So, what are some of the hottest bread flavour trends cropping up this year? In a recent report, the market research agency Mintel predicted a taste for brightly coloured, vegetable-based breads will increase in 2019. Such breads currently remain niche in Europe, using ingredients such as carrot, beetroot or spinach gaining traction as they appeal to consumers’ demand for food with greater health benefits. Not only do these vibrantly hued breads catch consumers’ attention, they make the vegetable content more tangible and offer an overall flavour boost.
The research group suggests that due to the increased popularity of the Ketogenic or Paleo diets, people continue to cut their carbohydrate intake. This shift could make bread producers offer lower carb products, but often with added protein and fibre. Additionally, as people seek out products with low or zero gluten, bakers are experimenting with alternative grains and flours.
The third upcoming trend observed in the bakery industry is bread products accented with global flavours. As international fusion restaurants and food trucks carve out a space in the food service industry, baked goods featuring exotic spice blends such as warm, North African flavours of cumin, turmeric and cinnamon could appeal to adventurous consumers who want to switch their bread routine up.
An October 2018 Sector Trend Analysis on baked goods released by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reports that both Canadian and American consumers “are moving away from highly-processed products containing artificial ingredients and flavours in recent years.” They are favouring food perceived to be more natural with shorter ingredient lists and less reliance on added preservatives. In the report’s subsector analysis specific to the bread industry, the authors concluded “Canadian consumers not satisfied with regular packaged or industrial breads are looking for products with better quality and healthier ingredients. Furthermore, consumers are becoming more health-conscious and curious, not just about new grains, but also flatbreads, bread with olives, nuts, apricots and other ingredients, which they are willing to try.”
At Forno Cultura, an artisanal Italian bakery with multiple Toronto locations, experimentation and creativity are the name of the game when it comes to developing new bread flavours. Owner and master baker Andrea Mastandrea is a third-generation baker who also trained as an architect. When it comes to developing new bread flavours, he explains, the bakery invests a lot of energy in R&D. “It’s part of our ethos and the way we invest to grow and nurture the brand. So, the process of experimentation becomes a win-win for our clients and for us, but first and foremost it’s about respecting the creative process.”
When a baker at Forno Cultura has an idea for a new bread flavour, they bring it to the team where it becomes part of a group dialogue, followed by planning and initial execution. Then comes the fine-tuning of the recipe, much of which is based on the senses. “Smell becomes an initial driver throughout the decision-making process,” says Mastandrea. Finally, the product is made, tasted and again discussed as a team. “We repeat this as long as we’re able to improve and move the process forward until we decide it’s a strong enough product to introduce to our client base.” Even when the flavour experiments don’t yield the results the team is looking for, Mastandrea remains optimistic. “We have no issues with shelving projects which haven’t been fully resolved,” he explains, adding that “sometimes we learn more from products that fail.”
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The bakers at Forno Cultura derive inspiration for new bread flavours through travel and experimentation. This has led the bakery to create some of their most popular loaves, among them: Cacao Mosto made from grape skin flour with 100 per cent bitter organic cacao; Nero di Seppia, blackened with squid ink and infused with toasted nori and malt flour; Curry Brioche, an olive-oil based enriched loaf with organic curry and turmeric; and an Organic Durum Semolina bread accented with a hint of saffron. The experimentation doesn’t stop there. These days, Andrea and his staff are in full exploration of buckwheat and other darker whole grains to have on offer later this year.
Canadian baking schools are also tuned in to the latest flavour profiles. At Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, Pastry Chef Yann Le Coz explains that one of the biggest influences in bread flavour trends for 2019 is an increased consumer demand for healthy options, which he specifies as seed-rich breads bursting with omega-3, the use of high-quality nuts and dried fruits, as well as organic ingredients in general. In addition, he sees a significant shift in bakers increasingly using ancient grains, such as khorasan, buckwheat, spelt and kamut, paired with slow fermentation techniques, to create new varieties of nuanced flavours and textures. He singles out the growing demand for reduced-gluten breads as the biggest challenge for the modern baker. But Le Coz sees this as a huge opportunity to create new and interesting products.
These trends noted by Le Coz are reflected in the curriculum at Le Cordon Bleu. While instructors focus on the history of classic baked goods, students also learn about alternative flours and fermentation processes to ensure a wide variety of flavours to meet consumer tastes.
Premiere Moisson is an artisan bakery and gourmet speciality food store with 26 locations in the Montreal, Gatineau and Ottawa area. The company’s director of marketing, Anny St-Pierre, explains that their customers have come to regularly expect new and seasonal bread flavours; This has become a factor of differentiation for the bakery. “We analyse what they liked, what they bought in the past, and what they suggested in our satisfaction survey.” She continues, “we look at what is hot in other countries, we talk to various suppliers looking for new and trendy ingredients...all of that information and more is taken into account during the ideation phase of our product development process.”
St-Pierre explains, “we involve our merchants-artisans – a committee formed with partners of the boutiques – in the decision process. They are close to their customers needs and operational production considerations for the 26 bakeries. This committee helps to validate taste, value for the price, and ‘wow’ factors.” In a nutshell, she says, Premiere Moisson’s philosophy is to surprise customers by launching new products every month while always adhering to recipes that honour healthy, natural and authentic ingredients.
One of the most popular speciality loaves the company created was the Autumn Flavours Bread, a sourdough launched in autumn 2018. With fresh apples, dates, toasted pumpkin seeds, rounded with a touch of honey and a blend of spices, the bread was a hit because of its combination of seasonal, local and nostalgic flavours. Almost as important as the taste is the bread’s shape, and Premiere Moisson’s bakers often play with different forms, such as hearts, crowns and pull-aparts to attract customers’ attention. Premiere Moisson customers can expect to see local Quebec ingredients such a birch syrup in loaves this spring, with honeyberries (also known as northern blue honeysuckle) appearing in breads this summer.
While most bakeries will never do away with the classic loaves such as white, multigrain, or rye, many are experimenting with new flavours and combinations that reflect food trends and consumer tastes. It’s this drive for uniqueness through experimentation that creates some of the most interesting breads, and consumers are the ones who reap the delicious and healthful benefits.