Today’s consumers live by a “less is best” mantra when it comes to ingredient declarations, and that has definitely been seen in the bakery segment of the grocery store.
Many consumers are avoiding certain foods and ingredients in an effort to eat a healthier diet. Influence from outside advocacy groups that encourage restaurants and manufacturers to change their labels via large social media campaigns have boosted this change in the last few years. While there is no legal definition for “clean label,” it is becoming more common for retailers to highlight products made with simpler ingredient declarations for their private label products.
According to a 2013 Gallup poll, almost ¼ of adults are “heavy” clean label consumers, and the majority are over 50 years of age. Clean label will ultimately be defined by the customer, which may require a magic ball to determine if the ingredients will fall into their suspicion.
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This modern push has resulted in formulators looking for simpler bread ingredients that can multitask while minimizing the cost impact for manufacturing. Ingredient options include:
- Cultured wheat flour or cultured whey can be used to replace mold inhibitors in the bread formulation. Some suppliers have blended ingredients to provide optimal shelf life in bread products, including organic acids in the mix with the bread ingredients.
- Consumers may prefer the use of vinegar on the ingredient list over other acids as it is a common ingredient that they understand. Encapsulation may aid in improving the functionality of some acids.
- Mixed tocopherols, rosemary or green tea extracts can be used to replace antioxidants like BHT or TBHQ.
- Milled flaxseed and flaxseed meal may be used to replace dough conditioners or gums in the formulation, increasing absorption of bread doughs, impacting finished loaf softness and freeze stability, as well as improving dough handling. It also can replace egg in formulations.
- Raisin Juice Concentrate is often mentioned as a preservative alternative, though the color may cause a darker bread crumb and may impart a raisin flavor if used at too high a level. The yeast level may also need to increase for the formulation.
- Replace yellow colors with carotenoid based pigments such as annatto and β-carotene. Keep in mind that these ingredients are oil-soluble as well as susceptible to oxidation, so a shorter shelf life may be needed. Tumeric oleoresin could be used but it is quite unstable in light, so it may have limited application as a bread ingredient.
- Enzymes are an option to consider but would need verification that GMO materials were not utilized in their manufacture, which might be subject to consumer scrutiny depending on their evolving definition of clean label. They also might be blended with other functional ingredients to help make an ideal loaf.
These new bread ingredients may completely change the bread-making process, such as having to adjust the mix or production speed, changing the gluten/flour mix, possibly adjusting the fermentation or reducing the shelf life of the bread, all of which will have impact on cost.
And while these simpler labels may have consequences for manufacturers, the consumers driven by clean labels may be more flexible in accepting variations in quality and a premium price due to these changes.
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