Bakers Journal

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Spread the Good Word: Bread Is Healthy


November 6, 2007
By Barbara Lauer

Like a kid waiting for freshly baked cookies to emerge from the oven, I read with fascination – almost daily – the news stories that cross my computer screen

barbara-lauerLike a kid waiting for freshly baked cookies to emerge from the oven, I read with fascination – almost daily – the news stories that cross my computer screen about promising scientific research into functional foods and innovative ingredients, where baked goods will provide the perfect delivery system.  Why?  Because the means of making bread, muffins and bagels as part of a truly healthy – even disease-preventive – lifestyle, can’t arrive fast enough for our industry.

In the U.S., functional ingredients are already in the marketplace, and approved for health claims by the USDA, for their cholesterol-lowering properties, high dietary fibre (both soluble and insoluble) and increased antioxidants and phytochemicals. With governments and media calling attention to the crisis of obesity and the approaching endemic of Type 2 diabetes, adding a benefit to baked goods that goes beyond the requirement of meeting standard nutritional needs isn’t just important, it’s critical to the growth and survival of our industry.

While the popularity of the Atkins diet has faded, a certain distrust of carbohydrates has lingered.  Carbs feed your brain, but most dietitians will tell you to eat more servings of vegetables – which also have carbohydrates – rather than munch on a bagel, be it whole grain or not, particularly if you have a weight or disease problem.  That could change radically, and soon, based on the type of research being conducted at facilities all across Canada.

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Pulse Canada is the association representing the growers of yellow peas (pulses) in the west.  Pulses may be one of the most exciting functional foods – and eventually baking components – to head our way in a long, long time.  Right now, clinical trials are trying to determine which fraction of the peas has an effect on blood lipids, body composition, fat oxidation, glucose tolerance and antioxidant status. In talking with Julianne Kawa, the manager of market innovation for the group, excitement is clearly evident, since a launch to our industry is not too far off.  Whether it’s pea fibre or flour, Canadian bakers could end up offering muffins with a neutraceutical compound, because of the pulses.

For those who view the glass as eternally half empty, and feel that even with functional ingredients available to us it’s impossible to market them, I’d like to remind them of the strength of consumer communications.  Even as new innovative ingredients undergo the rigour of Health Canada’s examination for claims and approvals – which can take years – there is absolutely no reason not to tell your story, supported by the credible scientific research, to consumer media and directly to consumers. 

No, you can’t advertise or make any specific health claims, but consumers are very informed these days.  They can connect the dots, if you simply give them the key benefits of your product and its new ingredient.  And, while Health Canada considers your claim, you can be building your market – and eventually get to the same market share, perhaps even earlier.  And Canadians concerned about living longer and living well will repay your pioneering efforts by word-of-mouth referrals.  That kind of thanks is worth its weight in gold.

I’m tired of seeing the Americans eat our lunch, so to speak.  All the new products that could make our industry soar and grow, launched south of the border and still unavailable up here.  Well, as you’ll read in upcoming issues, we have plenty of functional ingredients being developed north of the 48, and it will only take bakers who are sharp business operators to cash in on the opportunity to incorporate them, and be first into the marketplace.  Because telling a “good news” story to your local food media is never hard, and good news spreads like wildfire – or hot butter. 

And show me one person who wouldn’t love to be able to eat bread three times a day again – especially if it lowered their cholesterol, helped them lose weight and controlled their blood sugar?  It’s not such a wild fantasy as you think.  Second and third helpings coming up, in future issues.

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