Consumers keep finding ways to make it known that they’re watching what they eat and what’s in it.

“Today’s consumers are seeking ways to make more informed purchase decisions by reading ingredient labels and understanding the foods they are choosing to put in their bodies,” says Yanling Yin, group lead of bakery application for Lenexa, Kansas-based Corbion.

Mike Docherty, vice president of marketing for Brill, a CSM Bakery Solutions company, shares similar thoughts, indicating that more than three-fourths of consumers say that a simple ingredient statement is important, and that half of consumers choose products with fewer processed ingredients.

On the other hand, consumers have made it clear that they’re not ready to give up sweet goods and other bakery products. In fact, according to Nielsen, the dessert category is driving bakery growth, particularly in the cake, cookie and pie product subcategories. Indulgence is still a big reason for visiting the instore bakery.

Cleaning it up

While the term “clean label” has loosely been defined for many years, most consumers generally agree it means having minimal ingredients that are also recognizable and easy to understand, Yin says. As a result, the company says it is seeing more instore bakeries offering baked goods with cleaner labels and simplified, all-natural ingredients.

“In fact, because consumers are able to see what’s going on at instore bakeries, there is a perception that the baked goods on display — even the ones without product labels — are made fresh with simple ingredients that can be found at home in their own cabinets,” Yin says. “Additionally, we are seeing a large push for allergen-free marketing terms on baked goods, such as those made without dairy, eggs, nuts or gluten, as an alternative way of meeting consumer demands for more natural products.”

These clean(er) labels — or at least labels without specific ingredients — and natural sweeteners are important for instore bakeries in their attempt to attract these health-conscious consumers.

“Our research indicates an emerging segment of consumers that are looking to avoid specific artificial ingredients versus seeking out clean label products,” says Docherty.

In response to these trends, Brill expanded its Simplicious line — a line of products made without high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, sweeteners and artificially derived color. The line now includes cakes, icings and filings, in addition to everyday cookies, premium cookies, fillings, muffins and batters.

Maintaining the quality

Cleaning up labels and making bakery items more attractive to health-conscious buyers sounds great, but it’s all for naught if the end product doesn’t live up to expectations.

“As with any baked good, consistency is key, especially for instore bakeries where there are a lot of the same baked goods on display next to each other,” Yin says. “When it comes to making the switch to more natural ingredients, bakers tend to lose some of the functionality provided by traditional ingredients, which makes it difficult for them to maintain the quality, taste, texture and appearance of their baked goods.”

Corbion helps retailers and bakers with these challenges with its Pristine portfolio, which includes dough conditioners and solutions for cakes, as well as easy-to-use mixes and bases for breads. “This helps bakers adapt to consumer demands for simpler labels while continuing to provide quality baked goods,” Yin says.

Brill also kept this in mind when developing its Simplicious line. Keeping the same taste and mouthfeel with its icings maintains their compatibility with a number of baked goods.

“Our Simplicious icings provide the consumer-preferred taste and texture you have come to depend on from Brill,” Docherty says. “With a simple list of ingredients, these icings are a perfect complement to our Simplicious cakes, cupcakes and cookies. Simplicious icings also pair well with donuts, brownies or any other bakery items, allowing bakers and chefs to create indulgent sweet treats with the simplest, best-tasting ingredients.”

Outside of just sweet applications, Yin says it can also be especially difficult to maintain product quality and consistency when working with pre-made frozen doughs. While it’s technically considered fresh, frozen dough can present certain challenges in terms of proofing time and end-application volume or height variations.

“Additionally, bakers may experience certain challenges associated with space and shelf life,” Yin says. “For example, extra space is often needed to store the pre-made dough in cooler areas to ensure food safety. With our clean-label dough conditioners we are able to help bakers prevent these issues by ensuring the consistency of the dough and improve the robustness of the dough performance.”

On the horizon

Corbion says it has seen a large push for more nutrient-dense breads and rolls, such as artisan breads and products made with ancient grains. That trend has been building for a while, but it’s not just contained to savory breads and bakery products, Yin says.

“We are also seeing more developments in the sweet baked goods category,” she says. “Products without artificial colors or preservatives are popping up everywhere as bakers aim to meet today’s clean label and health halo demands.”

An increase in the technologies around functional ingredients like enzymes and emulsifiers is helping suppliers meet this growing demand while keeping their products attractive. Enzymes help provide increased moistness and help bakers maintain taste throughout the shelf life of  a product, Yin says.

“At Corbion, we’re working to deliver bio-based solutions to help maintain product quality and safety and have recently launched our natural mold inhibitor Verdad MP100 to help bakers extend the shelf life of their products beyond the typical three days that many fiber-based solutions offer,” she says.

Docherty points out Brill’s Henry & Henry’s Freefill and the company’s Pour-N-Bake Fillings as lines that are performing well in the world of better-for-you sweet goods. The fillings start with high-quality fruit and puree and are designed to meet or exceed industry-leading ingredient requirements without compromising taste or functionality, he says.

“The’re the perfect choice for the consumers who crave foods made with simple, delicious, quality ingredients,” Docherty says. “And with extended shelf life and freeze-thaw stability, these versatile fillings inspire endlessly sweet possibilities.”

Docherty also says buttercrèmes are still enjoying solid succuss as the preferred cake topping of a majority of consumers, which aligns well with the current trends in cake decorating and health-awareness.

The recently introduced DecoPro — a decorating bag pre-filled with Brill buttercrème — can be used with the Simplicious line. The combination provides a simpler, cleaner ingredient panel, as well as quick setup and easy clean up, which can improve efficiency and reduce waste, Docherty says.

“That makes it perfect for decorating cakes, cupcakes,” he says. “And those can be made with Brill’s Simplicious cake layers and cupcakes, which deliver the same rich, moist texture and uniform quality you have come know and trust from traditional Brill cake products. Now, they are available with a list of simple ingredients and can be used as a base for any concept imagined.”