Located in the heart of St. Petersburg, Fla., Mazzaro’s Italian Market started out as a family-owned and operated coffee roasting establishment in 1993 and three years later, opened in a new location that ignited growth into a favorite destination for locals and travelers alike.

And from the beginning, whole-grain breads have been one of the lynchpins of its success.

With a large selection of Italian and other specialty products, Mazzaro’s is one of those special places where everything is made fresh and prepared daily; where the sights, sounds, and smells transport you to another place and time. It is more than a one-of-a-kind Italian gourmet market. It has emerged as one of Tampa Bay’s favorite culinary destinations, and Mazzaro’s bakery is busy making fresh breads and pastries on site every day. The bakery features crusty breads like Italian, semolina, Tuscan, ciabatta, pugliese, focaccia, and rosemary. And Mazzaro’s cinnamon babka is out of this world.

“One of our most prized ingredients is the sourdough starter that chief baker Ben Smith made from flour and water, fermented by wild yeast and time, lots of time. He has cultivated it for 18 years, almost as long as we’ve been baking,” according to the Cuccaro family, owners of Mazzaro’s Italian Market, which has published its own book, “Meet Me at Mazarro’s.”

This scenario points to the growing trend at instore operations of all types that whole grain and crusty, flavorful breads are gaining popularity with strong staying power. This is a trend that continues to build more every year. Wholesome is the key word.

Whole Foods Market global buyers and experts recently unveiled their top 10 anticipated food trends for 2022 in the retailer’s seventh-annual Trends predictions. The importance of authenticity and whole ingredients is magnified in the latest survey.

“Last year, we saw tremendous pandemic-related shifts in grocery buying habits as the world adjusted to spending more time at home. As the food industry slowly adjusts to a new normal, we expect to see consumers prioritize food and drink products that deliver additional benefits and products that support their sense of well-being, like urban garden greens and products grown with farming processes that help address soil health,” said Sonya Gafsi Oblisk, chief marketing officer at Whole Foods Market. “We look forward to watching these trends take form in grocery aisles and on our plates in 2022.”

Flavor, familiarity, and health are the top influencers on food purchasing decisions, according to the new 2021 Whole Grains Consumer Insights Survey by the Oldways Whole Grains Council. Given that whole grain products check all those boxes, it’s no surprise that people are gravitating more and more toward whole grain options. 

Despite media hype around low-carb and grain-free fad diets, the reality is that 95% of consumers report that their whole grain consumption has either increased or is holding steady compared with five years ago. Interestingly, while we often assume that low-carb dieters have lower whole grain consumption, those survey respondents who say they avoid carbs are more likely to also report: (1) that they look for whole grains when shopping, (2) that they nearly always choose whole grain options, and (3) that their whole grain intake has increased in the last five years. This may indicate that people are differentiating based on the nutritional quality of different carbohydrate sources, and gravitating toward high-quality carbs, like whole grains. 

The Oldways Whole Grains Council’s survey asked 1,505 American adults why and how often they choose whole grains, which grains they are familiar with, and when and where they are most likely to consume whole grains. It asked how the pandemic has impacted food habits, how considerations about the environment are influencing the way people approach food, and how whole grain labeling aids consumer confidence in the products they are buying. 

Since 2005, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have encouraged everyone to make at least half their grains whole grain. According to new survey data, 59% of American say they are meeting this goal, with 26% of consumers reporting that they nearly always choose whole grains whenever they are available. Additionally, more than half of consumers tell us they have increased their whole grain consumption in the past five years. 

While health remains the leading reason for choosing whole grains (with 82% of consumers citing it), it’s not the only reason. Today, more people consider the flavor of whole grains to be a benefit (38%) than a barrier (33%), and the percentage of those who cite taste as a barrier has fallen significantly since the Oldways Whole Grains Council’s last survey in 2018. In 2021, 33% of respondents say taste is a barrier, compared with 42% in 2018. Of those who say they nearly always choose whole grains, 45% see taste as a benefit and only 18% see it as a barrier, suggesting that the more exposure you have to whole grains, the more you come to appreciate their nuttier, more robust flavors. 

Sprouted grains

In its mission to create the best sprouted whole grain baked goods, Angelic Bakehouse introduces a new bread that comes after conducting an extensive yearlong product innovation program, which consisted of qualitative and quantitative consumer research, more than ten new bread variations, a packaging redesign and consumer testing panels in two cities.

 “We took the long-term approach to create the best bread possible, starting with an extensive research process to dive deep into what consumers are looking for and how we can apply it to our sprouted whole grain breads,” said Jamie Duklas, marketing executive at Angelic Bakehouse. “It was an incredibly large and labor-intensive undertaking, and we are very proud of the outcome. The best part is hearing how much consumers love our new bread.”

 The consumer research found that 64% of hyper-premium bread buyers think taste is a top purchase consideration, followed by ingredient claims (56%) and health claims (52%). As a result, Angelic Bakehouse updated its entire bread collection (Whole Grain, Raisin Wheat, Whole Grain Rye, Wheat, Reduced Sodium Bread and No Added Salt Bread) to have a stronger taste appeal, more nutrition and a larger bread slice.

 The new bread embodies what consumers already love about Angelic Bakehouse  ꟷ its whole grains (18g per serving), higher protein (5g per serving) and fiber content (3g per serving), but with a naturally sweeter taste and a moister texture due to Angelic Bakehouse’s proprietary sprouting process. Its bread is also vegan, allergen-friendly (including dairy, soy, nuts and sesame) and made with clean, non-GMO ingredients.

 “Knowing taste is the most important purchase driver for hyper-premium bread, we made two major changes to enhance our bread’s sweetness. One was fine-tuning our proprietary sprouting process to uncover a sweeter profile in the grains. The second was switching from agave to brown sugar to provide a sweeter aftertaste. This resulted in a naturally sweeter whole grain bread without the bitterness often found with wheat,” said George Psaris, plant manager at Angelic Bakehouse.

 In addition to bread, Angelic Bakehouse offers other sprouted whole grain products, including wraps, pizza crusts, buns and crackers. The brand strives to continually exceed consumer demands, and the new bread is not the first consumer-driven change it has made to its products. Angelic Bakehouse recently launched low-sodium versions of its bread, wraps and pizza crusts, including the Reduced Sodium Wraps, Reduced Sodium Bread and Reduced Sodium Flatzza Crusts, which have become top sellers.


Driving whole grain consumption

The 2021 Whole Grains Consumer Insights Survey found that the vast majority of consumers (88%) are most likely to consume whole grains when eating at home. With half of American consumers reporting that they are eating more home-cooked meals as a result of the pandemic, it seems only natural that 1 in 5 consumers says they are also eating more whole grains now than they did before the pandemic. 

Increasingly, sustainability is a motivation for choosing whole grains.

Two-thirds of consumers consider whole grains to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. In 2018, when the Oldways Whole Grains Council surveyed consumers, 12% said that sustainability was one of the reasons they choose whole grain options. This number is rising quickly, with 19% of consumers now reporting that sustainability is a factor in choosing whole grains. Among young consumers (Gen Z and Millennials) this is an even stronger motivator – 26% cite sustainability in their decision making.


The golden spice

Turmeric, aka “the golden spice,” has been used for centuries in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine and has become popular in the United States as a dietary supplement. While golden milk lattes and turmeric supplements are nothing new, the spice is taking root as an ingredient in packaged foods like cereals. People want to have their turmeric and eat it too.

Try The Trend: 365 by Whole Foods Market Golden Chai Granola; Nature’s Path Organic Golden Turmeric Cereal & Oatmeal Cup; Whole Foods Market Golden Holiday Bread.

Source: Whole Foods Market