Bakers Journal

Editor’s Letter: Spring Forward, Looking Back

February 17, 2021
By Bakers Journal

It seems strange to observe that only year ago, the world experienced a worldwide pandemic for the second time in roughly a century. The world changed dramatically, in terms of economics, and marketing. Not since the last quarantine from the Influenza epidemic in 1918 did people become as concerned about their health and dietary habits.

There’s something about spring that encourages everyone to look forward, set their clocks ahead by an hour, but this season has us looking back. Consumers in both eras were – and still are – interested in staying healthy. The connection between food and health were made vital as the Influenza shook the world. L

Last year, yeast manufacturers found demand like no previous year. Shelves of every variety of yeast were emptying fast. Bakeries also reported an uptick in sales of comfort foods, and foods that advertised probiotic, or immune strengthening ingredients.  In 1918, the popular ingredient of choice was lemons. Today, we can’t imagine a time when North Americans didn’t know what to do with lemons outside of the occasional cocktail or lemon cake. Due to a terrible season of drought and freezing winter, the citrus market was failing. It was clever marketing that helped save American citrus groves during the 1918 pandemic. Don Francisco of the California Fruit Grower’s Exchange helped design industrial citrus presses to create fresh juice, and worked carefully with advertising campaigns to inform the public that hot lemonade and eating lemons would beat the flu. The Exchange was careful advertise the product as healthful, “but always with care not to suggest that lemons are to be classed with medicines.” Health-aware consumers may want to protect and fight COVID symptoms, but like advertisers from a hundred years ago, should be wary of advertising probiotic ingredients as a potential cure. 

The health halo is not new, but its effects far reaching. We’ve treated ourselves to health cures, new diets and fresh wholesome ingredients as a way to stay healthy, much as Kellogg’s health sanatorium in the late 1800’s did. Bakers can learn from the past and start to market towards a public that is looking for more plant-based ingredients. If not necessarily as a health food, many are buying dairy-free, egg-free pastry as a form of indulging while still meeting the trend for healthy ingredients. Spring is normally about planning, seeing what trends are cropping up, what’s the growing season going to bring us in terms of fruit or plant-based recipes. More than ever, a shell-shocked nation is looking for something that will keep us healthy, but provide comfort or the illusion of luxury.  Where the plant-based eater may (or may not) consume some dairy or egg, knowing the difference is crucial for labelling, and to keep your business going. Plant-based baking appears to be filling in that space for those who feel that “plant-based” is the same as “nutritious.” A brownie made with lentils might provide more fibre and protein, but should still considered a treat, not a salad. 

In this issue, there are bakers who are creating marvellous treats that were traditionally made with butter and/or eggs, but are meeting the demands of a public that are looking for an option that might either be cruelty-free, or offer the illusion of being healthier, not including animal products.  Your customers may not necessarily be vegan by ethos, but want to sample plant-based food as a form of harm-reduction; they can now have their (sort of) healthier cake, and eat it, too. / BJ

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