The National Honey Board, Firestone, Colo., held its 2012 Honey Summit Sept. 26 at Kendall College in Chicago. Approximately 20 bakers, journalists and others attended the day-long event, which focused on the benefits of honey and honey use in the baking industry, as well as offered attendees a chance to sample different honey varieties and bake with honey.

The summit began with presentations by consultants to NHB and baking industry writers.

Melina Kelson, Kendall College

Keith Seiz, co-founder and vice president of operations at The Arland Group, Chicago, offered an overview of honey, from its all-natural ingredients (primarily glucose and fructose) to its forms (liquid, dry, whipped) to its many attributes, such as complementing the taste of nuts, spices and other sweeteners; masking off-flavors; enabling bakers to offer clean labels; extending product shelf life; and inhibiting mold.

Seiz also noted that, in past 12 months, nearly 200 new baked goods and snack products made with honey have been introduced at retail, including breads, crackers, cookies, pastries, pretzels, granola, trail/snack mixes, bars and nuts. “Bakery and snack are the two categories with the biggest growth with honey,” he says.

Baking industry writer Heather Henstock provided case studies of products in some of these categories, noting that they address four consumer trends: natural (Aunt Millie’s Sprouted Wheat Bread, Metropolitan Bakery’s Granola and artisan bread), functional (Rudi’s Gluten-free Bread), classic (Nature’s Own Special Mornings Honey Wheat English Muffins, Honey Maid Grahamfuls, Nabisco Newtons Fruit Thins Fig & Honey, bee sting cake and baklava) and current (Caveman Cookies).

Henstock also offered several other trends for bakers to consider when developing products with honey, such as consumer interest in breakfast and snack foods, gluten-free foods, granola and energy bars, products for busy lifestyles, portion control and local sourcing.

For the summit’s final presentation, David Ropa, a baking industry research consultant to NHB, reiterated the many benefits of incorporating honey into bakery foods and discussed the results of baking tests that involved creating and comparing muffins and breads made with honey and with sweeteners such as corn syrup, Stevia, evaporated cane juice, molasses and brown sugar.According to Ropa, bagels made with honey were softer than those made with other types of sweetener. Honey helps flatbread maintain its texture, as well as increase the volume and strength of frozen dough. It also improves the color, moisture retention and sweetness of baking mixes.

Following Ropa’s discussion, attendees headed to the college’s professional-grade, commercial kitchens for bench time with Melina Kelson (shown), a baking and pastry instructor at Kendall College.

The National Honey Board is a federal research and promotion board under U.S. Department of Agriculture oversight that conducts research, marketing and promotion programs to help maintain and expand markets for honey and honey products.