Baking up variety
One trend among food manufacturers seems to be creating healthier offerings in a wide variety of innovative flavors. Bakers are no exception and on-trend when it comes to delivering exactly what consumers are demanding.
Beginning with bagels
Bagels offer people a quick and easy way to grab breakfast on the go, and bakeries are providing consumers with a way to experience new options first thing in the morning.
“I find that many people want to step away from traditional flavors and try something with a little ‘wow’ factor,” states Gregory Scolieri, vice president of A&S Bagels. The Franklin Square, N.Y., company has spent some time adding creative options to its already robust line of bagels.
“The A&S French Toast Bagel, prepared with a scrumptious crumb topping and generous amounts of powdered sugar, has been a great hit for us,” says Scolieri. “Hot out of the oven, or with syrup or butter, the French Toast Bagel puts smiles on the faces of many people.”
Other sweet options offered by A&S Bagels include chocolate chip, blueberry and cinnamon raisin.
The company is also getting creative with some savory varieties. While Scolieri asserts that the cheddar cheese bagel and Everything bagel are growing in popularity with the company’s consumer base, things are getting even hotter at A&S Bagels.
“The newest bagel we are adding to our flavor list is the jalapeno cheddar cheese bagel,” says Scolieri. “The jalapenos are found within the bagel and cheddar cheese and extra jalapenos are topped on the bagel prior to baking. The jalapenos and cheddar together provide for a bagel with a kick.”
Of course, consumers can opt for classic varieties like plain, pumpernickel, sesame seed, Everything, multigrain, poppy seed, whole-wheat, onion, rye, garlic, sun-dried tomato, spinach, salted, egg and marble. “This diverse flavor mix gives our customers a great variety to choose from,” says Scolieri.
Giving consumers a wealth of bagel options is not uncommon. The Original Bagel Co., West Caldwell, N.J., has 27 options from which consumers can pick. “Bagels remain an excellent value for a healthy breakfast choice for busy families,” states president David Harris.
Consumers can either opt for standard offerings like plain, poppy, sesame, pumpernickel, onion, cinnamon raisin, garlic, whole-wheat, egg, marble, blueberry, rye and Everything, or they can indulge in some of Original Bagel Co.’s more creative offerings. Innovative options include eight-grain, spinach, apple cinnamon, double C-raisin, chocolate chip, sun-dried tomato, very berry, cranberry, jalapeno, French Toast, wheat bran with oats and asiago.
Different ingredients aren’t the only thing the company is exploring. It’s also experimenting with a new type of bagel called Flagels.
“Flagels are a crunchier form of a bagel, because bagels are rolled out to achieve more of that crispy outer crust that everyone loves so much,” states Harris. “I noticed Flagels appearing in local bagel shops about five years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that in-store bakery buyers from our New York City area customers began requesting them.”
Introduced to the wholesale market in January 2013, Flagels are available in plain, sesame and Everything options.
While consumers are interested in diverse flavors when it comes to bagels, they’re also looking for healthier options.
“Consumer demands are for all-natural characteristics,” says Andrew Russo, vice president of sales and marketing for Bronx, N.Y.-based Just Bagels. “That’s exactly what Just Bagels makes. [Our products] are 100% all-natural, zero trans-fats, no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial flavors [and] produced in a nut-free environment.”
Russo adds that the bakery is creating bagels ranging from old-fashioned flavors to the artsy, trendy to the denser whole grains and natural inclusion ingredients. “Over the past year, Just Bagels has successfully launched dense, whole-grain bagels with added natural flaxseeds [and] savory jalapeno bagels encrusted with sharp cheddar cheese,” he explains.
Consumers can purchase the company’s par-baked, frozen bagels in plain, poppy, sesame, cinnamon raisin, asiago cheese, garlic, salt, jalapeno, pumpernickel, whole-wheat, blueberry, sun-dried tomato, French toast, energy/multigrain, multigrain and whole-wheat Everything.
“Our production department and R&D are working together to create the most wholesome, consistent, finished bagel,” says Russo. “Eye and aroma appeal go a long way to buy the reaction of the consumer. We go one step further with our quest for the ultimate bagel after bagel after bagel.”
On to rolls and buns
Bakeries are also experimenting with ways to improve two lunch and dinner staples—buns and rolls—as consumers search for more healthful, whole-grain options for their families.
“Last year, we renovated our entire line of artisan rolls to include more whole grains,” says Matt Cardon, brand manager at Alexia Foods. “We used special, all-natural, 100% whole-wheat flour that combines the nutritional benefits of whole grains with the finished recipe qualities of traditional refined flour.” This change led to the Eagle, Idaho-based company’s ability to include between 8-16 g. of whole grains per serving in its rolls.
Alexia Foods also offers several varieties of rolls: French, whole-grain, ciabatta, focaccia, ancient grain and sweet potato, its most recent addition.
“These delicious artisan rolls provide a soft and sweet experience and contain 8 g. of whole grain,” states Cardon. “We saw an opportunity to leverage sweet potatoes as an on-trend superfood and bring consumers something truly different, yet delicious.”
Quick sammie options
Consumers aren’t always using rolls as a side to a lunch salad or a robust dinner; rolls are also a consideration in making sandwiches and eating on-the-go, which is why it’s important for bakeries to offer convenient, healthful and unique options in this category, too.
“Today’s shopper is more health-conscious than ever,” says Tom Marcucci, vice president of marketing for Schaumburg, Ill.-based Gonnella Baking Co. “They have access to virtually unlimited sources of information concerning good nutrition and food safety-related issues.”
Gonnella has innovated with reduced serving sizes, smaller pack sizes and even single-serve bread and roll offerings. “To grab people with more diverse wants and needs, we continue to add new and interesting items—wheat and hearty grains for the health-conscious diner, convenient packaging for folks on the go and exciting new variations like soft pretzel breads to engage teens and adventurous eaters,” explains Marcucci.
Gonnella offers a wide variety of buns and rolls including French twin, French, corn-dusted Kaiser, deluxe sandwich, soft Italian and, as previously mentioned, pretzel hamburger buns and dinner rolls. “You must constantly innovate to serve the consumer, grab their attention and secure their loyalty,” says Marcucci.
Another company offering whole-grain varieties, along with premium options, is Turano Baking Co., Berwyn, Ill. “Whole grains continue to grow in popularity, along with an increased interest in healthier breads,” states Giancarlo Turano II, national sales manager.
In response, the company offers a wheat version of its classic French rolls. Other classic options include gourmet sandwich rolls, gourmet wheat sandwich Rolls, Kaiser rolls, brat and sausage rolls and soft sub rolls.
Turano also hopes to capture a premium market with some of its latest introductions. “We are introducing the best-in-class, premium bakery bun called our tavern roll,” states Turano. “Consumers still buy regular hamburger buns, but these buns are premium hamburger buns that take a simple cheeseburger and turn it into something special.”
The tavern roll is starting out in foodservice and will eventually be offered at retail, where it will join the company’s new soft hoagie roll, a compliment to its premium French roll offerings.
“Soft hoagie rolls have been a welcome addition to Turano’s product line for the versatility to the consumer,” says Turano. “Whether they’re packing a school lunch for their kids or making sandwiches at home for lunch or dinner with the entire family, the consumer wants more in terms of versatility in the pack of rolls they purchase—something the whole family will eat.”
So what do consumers want when it comes to bakery products? Healthful options, good taste and a bit of variety all seem to be what satisfies.