In 2007 the baking industry saw a tumultuous year of unprecedented across-the-board ingredients price rises in everything from flour to eggs, the emergence of carbon labelling and the rapid rise of the Polish bread market. So what’s in store for this year? One thing that ain’t gonna happen is a ban on thick sliced bread (BB, 7 Dec, pg 6)...or will it? Here are the runners and riders for 2008. Even that most common of commodities, water, now sells for up to £32 as Bling H2O. And in Spain, the first "designer" black toilet paper has been launched, selling at over £2 per roll. For bakery this taste for pointless luxury translates into the premiumisation of commodity products. In New York, "luxury marshmallows" from Dean & DeLuca in lemon chiffon, passion fruit, vanilla and rose-petal flavours sell for $28/lb, while the city’s Blue Ribbon Bakery Market has installed a honey bar, selling pricey imported mesquite blossom, orange blossom and golden reserve Mexican honeys. The premiumisation of... everything? Score: XX Fairy cakes went posh in 2007, but reports are emerging of a weariness towards over-marketing. Guiltiest are "artisan-style breads" Away from super-luxury goods, the bread category reached 9% value growth last year, and market researcher IGD predicts that consumer spending on premium goods could still increase by as much 40% over the next five years. This is being fuelled by the rise of Fairtrade, which is growing in bakery, and own-label supermarket premium labels. More plummy premiums? Score: XXX Premium lines are driving NPD but supermarket buyers say suppliers have taken their eye off standard, high-volume ranges Shopping is predicted to get a makeover, with the major multiples focusing on improving scratch in-store baking through training, products and display (see pgs 22-23). The arrival of US organic grocer Whole Foods Market last year signalled a trend towards more theatre surrounding the in-store. Meanwhile, Mintel predicts a shift towards "experiential shopping", with more built-in sampling stations to keep consumers stimulated. The makeover trend could continue onto the high street; even that bastion of wipe-clean plastic fittings, McDonald’s, introduced designer Scandinavian furniture across its European outlets at a cost of some E600 million (£448m) in 2007. More showy shopping? Score: XXXX All of the major supermarkets have signalled they’ll up their in-store game in 2008 In the UK, online shopping sales exceeded £4bn a month for the first time in July 2007; on a 12-month basis, online sales are up 36% (source: Brand Republic). In the grocery sector, research suggests that one in seven 15- to 34-year-olds intend to do all their shopping online in the future, according to IGD. People are increasingly seeking out niche and specialist bakers in online retail hubs, such as A beeline for online? Score: XX Cake specialists will continue to do better from online than perishable bakery Global grain production is in need of a boost. With soaring demand and rocketing grain prices in 2007, stocks of world wheat are at their lowest since the early 1980s. Social instability could ensue, as happened last year with pasta protests in Italy and tortilla rallies in Mexico. Joachim von Braun, head of the International Food Policy Research Institute, told The Guardian last month that China has run down its national supplies and the next 12 to 24 months will present a "fairly risky situation". "Large consuming nations, particularly China, will feel pressed to enter international markets to bid up prices to unusual levels," he said. While this would add a few pence to UK bread prices, the world’s poorest communities would be hardest hit. I predict a riot? Score: XX Worldwide farmers are responding to demand and large swathes of Russia went under the plough last year, but benefits may not be seen for two years With an industry definition for marketing whole grains set recently (BB, 30 November, 2008, pg 8), expect the supermarkets and bakery brands to capitalise on marketing the health benefits of eating whole grains. Mintel also predicts a revival of ancient grains, such as amaranth, quinoa, teff, millet and kamut, benefiting from the focus on whole grains. Grain gains in the aisles? Score: XXXXX There’s more than a kernel of truth to this one In December, the Bank of England responded to pressure from the likes of Tesco to drop interest rates in a bid to revive consumer confidence. Some high street operators are being cautious, with city centre food operators such as Clapham House, which owns Gourmet Burger Kitchen restaurants, saying it would scale back shopping centre store openings in 2008 - its board citing "pressure on UK consumer spending". Consumers cowed? Score: XX Market researchers predict shoppers would sooner sacrifice buying a new car over cutting back on their grocery spend While 2007 saw the likes of Brambles Foods, Whitworths and Brakes Group (which owns Country Choice) change hands in private equity deals, the credit crunch has seen banks and investors getting jittery amid dire economic forecasts in the US, which could be tipped into recession this year. Last month, venture capital bidders were reportedly put off the £450m price tag for Pret A Manger and a slowdown in venture capital activity could ensue. Jittery investors? Score: XX Private equity investors are attracted to the "juicy cashflow" of food businesses, as one analyst told BB. And though bank lending will be tighter, Allied Bakeries could yet prove attractive to a PE bidder Can baked foods give you cancer? Acrylamides - chemicals produced when you bake, fry, grill or roast foods - were found to potentially double the risk of ovarian or womb cancer in December 2007 in women. Food that has been coloured or burned, such as doughnuts and artisan breads, are far more likely to contain higher levels of acrylamides. As little as 40 micrograms of acrylamide a day - the equivalent of a single packet of crisps - was enough to double the cancer risk, the The University of Maastricht’s results showed. Killer doughnuts hit headlines? Score: X Some scientists are yet to be convinced that the study’s findings show acrylamides to be at blame over other lifestyle factors. A previous study found no link between acrylamides and breast cancer While snack culture, like ’premiumisation’, is not a new new trend, [] predicts it is one that will thrive this year. Snack culture is leading to "new products that are being deconstructed in easier-to-digest, easier-to-afford bits, making it possible to collect even more experiences, as often as possible, in an even shorter time-frame". The New York Times reported that in the three years to 2006, sales of 100-calorie packs of cookies and candy grew by nearly 30%. It said: "The market for pint-size packages could easily double because of their simple appeal: they help consumers eat less without having to count calories themselves". In the US, 100-calorie packs are estimated to be 20% more profitable than larger packages. Small pack snack attacks? Score: XXX 100g calorie packs have yet to emerge here, but they fit the trend for smaller cake and bar formats While caffeine used to be confined to coffee and soft drinks, in 2007 alone it has found its way into sunflower seeds, mints, crisps, jellybeans and even instant oatmeal. Last year, Dr Robert Bohannon, a molecular scientist from Durham, North Carolina, developed a method to include caffeine in any baked goods such as donuts - one donut providing the equivalent of about two cups of coffee. Though he is said to have approached Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, we’ve not heard anything since. Could 2008 be the year of caffeinated cakes? Caffeine kicks? Score: X Red Bull Donuts? Perhaps not The consumer market for women has been called ’The Mega Niche’ and is reportedly under-served, with one US consultancy estimating that women determine 80% of consumption. It’s no wonder one Minneapolis firm, French Meadow Bakery, has developed "Sprouted Woman’s Bread" with 32mg of soy isoflavones and 6g of protein per slice to satisfy "a variety of women’s needs", from bone health to reducing menopausal symptoms. (Incidentally, so the chaps don’t feel left out, there’s a "Sprouted Men’s Bread", which contains "key nutrients for a healthy heart and prostate".) Furthermore, Brand Strategy magazine notes a consumer trend in 2008 for more people recognising that food is the source of true beauty - especially for hair, skin, nails, metabolism and longevity. "Super-functional foods will seek a more receptive target, who truly adopts the mantra that beauty is from the inside out," it said. Girls just wanna have buns? Score: XX The likes of Hovis and Burgen have already targeted women’s and style magazines Expect more ’junk-free’ labelling and increased transparency about where the ingredients come from, how they are manufactured and how they are packaged (source: Mintel Global New Products Database). The debate is set to continue following Labour MP Nigel Griffiths’ newly launched private members bill to ban junk food advertising before 9pm as well as significant restrictions on non-broadcast advertising. From last week, so-called junk food advertising targeted at under-16s was banned. On another note, parents frowning upon marketing practices aimed at kids have opened the door to organic food producers, who are just beginning to aggressively target the kids’ market in the US, says Datamonitor. Junk junked by kids? Score: X Recent studies have shown health campaigns such as five-a-day and school meals have a questionable impact on kids’ health. A recent BBC World poll showed 44% of people in the UK "love the taste of fast food too much to give it up" - the highest in the world