D espite some recent data highlighting a dip in growth for seeded breads, the general consensus from the industry seems to be that these types of products are still performing strongly, with high-fibre breads also high on the consumer agenda.

Although the standard white sliced loaf may still be seen as king, in terms of sales, the array of different breads on the market shows no sign of shrinking.

A recent survey carried out for Lantmännen Unibake, by Gersdoff Research, found that although, unsurprisingly, the taste was the most important factor for UK consumers when buying and eating bread, 12% of those interviewed, said wholegrain was the most important factor when choosing a loaf. Another 12% said healthy bread was the most important factor to them. The survey also revealed that 56% of consumers either agreed or strongly agreed that ’dark bread’ is healthier than white; 41% either agreed or strongly agreed that taste was more important than health although 22% disagreed with this statement; while 26% strongly agreed and 31% agreed that they preferred wholegrain to white bread.

CSM (UK), which offers a range of high-fibre, multigrain and seeded bread products, says although UK consumption of white bread is still much greater than that of wholegrain breads, recent data from Kantar Worldpanel indicated a change in buying patterns, and a shift towards the purchase of brown breads, up 5.9% year-on-year. The firm says that a key driver of this growth has been the increased frequency of purchase, up 4.7% (KantarWorldpanel data 52 w/e 12 June 2011). However, CSM adds that further analysis of the data suggests the growth in popularity of brown bread is at the expense of sales of seeded bread. "This category has seen a decline of 6.5%, with statistics showing the key drivers of decline are UK households purchasing it less frequently (-4.4%) and 3.5% fewer packs purchased per trip," according to the firm.

Commenting on what these trends mean for bakers, and why consumers are apparently turning their back on seeded bread in favour of brown bread, marketing manager Lisa Boswell says it could be a case of economics over preference, with more price-led promotions and multi-buy offers available to consumers, tempting them to buy brown bread more often. "It is also possible that the consumer’s perception of seeded bread is that it is more expensive, which is generating reduced frequency," she adds.

Kampffmeyer Food Innovation says the high-fibre market, in the UK in particular, is performing very well. However, the firm, which supplies companies with functional grain products, says although the trend for wholegrain products is increasing, it has found that many consumers don’t like the bitter taste, so it has developed a wholegrain flour (Snow Wheat) which has the appearance and taste of conventional wheat flour, but the nutritional profile of wholegrain flour, says health & nutrition product manager Bettina Zeuch.

Fibre enrichment

High-fibre bread products are also a key focus for Tate & Lyle (T&L). Sandrine Bouvier, T&L’s application scientist for bakery, says the firm has recently been working to enrich products with soluble fibre. It has also been looking at the introduction of resistant starch in products such as bread and biscuits. A recent project looked at the issue of high fibre, which she sees as a real growth market, and noted the development of polydextrose, a soluble fibre with a low glycaemic response. "We have seen that wholegrain is a big trend. People want to increase their intake of fibre, but wholegrain is not of interest in terms of taste and texture," she says. "So in some EU countries, there is a real demand for white bread enriched with fibre."

She says while wholegrain is a big trend in the UK, it is now arriving on the Continent in countries such as France, Italy and Spain. "With wholegrain you have insoluble fibre, and there needs to be a balance between soluble and insoluble fibre in the diet. You can add soluble fibre to wholegrain breads with products like polydextrose and, by doing that, you balance the fibre intake," she notes, adding that T&L is also looking to develop ingredients for fibre-enriched gluten-free bakery products.

Ulrick & Short has launched a selection of Omega 3 balanced flax oil and fibre ingredients that give both functional and nutritional claim benefits. Flax has numerous advantages, including 12-month shelf-life stability and improved nutritional profile claims, such as ’high in fibre’, says the firm. The range of Scilia flax fibres, available as both coarse and fine grains, also hold ’a natural source of Omega 3 claim’.

Waitrose is one retailer that has noted the trend for fibre-rich white bread, and has responded by launching a high-fibre white loaf to cater for the ’health by stealth’ tactic, used by parents. Research, commissioned by Waitrose, revealed that out of 1,000 consumers polled, nearly 50% said their children preferred white bread, with only one quarter preferring brown. Launched mid-June, the new loaf is part of the retailer’s new own-brand LOVE Life food range. Two 40g slices provides 4.8g of fibre. Waitrose says it looks and tastes the same as a white sliced loaf, but with double the fibre 6.1g of fibre per 100g, compared to 3.2g of fibre per 100g in a typical white sliced loaf. According to Waitrose, a wholemeal loaf usually contains just over 7g of fibre per 100g.

Although she can see the benefit of having a high-fibre white bread, for targeting at mums with kids, Pauline Ferrol, national sales and marketing controller for British Bakels, feels a ’high in fibre’ strapline is not enough, and more of a ’buy-in’ is needed for consumers. She says the low GI and seeded sector of the market is still in good growth, with Bakels’ Low GI Multiseed bread mix still rising by a few percentage points each year. It has also launched an Oat and Barley bread mix, which Ferrol says has added incremental sales to bakers already selling the Low GI Multiseed bread, rather than achieving sales in place of it. Earlier this month, the Bakels group acquired Swiss firm Nutribake, in a move that will enhance British Bakels’ range of speciality mixes.

Going nuts for nuts

Nut inclusions can help lower the Gi of bread. Sam Houston, from the Macadamia Advice Centre, South African Macadamia Growers Association (SAMAC) says that a combination of artisan bakers and movements, such as the Real Bread Campaign, are encouraging consumers to be more adventurous when it comes to the breads they choose.

Houston says that macadamia nuts have a very high level of monounsaturated fats higher than olive oil and low-GI qualities. SAMAC has joined forces with the National Association of Master Bakers to continue to target and communicate with bakers in order to drive interest and sales and will be attending Bakers’ Fair in Bolton this October, and handing out samples to visitors.

EHL Ingredients says it has noted a surge in demand from bakers for pumpkin and poppy seeds in the past year both for sweet and savoury breads. "We have noted a rise in the popularity of more unusual international bakery goods, such as Polish poppy seed cake (Makowiec) and Austrian pumpkin seed cake," explains Tasneem Backhouse, sales and marketing director at EHL, an importer, blender and packer of natural food ingredients. The firm says bakers can capitalise on demand for seeded products across their product ranges not just in loaves, but in morning goods and wraps, for example.

Martin Clayton, bakery specialist at Morrisons, says its customers are very keen on breads with seeds and healthy grains. He has also noticed that consumers are coming round to the flavour of rye breads, which are popular in eastern Europe, and a good source of fibre. "It’s about developing them to suit the English palate," he says. "We have been developing a rye and onion bread that will be launching soon."

Tim Cook, MD of ADM Milling, says the seeded bread market has seen a significant increase in market share in the past five years. "And wholemeal breads often higher in fibre and with a lower GI than other breads have also increased their market share." He adds that these markets do particularly well in the spring and summer months, when consumers are keen to keep in shape. In terms of future growth, Cook says all three areas high fibre, low GI and seeded offer great potential. "A product boasting all three for example, a seeded wholemeal loaf made with stone-ground flour is bound to be a winner."

Recent NPD

Zeelandia is introducing a range of new breads this September in its ’Your Daily Bread’ range. MD Keith Cunningham says that multigrain, multiseed and multicereal breads offer consumers new flavours and tastes, with a background of something ’better for you’. The firm is to launch Corn and Spelt (pictured far right); Sunflower and Sesame; Malted Barley and Sunflower; and Linseed and Corn, will be available in both a concentrate and complete mix format from 1 September.
Meanwhile, in response to the growing consumer demand for healthy breads, Allied Bakeries recently carried out consumer research to try and identify potential NPD and category growth opportunities to complement its Burgen brand (left). "This highlighted bone health as an area of significant concern for many consumers," said Ellen Bailey, Burgen brand manager, Allied Bakeries. "This insight led to the launch of Burgen Buckwheat & Poppy Seed, introduced earlier this year, a bread that provides 30% of the RDA of calcium and vitamin D in two slices." According to Allied, since the launch, Burgen has become the fastest-growing bread brand, climbing 35.3% in the past 12 weeks (source: Nielsen Total units 12 w/e 9.7.11 Total Coverage).