Gluten-free has been a big focus in recent years for Los Angeles-based La Brea Bakery, a division of Aryzta LLC.
Since launching its gluten-free loaves in 2016, La Brea Bakery has received a lot of praise for the breads’ taste, texture and quality, says Jessica Smith, director of retail marketing.
“We know how important it is to provide delicious gluten-free options,” Smith says. “Consumers have been candid about their feelings that there aren’t a lot of great-tasting gluten-free breads on the market.”
Based on the success of its gluten-free multigrain and white loaves, La Brea Bakery hopes to expand the program to include rolls, Smith says. “We’re working hard to make this a reality sometime next year,” she says.
La Brea Bakery also has discovered gluten-free possibilities in existing products. All of La Brea Bakery’s breads are made using its original sourdough starter, whose health benefits have asserted themselves in the past year, Smith says.
“Some consumers with certain gluten aversions have been able to enjoy sourdough bread, and we’re proud of the fact that all of our breads are made using it.”
Gluten-free rolls aren’t the only new product on the horizon for La Brea Bakery, Smith says. In 2019 the company will celebrate its 30th anniversary, and new products will be among the commemorations. “We’re planning to unveil some specialty loaves and a few new recipes during the first part of 2019,” Smith says.
Among the products Mediterra is most excited about are its line of whole wheat breads, which the company controls “from seed to loaf,” Ambeliotis says.
Mediterra has partnered with a farmer in central Arizona and has leased out 50 acres of land on which the company grows heritage wheats. “No pesticides, no Roundup, no GMO,” he says.
From there, the wheat is shipped to Mediterra’s Pittsburgh and Phoenix facilities, where it’s stone-milled on-site. The flour is used in many of the company’s loaves —the loaf designed around the red fife varietal is a particular point of pride, Ambeliotis says.
Knowing where their foods come from is a big thing for consumers. So is the desire to eat more healthful foods, Ambeliotis says. Mediterra’s seed-to-loaf project in Arizona hits home on both points.
“I strongly believe, from our experience, that the consumer is continuing to be educated about nutrition and health,” he says. “Due to this, the demand is rising for whole grain and whole wheat naturally leavened breads.”
Mediterra has also seen a spike in the demand for high-hydration doughs with an open crumb structure. Social media, such as Instagram, has made a big contribution to this trend, Ambeliotis says.
Clean-label, ancient, GMO-free
Clean label and ancient grains are huge trends that Mediterra is doing its best to stay on top of, Ambeliotis says. When it comes to clean label, the company tries to source the cleanest ingredients possible, starting with its primary ingredient, flour. The company’s seed-to-loaf operation that begins on its own leased land in Arizona is a primary example.
“All of our flour is non-GMO,” he says. “We’ re also growing and milling our own heritage grain, red fife, which is a big seller. Sprouting grains is another trend for health-conscious consumers that we see a very high demand for.”
Looking ahead, the artisan grain industry is not without challenges, Leader says. Climate change, for instance, is making it difficult for growers to predict what kinds of yields and quality they will have in a given year. Excessive rain at the end of this summer in the Northeast took its toll on grain farmers in the region, he said.
That said, the future for artisan is bright, Leader believes. “We’re really excited to see that people have more interest in eating organic sourdough breads,” he says. “And there are opportunities to produce artisan on a much larger scale.”
Clean label continues to be a trend La Brea Bakery is capitalizing on, Smith says. From the company’s beginnings, its breads have been made with no additives, preservatives or conditioners added. Building on that legacy, in recent years, La Brea Bakery has focused on ensuring its products meet strict non-GMO certification requirements.
“Today, nearly all of our breads —except those made with cheese —are GMO project-certified,” Smith says.
La Brea Bakery also continues to see strong demand for ancient grains, which the company has used since its founding, Smith says.
“Grains like farro, emmer and quinoa are in several of our loaves, and while we’ve been using them for nearly 30 years, recently, some of these grains have garnered a strong fan following for their nutritional benefits,” she says. “Ancient grains add a wonderful texture and unique taste, and we consistently utilize them in many of our existing SKUs and new breads.”
Another trend worth watching, says La Farm’s Missy Vatinet, is the profusion of artisan breads in a variety of channels.
“With great grains, all locations” will see more artisan breads in 2019, she says. “Everyone from artisan bakeries to groceries and clubs will benefit and be wowed by these products made with heritage and ancient grains, grown and milled with nutrition at the forefront.”