Clean-label, global flavours and health – concentrates have come a long way from their origins as simply a tool for making life easier for bakers.

Bread concentrates have traditionally been about convenience, but their use has evolved to help bakers tap the changing demands of modern consumers. At their most basic, concentrates offer a convenient delivery system for improvers, ingredients, salt, sugar and enrichment components. They help overcome the challenges around delivery, stock control and wastage of a wide range of ingredients, which is helpful for any business but particularly so in smaller operations.

“Concentrates have a logistical benefit – if the baker sources standard ingredients such as flour, salt or seeds locally and on demand, he needs less storage capacity in the bakery,” says Goodmills communications head Svenja Frank.

Along with logistical benefits comes the elimination of the time-consuming process of weighing out individual ingredients, and the challenges of consistency.

“Concentrates are evenly mixed and ready for inclusion, saving time, improving quality, saving space and reducing stock control issues and waste,” explains Edme sales director Mike Carr.

But concentrates can be about more than convenience and consistency, and have always offered bakers an opportunity to change the look, feel and taste of loaves.

“Even traditional concentrates can be used as groundwork to add more interesting ingredients, such as ancient grain mixes or Italia tomato concentrate (pictured above) to help to create great products,” says Carr.

Increasingly, suppliers are developing specialist mixes to meet consumer demands – whether in terms of health, taste or provenance.

Bakels, for example, recently launched the Country Oven Rye Bread Concentrate for the production of Scandinavian-style breads. The 50/50 concentrate requires only the addition of flour, yeast and water.

“Globalisation has played a key role in shaping the development of bakery concentrates,” says Roy Parton, head of sales at ingredients firm Lesaffre. “Consumers are constantly seeking new flavours and greater diversity than ever before.”

To help meet this demand, Lesaffre has developed the Les Fournées du Monde line of eight bread and snacking concentrates. This enables production of items including Russian borodinsky (a sourdough rye), Japanese shokupan (a white bread made with milk), American bagels and buns, Greek choriatiko (a white crusty bread), Maghrebi matlouh (a round semolina bread), and Swedish Polar bread (a white round flatbread).

Bakels expects the globalisation trend to continue. “Baked goods that have a strong association with a region consumers have visited will play a key role in their buying behaviours and is something they could be willing to pay a premium for,” says Bakels marketing manager Michael Schofield.

Consumer interest in the origins and provenance of goods is also contributing to growing demand for cleaner labels, a trend concentrates suppliers are recognising.

Goodmills, for example, says it has invested a lot of energy in-house in developing new ingredients that fulfil their function in a product while meeting consumer expectations for a clean label.

Parton at Lesaffre adds that consumers are looking for better understanding of the ingredients and products they purchase. “For concentrates and mixes this requires the products to rely on natural components, such as fibres and starches, rather than emulsifiers and gums, which may have been used in the past for softness and structure.”

Concentrates may have come a long way in recent years, but their evolution is clearly set to continue.

Concentrates with benefits

Taste and provenance are key drivers in the concentrates market – but just as important is the role of concentrates in helping bakers meet demand for healthier products.

“Health, wellbeing and free-from markets have become hugely successful in the food and baking industry, moving away from a niche area into the mainstream, driving growth,” says Lesaffre sales head Roy Parton.

It’s a view echoed by Goodmills communications head Svenja Frank, who says: “More consumers are questioning their diet and want to eat more healthily. The easiest way is via products with a health benefit.”

She adds that this opens up opportunities in the baking sector – already being embraced by some businesses – for products such as bread with extra protein or rolls that are fibre-enriched.

“The challenge is to create ingredients for functional bakery products that offer this additional value and yet are technologically easy to process, with convincing sensory properties,” says Frank.

Inclusions and toppings such as seeds and grain, can provide visual cues around health or naturalness. As a result, a number of suppliers offer concentrates containing such ingredients.

“They demonstrate how concentrates can introduce new ingredients into the market, where they can gain traction with bakers and consumers,” says Edme sales director Mike Carr. “By adding amaranth and kalonji seeds into some of our mixes, we’ve aroused interest in these less well-known ingredients.”

He adds that bakers have asked Edme for more information so they can present a good narrative to consumers – and show themselves to be the innovators.

“The fact that the concentrates include better-known ingredients, such as quinoa and maize, provides reassurance, and reduces the ‘risk’ involved in introducing elements that are new and unfamiliar,” says Carr.

Concentrates can also play a role in helping businesses meet calls for reduced sugar and salt content in foods.

“Laws to reduce sugar or salt present technical challenges,” says Frank. “But here, too, concentrates can help. For example, by using grains with a mild, slightly sweet aroma for our whole grain portfolio, bakers can reduce the sugar content of their pastries without having to sacrifice taste.”