KANSAS CITY - Some of the trends that have taken hold in the food industry during COVID are expected to stick around, even after life returns to relative normalcy.

One of the top names in the baking world, Los Angeles-based La Brea Bakery, has noticed plenty of changes in terms of what consumers are looking for from their food. Chris Prociv, vice president of marketing and innovation at La Brea Bakery, offered her insights into what 2021 will look like for baking and foodservice.

Takeout will remain in high demand

“As we head into the new year, COVID-19 will continue to be a major concern across the country, so dining out will likely remain limited,” Prociv said. “We saw takeout start to gain popularity last summer, with consumers wanting to support local restaurants, so I think we’ll see this trend continue into 2021.”

La Brea Bakery has shifted its focus to highlight its Take & Bake bread, which can be easily stored in the freezer for later or enjoyed right away. The company has made plans to launch new varieties of the Take & Bake bread to accommodate the demand for accessible, convenient, fresh food.

Transparency will be front and center

“In recent years, consumers have started paying close attention to the ingredients in their food, and in 2021, I think we’ll see clean, simple ingredients trend even more,” Prociv said. “I also think consumers want to see more transparency at the corporate level — they want to hear more from the companies making their food — how they are making it, what kinds of ingredients they are using, and what sets their food apart from the competition.”

Prociv believes that 2021 will be the year consumers view food as a holistic approach to health. Consumers were baking more bread at home during the pandemic, so they’ve become familiar with how the baking process works and what kind of ingredients should be used to make food cleaner.”

New sourdough options

“Unsurprisingly, immune health was top-of-mind for nearly everyone in 2020,” Prociv said. “I think we’ll see consumers focus on ways to maintain a healthy immune system, a lot of which can be found in foods like sourdough bread, which has been linked to gut health.”

La Brea Bakery looks to educate consumers about the benefits bread like sourdough can have on gut health and maintaining a healthy immune system.

Other artisan bread suppliers are innovating to keep pace with demand. With its longstanding history and tradition in mind, Calise Bakery introduces new Sourdough Italian Round Bread. With this latest product launch, Calise Bakery expands its lineup of signature breads with a delicious take on a traditional Sourdough Italian Round.

Crafted with the highest quality ingredients, the freshly baked Sourdough Italian Round Bread features the sweet tang of sourdough with a soft and chewy crust that delivers a distinct flavor – with a light and airy texture and classic full-flavored taste.

“We’re excited to expand our line of innovative and authentic bread and rolls with this superior sandwich essential,” said Michael Calise, president of Calise Bakery. “For over four generations, Calise has brought the freshest, best-tasting bread and rolls to the family dining table. Our Sourdough Italian Round Bread is the ultimate addition to elevate everything from your favorite cold cut sandwiches to perfect panini melts, and we’re proud to bring this unique offering to our lineup.”

Calise Bakery Sourdough Italian Round Bread is dairy-and egg-free and is rolling out at $3.69 MSRP for a 20-ounce package (approximately 18 slices) in grocery stores including Stop & Shop, Shaw's, Walmart, Shop Rite, Market Basket, Roche Brothers, Big Y, Dave's Fresh Markets, Price Rite, IGA, and other retailers throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut beginning April 1.

Specialty flours

Don Trouba, senior director, go-to market, The Annex at Ardent Mills, explains that now more than ever, consumers have the ability to choose foods that align with their individual values, whether that’s personal health, planetary health, supporting farmers, or digging into food for the pure joy of it.

“These are all part of what we call ‘drivers of innovation,’ and they influence the demand for ingredients like specialty flours, and many of the ingredients Ardent Mills has launched over the last year,” he said. “Specialty flours are extremely versatile, add unique taste and texture in a seemingly endless number of applications, and hit on multiple consumer trends and demands mentioned above. All of these in combination are what’s driving demand for specialty flours and grains.”

Specialty flours can deliver delicious baked goods that have great flavor and texture and add variety to consumers’ diets which aligns to trends Ardent Mills continues to see, Trouba said. For example, the pandemic has brought about a consumer desire to control their own health – whatever their individual goals may be. Here, specialty diets like organic, keto, low carb, low net carb, gluten-free, etc. remain key players. Ancient grains can provide more options for consumers that strictly follow specialty diets, and with the right formulation don’t have to compromise taste or appeal, he said.

Today’s consumers pay close attention to what they eat, from examining nutrition labels to seeking out less processed foods. Thus, bakers now find themselves looking for cleaner ingredients that will still yield the quality and consistency they have grown accustomed to for their breads and baked goods, said Tom Santos, who serves on General Mills Foodservice’s team of dedicated flour experts, known as the Doughminators.

Santos has more than two decades of experience as a bakery owner plus more than 20 years of sales field experience at General Mills, giving him a unique perspective to help solve customers’ challenges with flour and dough.  

“Flour obviously plays a crucial role in baking success, and while new alternatives for ‘cleaner’ or untreated flour have emerged, some bakers may be hesitant to change from what has worked for them in the past,” he said. “At General Mills, where we mill a wide range of flours to give bakers maximum consistency and baking performance, we recognize that it can be confusing to weed through the myriad of flour types—let alone the terminology—to make an informed decision.”

Innovative ingredients

Ardent Mills is responding to demand for ancient and heirloom grains, and specialty flours including organic by grounding themselves in data and insights to ensure they’re providing the best innovative ingredients consumers are demanding in a way that is viable for our customers long-term.

“We have a broad portfolio of ancient and heirloom grains, from amaranth to barley, sorghum and North and South American quinoa in a variety colors, rye, spelt, einkorn and more. It’s safe to say specialty flours and grains are here to stay – and will continue to grow,” Trouba said.

A recent example of how Ardent Mills is proactively setting customers up for success is with its acquisition of Andean Naturals family of products and operations at Yuba City, Calif., in 2020 and investments at the company’s RiNo mill in Denver. Adding the Andean Naturals family of products and capabilities at Yuba City enabled Ardent Mills to offer complete solutions for quinoa and other gluten-free products. And the company’s investments in the Denver community mill allow it to clean and pack intact grains, pearl barley and dehull heirloom grains like emmer, einkorn and spelt.

“Another area we have always focused on, and continue to invest in, are our farmer and grower relationships,” Trouba said. “A great example of this is the partnership we have with the quinoa farmers in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. Colorado quinoa offers comparable taste, texture, color, size and cook volume to South American quinoa and is an exceptional alternative and supplement to imported white quinoa. Ardent Mills also partners with farmers in Idaho to grow heirloom wheats and source from organic farms nationwide to ensure it can meet customer and consumer demand for specialty flours.”

With the rise in personal health trends from consumers, specialty diets like keto and low net carb continue to grow in popularity. Ardent Mills is always looking at what its customers and consumers care about, and the why behind it, and are continually innovating to help meet that demand.

“This is exactly how our Net Carb Flour Blend came about,” Trouba said. “As a standalone ingredient, this flour blend is non-GMO, Keto Certified, dairy-free, vegan, has no-added-sugar, and can help manufacturers formulate net carb and low net carb products without compromising taste, texture or performance.”