In the Comfort Zone
By Marina Mayer
Fads and sometimes even the latest consumer trends can spiral in and out as quickly as days migrate into nights, so it’s no surprise that keeping on top of what’s hot can be stressful.
Fortunately for bakers, they can get by with a little help from mix suppliers who bring a platform of ready-to-use solutions to the table that can rest assure any uncomfortable mind.
A couple of years ago, for instance, the carb craze took the industry by storm, but bakers weathered that nightmare. Although gluten-free snacks may be the latest fad, trans-fat free, whole grain and all-natural products have emerged as established trends, ones that may have forced some bakers to step out of their comfort zone because they had to learn how to produce new high-quality premium products.
Keeping up with whimsical consumers, however, doesn’t have to be that difficult.Suppliers of mixes can act as the go-to guru in combining processing expertise with the latest in ingredient technology to get the job done.
Among the challenges facing bakers are consumers’ demands to incorporate even greater amounts of fiber, whole grains and protein in a slice of bread while eliminating the use of trans fats from various baked sweet goods.
“Whole grain products are becoming solidly entrenched in breads and rolls,” says Hans Wilkes, director of education and training for BakeMark USA, Pico Rivera, Calif. “However, more muffins and cakes that are made with flour composed of the entire wheat kernel have appeared in bakeries and on in-store bakery shelves.”
Today, he adds, the demand is increasing for a wide variety of all-natural baked goods that don’t contain preservatives, artificial flavors or overly processed ingredients.
Moreover, the bread aisle continues to follow the prevailing trends by offering consumers a plethora of choices such as multigrain, sourdough, crusty, high-fiber, natural and organic breads, flatbreads, bagels and English muffins.
To help bakers diversify their product portfolios, Brolite Products, Inc. in Streamwood, Ill., has developed natural, fermented ingredients that help create unique flavors in all bread varieties, says David Delghingaro, executive vice president.
The company ferments different grains to create distinctive flavors and then dehydrates the ferment into a free-flowing powder. This allows for an easy-to-use format.
“Our most successful ferments are rye, spelt and whole wheat,” Delghingaro says. “Obviously, different grains provide different flavor. However, changing the fermentation process of the same grain can also provide different flavor characteristics.”
Many suppliers are providing premium alternatives that target consumers searching for more high-end products. For example, Caravan Ingredients, based in Lenexa, Kan., expanded its Pristine line with Pristine Crack ‘N Good Wheat Base, a premium cracked wheat base for breads and rolls. The line contains zero trans fat and eliminates conditioning time.
Bakers also can turn to mix suppliers that can help create sweet goods with some value-added health benefits.
For example, Sweet Ovations has developed multi-functional fruit preps that deliver fruit servings made without high-fructose corn syrup. For instance, a customer may want to make a claim such as “each serving of X product delivers one serving of fruit,” says Tracy Przybylowski, marketing manager for the Philadelphia-based company.
Such fruit preps can be used for frosting and icing bases, fillings and bakery toppings.
Despite putting the bakers’ minds at ease, it’s not always been hunky-dory for mix suppliers. Two of the leading challenges they face are keeping up with the unpredictable market trends and volatile commodity prices.
“The challenge in this volatile market is to not only stay ahead of the trends, but be conscience of rising raw ingredient costs and try to make the two fit into the consumers’ pocketbook,” Przybylowski says.
In addition to the rising costs of ingredients, Wilkes adds, labor and transportation issues create pressure when maintaining expenses for each client.
“To keep pricing in check, we need to help our customers stay up-to-date with information, innovative products and products that help [bakers] become more efficient while maximizing their fixed resources,” he says. “Even if a customer has the resources to develop a product, the related costs can be astronomical and take valuable time.”
Bakers also can save time and money by producing products more efficiently, which is what many mixers choose to do.
“Knowing that the end product can be made consistently at the same quality level, eliminating errors and the need to purchase, store and track all of the ingredients is necessary,” Wilkes says. “Total inventory costs are often reduced because there are fewer items to order, and mix is easily related to daily and weekly production requirements.”
Many companies also provide assistance outside of the product development phase.
“Bakers can rely on expertise and up-to-date technology a mix company can provide,” Przybylowski notes. “[They] can also provide trend data and competitive pricing, allowing bakers to compete in the marketplace.”
In the end, many mix suppliers provide solutions that allow bakers to stay within their comfort zone and still keep up with today’s trends.
So bakers, at ease.
Editor’s Note: For more information on ingredient suppliers,
check out our online Buyer’s Guide at