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Breaking The Mould

How Canadian Bakeries Add ‘Healthy’ Into The Baking Mix


March 16, 2021
By Emma Davies

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Recently considered a niche market, paleo desserts are gaining popularity. Photo credit: Chrysta Morkeberg

There has been a recent surge in people seeking healthier eating approaches, due to allergies or simply for better health. The 2020 Food & Health Survey states that “more than half of all consumers say the ‘healthfullness’ of their food choices matters more now than it did in 2010.” However, consumers do not want to give up their indulgences; instead, they look for healthier alternatives within the baking category. Across Canada, there are increasing numbers of bakeries taking up the mantle of alternative baking. Here we meet with a few different outlets to better understand their inspiration and offers.

Food In The NŪd, Edmonton, Alberta

Chrysta Morkeberg’s journey into health-driven baking began in 2011 when her son was diagnosed as unable to eat gluten, dairy or eggs. Until this point, Morkeberg baked and cooked in a traditional style, and the implications of this diagnosis shook her world. To support her son, she decided to follow the same restrictions. She unexpectedly saw considerable improvements in her health, further fueling her enthusiasm for and experimentations in food for health, which some years later was critical in helping her husband recover from an accident and subsequent illness. Her life experiences inspired her to open Food In The Nūd.

The bakery follows the principles of paleo eating; everything is gluten and dairy-free and a selection for plant-based diets. Since the store caters to a variety of needs, almost everything is a favourite for someone. However, like many bakeries, their overall best sellers include cookies and Ginger Sammys (similar to a Whoopie Pie). Morkeberg has noticed increased interest from parents in more wholesome children’s treats such as birthday smash-cakes, where fruits sweeten the cake. For Morkeberg and her team, customers’ reactions are the highlight of their day; they’ve had people cry when they discover that everything is gluten and dairy-free, and they can take their pick of the entire store. For Morkeberg, Paleo “is not a diet, but a lifestyle,” a way of living focused on health and wellbeing, which she promotes through her products and the ambience in her store.

Interestingly, as well as a few wholesale accounts, Food In The Nūd also gains sales from local naturopaths. For patients struggling to find baked and other goods for their restrictions, the naturopaths ‘prescribe’ a visit to Food In The Nūd, an extraordinary accreditation for the health standards of the treats they offer.

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Gratify, Penticton, BC

Connie Oickle, the founder of Gratify, a registered holistic nutritionist, wanted to create sweet treats that allow people to ‘indulge better.’ While they are classified as a bakery, their approach is a little different. Gratify treats are available to people with various dietary requirements, but more importantly, they nurture the body. Ryan Oickle, co-owner, noted that while dietary requirements attract specific customers, many people simply enjoy the snacks; the fact it’s healthier is merely a bonus. As Ryan said, “you don’t have to be vegan to eat plant-based foods.”

Gratify took classic baked goods such as cinnamon rolls, cookie dough and brownies and re-created them with raw, plant-based ingredients ensuring they are all naturally gluten, dairy, refined, and artificial sugar-free. The 2020 Food & Health survey highlighted the growing focus on reducing sugars finding that 74per cent of their respondents tried limiting their sugar intake in 2020. Further noting that “the nature of indulgence is changing…as consumers treat themselves less frequently with more premium or ‘better for you’ products.” It is rare to find sweet treats free of refined and artificial sugars, so this is a strong selling point for the health-aware consumer purchasing at Gratify.

As demand increases for healthy products in eateries and other outlets Gratify opened sales to a select number of local businesses to buy Gratify products to cater to this evolving customer need.  However, Gratify has signed a lease on a larger property that will provide them with a seating area and expand their wholesale activity. This expansion is a testament to the growing demand for their products and healthy alternatives.

Healthy Baking In 2021 And Beyond

In the past, diets have easily been dismissed as fads; however, we’re seeing a move toward lifestyle changes that embrace long-term change to eating habits, which are becoming embedded in individuals and societies’ psyche.  As a result, the demand for healthier alternatives and catering to the growing rate of intolerances is predicted to grow.  An article by Dawn Foods noted that “dedicating a portion of your case for baked goods that make people feel good about their food choices is a smart decision for 2021.”  Your bakery’s focus might rightly remain on traditional baked treats; however, if you sell directly to the consumer, it is worth considering if you can collaborate with alternative bakeries to reach this growing health-conscious consumer.  / BJ


Emma Davies is a freelance writer and wellbeing advocate. She writes articles and supports organizations and professionals to develop their wellbeing and business.