Editor’s Letter: June 2012
By Laura Aiken
This year’s Bakery Showcase in May afforded me a wonderful opportunity
to shake hands with many of the warm and friendly people in the baking
This year’s Bakery Showcase in May afforded me a wonderful opportunity to shake hands with many of the warm and friendly people in the baking industry. It’s always great to get out from behind my desk and meet some of our readers. Thank you to those who offered kind words of appreciation for Bakers Journal and who shared your enthusiasm and tales of your own adventures in baking.
Having just returned from Europain in March, my memory is still fresh enough to draw some definitive differences between what’s hot in Europe and what’s happening in North America. In France, local need not be shouted from the rooftops as a trend to capitalize on, as it seems to be a given. As we all know, local is one of the hottest statements to make about your product in Canada right now. I noticed Canadian exhibitors were quick to tell visitors if the product was created in our country. But, even more so than proclamations of location, health is really at the fore of baking here in a way that is beyond clean label, a trend which is big in Europe right now. Whole grains, fortification, natural sugars, organic ingredients, antioxidants, superfruits, sodium reduction, allergen awareness, gluten-free . . . the list goes on and on when it comes to the importance of addressing the nutritional and medical needs of our population with baked goods. I met one baker who mentioned she was taking nutrition classes. I wasn’t surprised, considering that incorporating a health component into goods is a huge edge in a marketplace facing two key health issues.
Firstly, weight loss is a big factor, and I think it’s fair to say that consumers look for, and perhaps always will look for, a silver bullet to give them an edge in that department. Just look at the success and influence of Dr. Oz, whose show now has an enormous focus on diet tips and tricks. Secondly, the aging population has specific desires, such as functional foods that provide benefits beyond the traditional nutrients (although that market is certainly not limited to seniors).
Considering the strong emphasis on the health market right now, Health Canada needs to get more involved in educating consumers and take more of a lead on some of the issues of the day. We’ve heard this government department talk a lot about sodium reduction, but there’s a heck of a lot more going on in health and food than that. That’s not to say this isn’t an ongoing industry challenge, but our industry is driven by consumer demand, and consumers are demanding a lot more than just sodium reduction. Health Canada has said little on the subject of gluten-free products even though there seem to be more people purchasing the products and growing the market than the numbers of people medically requiring it indicate.
The gravitation towards gluten-free is having some impact on bread sales, although just how much impact has not yet been determined, BAC president Paul Hetherington told me at the show. There are misconceptions in the market; for example, some believe that the gluten-free diet is effective as a cleansing or weight-loss tool, or that it is inherently nutritionally superior to diets that contain gluten. Health Canada should be clarifying these concepts for Canadians, considering the growth of the market and its impact on the bakery industry.