Healthy eating is a key driver of innovation in baking, but new product developers have tended to cut salt, sugar and fat, rather than add ‘functional’ ingredients that deliver specific health benefits.

This stands in contrast to other sectors of the food industry, where functional foods are well established. In the dairy sector, milk, yoghurts and spreads with ingredients to improve gut health or lower cholesterol are commonplace, while in confectionery, cough sweets and plaque-reducing gum have been on the market for decades.

The baking industry’s forays into the functional arena have so far been relatively unsuccessful with newly launched products often quickly withdrawn due to poor sales.

Yet plant bakers have not given up on discovering a breakthrough functional bakery product. Warburtons unveiled its prebiotic Healthy Inside loaf in July 2005, which is still performing well.

Meanwhile, Allied will relaunch the Burgen brand this month with new packaging. A new addition to the Burgen range – Wholegrain & Cranberry – also joins the existing Soya & Linseed and Hi-Bran loaves.

“Wholegrain has seen increased dominance in other sectors especially in the cereals market in the last year,” says Allied marketing manager Steve Thompson. “Consumers are increasingly aware of its link to heart health and that wholegrains can easily be incorporated into their diet. It’s a trend that is definitely set to continue. Burgen’s positioning is about harnessing the power of nature and delivering health benefits through nature’s functional benefits.”

While wholegrains, seeds and fruit are undoubtedly healthy, they have long been used in baking and can hardly be called new functional ingredients. But according to Mr Thompson, consumers are less open to truly functional ingredients in bread for a reason.

“Bread is already regarded as being a good-for-you product compared to many packaged goods. Consumers don’t necessarily see the need to take the next step to products with ‘harder’ health benefits,” he says.

“This doesn’t mean that functional health isn’t working in bakery – Burgen has seen 85% year-on-year growth on Soya & Linseed. But (in general) health has been driven at a ‘softer’ level as some people switch away from white breads to wholemeal or half-way solutions such as Kingsmill Wholegrain & White.”

Prebiotic push

One company that is attempting to deliver ‘hard’ health benefits is Warburtons with its prebiotic Healthy Inside bread. This contains inulin, which helps promote friendly bacteria in the gut. Three slices provides over a third of the 5g recommended daily amount.

Category manager Claire Simpson says sales have been “really positive” since its launch last year. “We have supported Healthy Inside with advertising in women’s consumer magazines because focus group research we carried out showed that young women were most interested in digestive health,” she says.

“There is good awareness of digestive health now. Dairy products have introduced the concept, but also TV programmes about nutrition.”

It’s a different story with the company’s omega 3-enriched Good Health Loaf for Women, which launched in 2003, but was later withdrawn. “It didn’t reach its sales potential,” admits Ms Simpson. “Good Health was a strong product concept. We’re not going to rule out omega 3 breads at a later date.”

The secret to any successful functional food is conveying the health message to consumers in a clear way – a lesson that is demonstrated by Allied’s Burgen Cholessterol. Launched in 2004, it included a soya protein called Abacor, developed by Norwegian company Nutri-Pharma, which helps reduce cholesterol. The bread was withdrawn in 2005.

According to Mike Clenshaw, development director at Nutri-Pharma, Cholessterol bread failed to get the right marketing support. “It was a depressing time. Allied never really supported Cholessterol, which was immensely frustrating because both parties had put a lot of time into it.

“I’d go into my local Tesco and it would be sitting at the bottom of the shelf, with no explanation, just looking sad. Compare that to the money that goes into marketing products like Actimel and Yakult.”

According to Allied, Cholessterol was an effective product that got listings. But while cholesterol reduction is well accepted by consumers in yoghurts and spreads, it proved a step too far in baked goods. The company agrees that greater education was needed.

At Orafti, a supplier of inulin and oligofructose to functional foods companies, marketing and communications manager Christine Nicolay agrees that marketing plays an important role in the success of functional baked goods.

The company has worked closely with bakery companies on the continent in recent years, developing a range of added-fibre and prebiotic products, but she says UK companies have failed to keep pace.

“Bakery is a traditional industry. If you compare the new products launched by the dairy sector (to those launched by the bakery sector) it has been slower,” she says. “It has also been concentrating on other issues, such as convenience and price. But I think the UK industry realises it has to do something more about health now. Bread is a fantastic carrier for functional ingredients because you eat it every day.”

Craft opportunities

Until recently, the complexity and cost of functional ingredients have deterred the

majority of craft bakers from entering the market. But ingredients suppliers are beginning to develop pre-mixes that make life easier for them. Zeelandia is finding success with its new O’mega Bread mix, which contains omega 3 from fish oils.

Similarly, Moul-bie, part of French miller Grands Moulins de Paris, has recently developed Omega Mix for omega-3-enriched bread, and Cult Mix for loaves with healthy bacteria.

Commercial director Michel Nguyen says both mixes represent a tiny fraction of overall sales, with Cult Mix the most popular. “We have launched these mixes across Europe. They didn’t do so well in France and Italy, but are very popular in Germany and Nordic countries,” he says. “We can’t say yet whether they are a success or failure in the UK – consumers don’t understand functional breads yet. We need a leading retailer or company to launch these types of products to help educate the consumers. Just putting functional breads on the shelf is not enough. You need to explain the science.”

Point-of-sales backing

One company that is doing just that is British Bakels with strong backing in 2006 for its low-GI Multiseed Bread Concentrate for craft and in-store bakeries. Multiseed has been so successful since its January 2005 launch that the company is rolling out new point-of-sale (POS) material and will launch a campaign advertising the benefits of seeds in bread in consumer magazines.

The 50% mix contains linseeds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, 0.7% salt, and has a GI rating of 54, which means energy is released slowly during digestion, making you feel fuller for longer and less likely to snack.

“Low-GI is not going to be another Atkins – it’s here to stay,” says MD Paul Morrow. “Multiseed has been the most successful product we have ever launched because it’s healthy, but also tastes really good.”

The new craft bakery POS materials comes under the ‘Great Taste, Great Waist’ catchline and include leaflets explaining Multiseed’s benefits.

The second stage of the marketing push in the spring will see advertising and publicity in consumer health and women’s magazines.

“We will be promoting the benefits of seeded bread in general because Multiseed is not a branded bread,” says Mr Morrow. “It’s a risk because we could end up promoting other people’s products, but we will be using the Bakels’ blue and yellow, which will tie in with the POS materials. As the leading supplier of this kind of mix, we think it’s worth the risk.”

A telephone helpline will also be set up to explain the benefits of the bread and tell consumers where they can buy it.

One craft baker who is doing good business with Multiseed is Gordon Nicholson of Asa Nicholson in Keelham, near Bradford. He sells some 1.2 tonnes a week of baked goods using Multiseed Bread Mix.

But the success of Multiseed, with its traditional funtional bakery ingredients, shows that new functional inclusions are still the exception rather than the rule.

UK bakery companies lag behind their counterparts in mainland Europe, the US and Australia when it comes to functional bakery products. Below are a few examples:


In the Netherlands, BakeFive’s VitWit (above) is a white bread enriched with fibre, vitamins and minerals. It contains Orafti’s Beneo inulin ingredient for a healthy digestive system. DSM’s Fibra Vital Bread in Spain and Italy is another white bread made with Beneo, which has a prebiotic effect.

Meanwhile, French craft chain Paul launched Lin-dispensable bread with linseeds last year, highlighting its omega 3 content. Kampffmeyer in Germany says its best-selling Omega-3 Bread provides 25% of the daily dose of omega 3.


This is one of the most mature markets for functional bakery with George Weston Bakeries (which owns Allied Bakeries) counting Tip Top Up Omega 3 bread, made with fish oils, as one of its largest brands. The company also has a wide Burgen range, including Oatbran & Honey for heart health, Rye for digestive balance and Fruit & Muesli, which is claimed to be naturally rich in antioxidants.

North America

In Canada, Cali-Wraps omega 3-enriched tortilla wraps are made with Ocean Nutrition’s encapsulated Meg-3 fish oils. In the US, French Meadow’s Woman’s Bread and Men’s Bread feature AdvantaSoy soya isoflavones from Cargill. The bakery company flags up the heart health benefits of the soya in both breads.

Three omega 3 breads, made with fish oils, also launched in the US last year, including a range from retailer Wegmans.