic index (GI) diets were all the rage.

The GI indicates how quickly carbohydrate-based food makes blood glucose levels rise after eating them. Slowly-absorbed carbohydrates have a low GI rating. To get a lower glycaemic count, shoppers chose wholegrain breads, especially those that incorporated seeds or sprouted grains.

Bakels pioneered the low-GI breads sector with its Multiseed Low GI concentrate, launched in 2005. But a few years down the line, the term low GI failed to get approval from the European Food Safety Authority to be used as a health claim on packaging, along with many others.

At the start of 2012 British Bakels removed the term low GI from all its sales and marketing literature for its Multiseed mix, even though the product remains the same with a GI score of 54. The process of getting the claim passed would have cost £400,000 and upwards.

The low-GI legacy lives on in seeded breads, even if the term low GI no longer resonates with the general public.

Bakery consultant and scientist Stan Cauvain comments that low GI never really grabbed the mainstream attention of the UK bread-consuming public, possibly because the concept was too hard to understand and implement for many individuals. Even in the bastion of low GI – Australia – interest has waned.