Is it a contradiction that bakers are using bread mixes to meet consumer demand for authentic, natural products? 

As demand for more varied and flavoursome breads grow, ingredients suppliers are responding with more pre-mixes that can be adapted into a wide range of products.

While the Chorleywood Bread Process is about speed, there is now more emphasis on quality and taste, suggests Maurice van Tongeren, international head of sales at Ireks. “Our mixes combine sourdough and malt produced in-house, then we develop a recipe based on a slow fermentation process, so you get the product the customer is looking for – a full-bodied taste with lots of flavour,” he says. Ireks’ leading products include a spelt and honey mix, while a chia bread mix is also performing well.

In addition to grains for added nutrition, texture and flavour, consumers are seeking vegan and gluten-free options, says Miriam Bernhart, product marketing director for bread ingredients at CSM Bakery Solutions, which makes mixes including Arkady Multiseed Gold and White. “We are also seeing more sweet breads such as those with chocolate, spices and fruits as luxury afternoon tea loaves. The trend is leaning towards more premium, special breads.”

Bakels supplies a range of ‘artisanal-style’ bread mixes containing a dried sourdough powder. “They deliver a sophisticated and authentic taste, typical of those produced in a French rustic wood-fired peel oven,” says marketing manager Michael Schofield.
“High-quality bread mixes present opportunities for bakers to produce great-tasting, authentic-style breads, but without the long process times associated with these types of breads,” says Schofield.

However, mixes have had some bad press. In November, the Daily Mail questioned the authenticity of certain ‘sourdough’ loaves in an article heavily quoting Chris Young from the Real Bread Campaign, who asks whether bread mixes are necessary. “All that’s required to make a great loaf is flour, water, a pinch of salt and either some yeast or a sourdough starter – all cheap and all natural,” he says.

He also questions the use of terms such as ‘sourdough’ and ‘artisan’ on mixes, and whether mixes play a role in deskilling the baking industry. Unsurprisingly, ingredients manufacturers disagree.

“That is a very niche concern,” says van Tongeren. “Consumers are looking for more products and very good-quality products. If you have the skills, you can do it from scratch, but we are creating sourdough the way you would create sourdough yourself. We just combine it in a mix so it is more convenient; not all bakeries have the luxury of having all their bakers trained.”

Meanwhile, Finbar Haughey, technical sales manager at Andrews Ingredients, argues there is a place for all types of baking product, and that bread mixes do not have to be viewed as lesser alternatives to scratch-made products. “There are also bakeries that use both scratch recipes and mixes so they can offer even more choice.”

Time constraints and the need for a consistent end-product are huge drivers for bakeries that use pre-mixes, says Haughey, adding that he often highlights to customers that a mix can be a ‘blank canvas’. “For example, the Sonneveld multi-seed bread concentrate can be used as a base for the baker to add their own twist. The dough can be moulded into interesting shapes, they can be topped with seeds and grains, finished with glazes, dusted and even stencilled. This will add value and create a unique and artisan-type product.”

Van Tongeren notes a baker can use a mix to make 20 to 30 different products. “No two bakers are making the same product even if they use a pre-mix as they have different methods and ovens. Bread mixes are growing because bakeries are demanding them.”

Cornbread gains favour in UK

Consumer interest in corn-based bread is reported to be growing in the UK. The bright yellow colour is eye-catching and attractive, and it ticks several boxes in terms of texture, colour and health, especially for those avoiding wheat.

In May Puratos rolled out Tegral Cornbread, a US-style cornbread adapted for UK consumers to produce a more bread-like result.

“Cornbread is growing in popularity globally and we expect this trend to take off in the UK in the coming year,” says Miriam Bernhart, product marketing director for bread ingredients at CSM Bakery Solutions. “As it is perfect with either savoury or sweet flavours, and ideal for sandwiches or a premium toast, it’s a great option for bakers to drive sales due to its flexibility.”
Ireks produces a cornbread mix that it says is extremely versatile and is used by customers to create loaves, rolls, crispbreads and even scones and cookies.

“The mix is frequently used as a base, with bakers adding additional ingredients to make the product their own, such as green chilli and cheese or rosemary and olive,” adds Finbar Haughey, technical sales manager at Andrews Ingredients.
Bakels suggests bakers can use cornbread to broaden their takeaway range.

“It presents an opportunity for hand-crafted sandwich offerings or producing artisan-style pizza bases,” adds Bakels marketing manager Michael Schofield.

Bread mix suppliers target retail

Suppliers including Bakels and Wrights are selling bread mixes into the retail market as well as the trade.
According to Bakels marketing manager Michael Schofield there are similar trends in both channels, with speciality and ‘artisan-style’ products especially popular.

“These can be made in a bread-maker or by hand-moulding and baking in a domestic oven. Requiring only the addition of water, oil and dried yeast, the mixes produce great-tasting breads,” he says.

Bakels supports its products with a dedicated consumer website, containing product information coupled with home recipes to make the most of different mixes. It also produces a range of gluten-free bread mixes for the retail market in 300g bags. “Gluten free is moving from simply being a trend, which we have seen develop over the last decade, to becoming a mainstream requirement,” says Schofield.

Looking ahead, products likely to fare best as home bread mixes are those containing nuts and seeds, or herbs and spices, according to Mintel associate director of food and drink Emma Clifford.

“The strong performance of the ‘bread with bits’ segment provides cause for optimism, with these products aligning well with both positive nutrition and ‘foodie’ trends,” she writes in Mintel’s October 2017 Bread and Baked Goods report. “Health-boosting herbs and spices can also play in both these spaces and offer lots of potential for development.”