T elling a trend from a fad, or to use the more fitting parlance, separating the wheat from the chaff, is not always easy when it comes to predicting the ’next big thing’ in bakery. It often comes from looking backwards rather than forwards, as the boom in wholegrain over the last two years has testified. But the soothsayers’ predictions make intriguing reading and some of the market analysts’ tips for 2007 are well on their way to being established in the mainstream - namely local sourcing, seasonal produce and a return to traditional recipes. Other areas of new product development elsewhere in the food industry, such as ’satiety enhancing’ products that make you feel fuller, which so far have only appeared as smoothies and yoghurts, may only be seedlings in the grand scheme of bakery NPD but lay possible pointers to the future. Japan-based Nippon Flour Mills is reported to be developing a ’sweet wheat’ for making flour that can be used to bake cakes without needing sugar. It is said to have a much lower level of starch - at around 25% compared with typical levels of 70% - and consequently much higher levels of the naturally occurring sweeteners, maltose and sucrose. "My dream product for the year would be a More Cake, with the calories removed, with no hydrogenated fats or additives," comments Nick Hill, category manager at Musgrave Budgens Londis Group. To go one further, ’calorie-burning’ soft drinks have already emerged in the US and Europe, using green tea extracts with epigallocatechin, or EGCG, ginger, caffeine and other ingredients to raise metabolism to burn calories. Datamonitor’s Productscan predicts EGCG is an ingredient that will be getting a lot more play in food and drink production in 2007. Conversely, for major supermarket Asda, indulgence is set to continue as an area of focus in sweet bakery, though healthy breads will also be a key area of development says bakery director Huw Edwards. "We will be looking for indulgence in cakes this year, but it will also be important to give the customer low-fat options," he says. Straddling both the camps of indulgence and health in 2006 was dark chocolate, which boomed when it was announced that it contains anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidant-rich tea is an ingredient that is working its way into teacake and bar products in the US. So-called superfruits, such as goji berries and pomegranate, which are also high in antioxidants, are positioned for mainstream acceptance. Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) similarly predicts the continued rise of exotic Amazonian fruits such as açaí and cupuaçu. During 2006, the number of Omega 3-enriched products doubled in the US, according to a new Mintel report out last week. Inroads are already being made by Allied Bakeries into the use of Omega 3 in bread in the UK, following the launch of its Kingsmill Head Start loaf in August 2006. "On health, there will be more use of Omega 3 and the removal of hydrogenated fats this year," says Nick Hill of MBL. "And I also think that freshness, short-life products and bread baked throughout the day will be major trends for 2007." The baking industry "is coming full circle," concurs Vera Malhotra, head of marketing at BakeMark UK. "Consumers are increasingly prepared to accept shorter product shelf lives and forgo the perfectly uniform textures and bright colours of mass production in favour of a more natural, homemade feel." Return to traditional bakery fare Consumers are overwhelmed by choice, and a return to basic value and convenience will undoubtedly be welcome, adds Mintel, while "traditional ingredients and recipes will also continue to take the industry by storm". Companies may find themselves looking for ways to bring more traditional aspects of the meal back into play, says research firm Datamonitor, and are predicted to look for ways to "resurrect items that have been diluted by the on-the-go trend". "Retro is definitely coming back, from black forest gateaux down to traditional puddings," says Helen Colley, MD of Farmhouse Fare. "We’re a decadent company, so we’re doing healthy-indulgent types of product, such as fruit with a muesli or granola topping. But in puddings the old flavours will continue to be the most popular." Convenience will again play a prominent role in NPD this year. With the average number of persons per household having slipped to barely more than two people in most developed countries, and portion sizes adapted accordingly, Mintel notes that more smaller packs could emerge in 2007. Ethical sourcing & seasonality Following the rise of Fairtrade, the public is likely to display a deeper commitment to ethical products in future. As sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients develop more into mainstream product groups, local and seasonal products are set to benefit. Mintel predicts a "return to fresher ingredients that have more of a community-orientated tie". Last week, Tory leader David Cameron told a farmers’ conference that "ethical foods" were no longer the preserve of "obsessive fringe consumers who view every purchase as a masochistic morality test". He argued that the rise of the ethical consumer would continue unabated, although mainstream appeal would continue to be limited by higher prices. A renewed focus on food miles - with food manufacturers and retailers coming under fire in 2006 for trunking products great distances before hitting the shelves - will encourage people to look locally for produce. Datamonitor says: "It isn’t too far-fetched to speculate that we might see carbon ratings on packaged foods, to encourage energy conservation and fight global warming." Farmhouse Fare recently opened a new NPD centre and plans to launch at least 20 seasonal products this year. "Seasonality will be very strong this year," says MD Helen Colley. "Summer puddings should be for summer and winter puddings for winter. I’ve been batting on about this for years and people are finally coming around to my way of thinking!"