With the countdown on to 2010, when the new Food Standards Agency (FSA) guidelines on salt levels begin to bite, and with retail giants continually shifting their marketing stance on additive-free, non-GM or low salt, bakers are under constant pressure to keep up with changing demands. Yet many bakeries have neither the in-house resources nor the research and development (R&D) capability to respond quickly to often complex product reformulations. So many industrial bakers look to their suppliers for help. The health of the nation The FSA is committed to reducing our average salt and saturated fat intake and has set clear targets to define this. By 2010, all food manufacturers should demonstrate compliance. The only obstacle to removing an ingredient, however, is finding an effective replacement, as consumers will not accept a sub-standard substitute. Eliminating certain unwanted components is straightforward: a pink icing that is coloured artificially, for example, can simply be replaced by a white icing; high-fat chocolate chips can be replaced by fruit. But the difficulty of removing or reducing an ingredient is that most deliver more than one function in a finished product. Moreover, any change to the ingredient balance will impact on product formulation and processing. Salt, for example, is a highly functional ingredient that adds flavour, acts as a preservative and performs as a dough conditioner. Also, baking powder, the main source of leavening in cakes and scones, is a key contributor of sodium. In cakes, reducing sodium to below the prescribed levels invariably requires replacing sodium bicarbonate with an alternative raising agent. Standard baking powder, for example, can be replaced with reduced sodium baking powder, based on potassium bicarbonate. Salt is a natural, age-old preservative, long used in curing meats and inhibiting microbacterial growth. Cutting salt requires an alternative preservative, as modern retailing demands long product shelf-lives. In a marketing climate where adding to the E-number list is not acceptable, suppliers such as BakeMark UK have been active in developing solutions to extend shelf-life. Simply put, this depends on careful control of water activity in a product, using sugars, starches or gums, so that shelf-life can be improved without compromising the finished product’s ingredient list. Following the move towards non-hydrogenated fats, suppliers are now turning their attention to rebalancing recipes to contain less fat. Rather than rely on fat substitutes, bakers should seek products that replace the fat content with natural alternatives, such as sugars or milk derivatives that mimic the characteristics of fat without impairing end-product quality. Ingredients suppliers are now developing ’smart’ emulsifier systems to cut down on additives and work towards shorter ingredient labels. With consumers returning to baking values of the past, yet few having hours to devote to preparation, modern baking technology is responding to this need. Bakers who can deliver the product to fit, while complying with the latest government targets, are well-placed for future success.