Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery was recently able to talk to Laurent Thomé, group sustainability manager, Puratos, about trends, challenges, and viewpoints on sustainability in the bakery industry.
Liz Parker: What are some of the latest viewpoints on sustainability in the bakery industry?
Laurent Thomé: Plant-based innovations and ingredients are a growing priority for the bakery industry, as this has emerged as a viable route to more sustainable product offerings. This rise in popularity was triggered initially by changing consumer dietary choices, as people became more conscious about the impact on the planet of their food choices. Similarly, growing numbers of consumers believe that plant-based foods are healthier. The combination of these two trends resulted in a dramatic increase in the adoption of vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian lifestyles.
Plant-based eating has now transcended the status of "trend" to become a mainstay of modern consumerism. Indeed, the percentage of individuals buying plant-based food almost doubled over a three-year period, according to Puratos’s latest Taste Tomorrow findings (Sep 2022). The findings also identified "plant-based" or "vegan" as the top topic of online conversations around baked goods in 2022.
The situation is now evolving, in that evidence now exists to back up the benefits of plant-based foods. As the sustainability and health attributes of plant-based eating become better understood, the plant-powered movement will gain further momentum. To help customers accelerate their sustainability ambitions, Puratos embarked on an extensive program of Life Cycle Assessments—the renowned barometer for supply chain sustainability—of its entire product range. It was the first bakery ingredients supplier to carry out such analyses, with core products from its pioneering Plant Forward range of plant-based dairy, egg, and butter replacement solutions the first to be tested. And the results have been astonishing. LCA studies concluded that the environmental impact of Puratos’s innovative egg-wash alternative, Sunset Glaze, was 59% lower than pasteurized eggs, for instance.
The high level of transparency, traceability, and credibility offered by LCA testing means that customers can fully trust the sustainability claims made on their packaged products can be substantiated. This is all-important as consumers become more discerning over their food choices and seek products that fit with their personal goals and objectives.
Going forward, there will be increased responsibility on all players within the industry to scrutinize the supply chain and work collaboratively to advocate sustainable and ethical practices. This includes supporting regenerative agriculture, which focuses on restoring soil and ecosystem health, addressing inequity, preserving resources, mitigating climate impact—all with the common goal of protecting the environment for future generations.
LP: What are some sustainability trends right now?
LT: Demand is growing for all-encompassing solutions, that fit the bill for health, sustainability, taste, texture, and quality. While personal goals are paramount, taste is still a key driver of choice in the bakery category, as demonstrated by our latest Taste Tomorrow findings. By innovating to improve the nutritional profile and sustainability credentials of their products, without compromising all-important taste and texture, bakers can bank on maximum consumer appeal in an increasingly competitive market.
Labelling is also an increasingly important factor to consider. With knowledge comes power—and the more consumers become conscious about their food choices, the more willing they will be to seek out, scrutinize, and validate label claims. According to Taste Tomorrow, the vast majority (90%) of consumers now read packaging, looking for information on ingredients used (50%), nutritional values (43%), and origin of products or ingredients (35%). And the critical eye of the consumer is focused on factors beyond sourcing and nutrition.
The survey also revealed more than two-thirds (70%) of consumers worldwide now look for sustainable packaging, while 61% and 43% are interested in zero-waste and upcycling claims, respectively. The prudent and progressive next step for the bakery industry would be to consider all aspects of the product, wrapper and all. From reusable packaging to using their byproducts, there are plenty of ways for bakers to leverage and expand upon the sustainability credentials of their product offering.
Indeed, those who choose to adopt a more circular economy mindset will reap the rewards and unlock opportunities for further differentiation.
LP: Any sustainability challenges currently ongoing?
LT: In the short-term, the current economic climate and associated spike in production and end-product prices is the main challenge facing the industry. According to Puratos’s Taste Tomorrow research (April 2022) two thirds of consumers worldwide claim rising prices are their top current concern. The price of food is one of the biggest issues, with 53% citing it as a worry. Although cost saving is increasingly a priority, quality is on equal footing, with 48% of consumers choosing quality they trust, rather than the cheapest bread, and 23% continuing to buy specialty breads.
Rather than negate the need for environmentally-friendly products, this situation calls for a pragmatic balancing act of protecting profit margins with appealing to consumer demand for nutritious, sustainable—yet affordable—products.
This is where plant-based eating really shines. Ingredients derived from animal origins are some of the most expensive in a baking recipe, with fat typically accounting for 25-30% of cake batter costs and egg another 30-35%. Switching to plant-based substitutes for butter, egg, and similar ingredients can therefore make a significant difference to the bottom line. In fact, Puratos’ ACTI Egg solution enables a reduction of up to 15% of egg use and ACTI Fat up to 30% less fat.
A similar approach is possible in bread and laminated pastries too, where INTENS Puraslim can cut fat content by up to 50%. Egg costs can be lowered through the use of ACTI Egg in the dough or removed completely from the glazing process by swapping an egg glaze for Sunset Glaze, which is also more efficient than egg. Although every application is different, such changes can unleash cost savings of up to 30%. In summary, with the right solutions and conviction, it is possible for manufacturers to tick all boxes, without cost or compromise, and future-proof their business with a profitable, plant-based, sustainable strategy.
In the long-term, one of the biggest challenges is to persuade all relevant stakeholders in the supply chain—both upstream and downstream—to buy in and align on the collective effort to make bakery a more sustainable industry. While governmental initiatives and corporate responsibility programs feed into the overarching objective to be more sustainable, we all play a role in climate change mitigation and creating a brighter future for generations to come, through food innovation for good.