Bakers Journal

Editor’s Letter: Personalization and “premiumization”

October 23, 2019
By Bakers Journal

Choosing the ingredient or topping can be a way to incorporate a health halo or even a customer-based focus to any bakery.

IBIE 2019 displayed a wide range of talent in terms of skill, technical and mechanical knowledge as well as marketing savvy. While small and mid-range bakeries are looking for ways to scale up, it was interesting to see how larger bakeries were trying to hone in on artisanal bakeries’ main cachet: The appeal of hand-made loaves made to a select and discerning clientele.

Where smaller bakeries already have an image of appealing to those who can recognize and appreciate a hand-made, artful loaf of bread, many larger bakeries are turning not to master bakers but to marketing departments to shape their image. Now, grocery stores and industrial bakers are turning to similar – if not the same – values that a small country bakery would hold to.

Dietician, Jane Dummer spoke previously of the “health halo” effect, where the simple power of word associations or carefully chosen words on a label can convey the idea of nutritious contents. Artisanal is becoming a buzzword that suggests handmade, which also implies a careful selection of ingredients. This word is coming around to larger, industrial bakeries that might turn out over a thousand baguettes an hour, but served in a earth-toned paper bag or homespun cotton sack will imply the service and process making it is a completely traditional experience.

The growing popularity of whole grains, slow fermentation and a high quality loaf normally associated with small, artisanal bakeries is gaining ground with consumers. The wholesome associations the words “artisanal” and “hand-made” also carry an underlying trust that the baked goods carry a healthy and carefully chosen ingredient list.


Though sourdough only takes three ingredients, flour, water and salt, adding an element of personalization isn’t too difficult. At the Puratos booth, an interactive tablet was set up. It offered the IBIE attendees an idea of what a customized experience could be through the eyes of a customer, by offering the client a choice of choosing a liquid, a filling and a topping.

The customer would start with their base liquid, offering three choices: Sweet (apple juice,) neutral (water) and savoury (tomato juice.) The flour choice remained the same for all three, but gave an option that depended on the choice of liquid. Clients who selected apple juice for a liquid could not juice ham or caramelized onion, but were given the option of dried fruit or seeds. Those who selected tomato juice were allowed to choose ham or cheese.

While the choices aren’t that varied, giving customers an illusion of choice allows them to feel that they are participating in making their food in some way, not unlike past relatives who used to bake their own bread from scratch.

A three ingredient starter list limits the amount of work or dough that baker would have to do in order to fulfill each request. However, the task of calling the clients inform them their loves are ready may take up some of that task, if it’s not already automated.

Customization can have a positive impact on allergen-free baking, or a way to provide something for special occasions. In-store bakeries already provide a catalogue of templates for cakes. The singular touch of asking for choice of flavour, colour of icing and adding a personal message gives the consumer the chance to participate in the “making” of the cake.

Choosing the ingredient or topping can be a way to incorporate a health halo or even a customer-based focus to any bakery. As consumers, we would not deliberately choose something unhealthy, and by participating in the creation of a part of a meal, whether the a wholesome loaf of whole-grain bread, or selecting something brightly coloured to indulge in, customization shapes the way foods are sold.

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