While food trends and the popularity of various weight- loss diets fluctuate, consumers’ demand for health- ier food products remains a constant. The baking industry responds to these demands by continually
developing new products, ingredients and processing methods to
increase products’ health benefits while retaining good flavor.
Health topics currently of interest to consumers of baked goods
include reducing sugars, salt and trans and saturated fats; including more whole grains and fortified vitamins and minerals; natural,
organic and locally produced ingredients; and allergen concerns.
The concept of healthy baking includes the reduction of trans fats,
increased use of whole grains, sodium reduction and inclusion of
ingredients that deliver added omega-3s, fiber or antioxidants. In
addition to using reduced levels of trans and saturated fats, salts
and sugars, fortification of ingredients has become common, with
many baked goods containing heart-healthy nuts and dried fruits,
and substituting cocoa for high-fat, processed chocolate additives.
While in recent years (due to the popularity of some low-car-bohydrate diets) a great deal of attention was focused on reducing the carbohydrate content in bakery products, most recently
attention has shifted to whole and alternative grains, and creating
good-tasting, gluten-free products. The use of whole and multigrain flour is a seemingly new trend to many consumers. However,
they are actually ancient baking practices. Many bakeries now specialize in whole grain and multigrain products, including varieties
of artisan breads. The impact of whole grains on bakery products
is influenced by the inclusion level and type of whole-grain ingredients used. Some products made with a relatively low usage of 10 to
25 percent (flour basis) of a traditional whole-wheat flour generally
require minor changes to the formula and processing conditions.
Some specialty, fine particle-size whole wheat flours can be used at
the same levels and deliver meaningful whole-grain nutrition without modification.
Whole grains absorb more liquid, require less mixing, and have
lower tolerance to over-mixing. These formulations may also
require an increase in other functional ingredients such as gluten
and the oxidation agents, and adjustments to the
baking time and temperature.
The taste, texture and appearance of the product are all very important factors for consumer
acceptance and must be optimized.
For gluten-intolerant consumers, alternatives
exist to wheat flours, and the variety of glu-
ten-free products is expanding. Corn, rice and
potato flours often have been used as wheat
flour substitutes. A variety of additional glu-
ten-free flours are gaining popularity with both
bakers and consumers, including sorghum, qui-
noa, millet, amaranth, flax and buckwheat. The
availability of different types of gluten-free flours
allows bakers to create expanded
lines of goods, offering unique flavors
and textures, as well as to produce
goods featuring traditional tastes and
consistencies. An increased understanding
of how starches and gums function in gluten-freeappli-
cations on the part of suppliers has allowed additional technology
to modify texture and extend shelf life. As a result of this collabora-
tive learning, the overall quality of gluten-free products has experi-
enced significant improvements in recent years.
Salt and salt substitutes are also critical issues in the creation of
healthy baked goods. Worldwide, salt consumption tends to be
well above recommended levels for maintaining proper blood pressure levels and general cardiovascular health. Various methods of
salt reduction may be employed. Salt content in baked goods can
also be reduced (depending on the product) through the use of sea
salts and potassium chloride blends. Though commonly thought of
as primarily a flavor component, salt also plays a major functional
role. Salt contributes a strengthening effect on the gluten structure
in traditional bread products, improving dough handling characteristics and increasing finished product volume. In addition, salt has
direct influence on the fermentation rate of the dough, influencing
flavor development, internal cell structure, finished product volume
and rates of production. Recovering all of these attributes when
reducing sodium can require significant adjustments to ingredient
selection, formulation and processing procedures.
The sugar content of bakery products is another concern for
health-conscious consumers. Baked goods are often high in sugar,
and sugars are often used to compensate for flavor that may be
lost when fat content is reduced. Excess sugar consumption has
been linked to a number of health issues, including obesity and diabetes. Artificial and substitute sweeteners are often used to reduce
the amount of sugar in baked goods. Depending on the product,
substitutions of fruit purees, fruit and spices may also be employed
in reducing sugar content without sacrificing taste.
Healthy baking does not focus only on reducing or removing
trans fats, salts, sugars or gluten. In addition to reducing some
ingredients, healthy baking also aims to introduce or increase the
health-supporting ingredients of baked goods. In addition to whole
grains, bakers are responding to consumers’ increasing demands
for baked products fortified with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants
and omega- 3 fatty acids.
Bakers can incorporate a number of antioxidant-rich ingredients
into their products, including cocoa, nuts, whole grains, legumes
and fruit. Another popular baked product fortification is omega-3s.
Flax, fish oils and algae are rich in omega-3s and are easy to incorporate, increasing the nutritional value of the products.
As the baking industry continues to modify products to meet
consumer demand for healthier baked goods, ingredient content
and processing methods continue to change and evolve. ◆
Brian L. Strouts, Interim Vice President Baking and Food Technical Services, AIB International