Martin Whitworth, principal scientist for cereal science and technology at Campden BRI, on the establishment of a new trade group to tackle bread softness issues

Consumers like soft bread and will often perceive bread that lacks softness as lacking freshness. The challenge is to create bread that is soft and that retains its softness for as long as possible. But that softness needs to be combined with properties such as resilience, and to be controlled during storage, distribution and in the presence of components such as sandwich fillings. We are establishing a Bread Softness Club to help address these challenges.

We have been researching bread softness for many years at Campden BRI. We already understand some of the mechanisms that cause bread to lose its softness, but baking has changed. With such a large choice of ingredients, recipes and processing techniques, there are a huge number of factors that can potentially impact the softness of bread.

We have run several successful club projects in the past – bringing together companies with a shared interest to pool resources.

For example, in baking alone, we have tackled cake flour treatment, eggs, and currently have thriving clubs on industrial and home cake baking, and on bread bubble structure. Our club projects are popular because they allow companies to benefit from research that could not be funded by a single business. Each club is made up of a group of non-competitive companies, and benefits from a range of technical expertise from across the supply chain.

The scope of the research is not predefined and can be shaped by the club to take into account issues that can affect bread softness throughout the entire supply chain. Some of the aspects it could investigate include the effect of ingredients, recipe and processing on initial bread softness, definition and measurement of bread textural attributes, interaction with other components such as sandwich fillings and packaging, as well as storage and distribution.

We are inviting bread manufacturers, suppliers of bakery ingredients, and manufacturers, distributors and retailers of bread products to join the club, which will start in January 2018 and run for three years.

The members of the bread softness club will meet several times each year and work together to steer the direction of the research, which will be conducted by Campden BRI. The results of the project are confidential to the club members and pre-competitive, which enables each company to exploit the intellectual property in their own company as they wish.