Bakers Journal

Understanding the artisan opportunity

May 24, 2022
By Danielle Aucoin, Puratos

Artisanal breads hold promise for bakeries of all sizes

The addition of sprouted grains can deliver great flavour and texture while also enhancing nutritional value. PHOTO: PURATOS

Canada’s retail bakery market, like those of many other countries, is largely served by industrial producers. But demand for artisanal breads has been reinvigorated, and they now hold huge promise for bakers both large and small. So what’s behind the opportunity, and how can bakers tap into it?

The might of the megatrend…
While artisanal foods often occupy a niche, we have seen it change as consumer priorities evolve. For some years, Puratos’ proprietary Taste Tomorrow research has tracked the growing importance of sustainability, health and wellness, and cleaner label to consumers. Today, for instance, 55 per cent of Canadians look for foods that are produced locally, and similar proportions want to know how they are made and assurance that it was done with care for the environment.

…And the power of a pandemic
The coronavirus outbreak intensified many megatrends but was disruptive too. Locked down, with more time on their hands and needing distraction, more consumers began learning about baking, and then experimenting with it at home. Many households, for example, tried developing their own sourdough starters. Boredom became curiosity; curiosity became action.

The pandemic also triggered a sharp uptick in health-consciousness, especially in the areas of immunity and gut health. Taste Tomorrow indicates 83 per cent of Canadians recognize the positive effect that fibre has on digestion, and its further connection to overall health. It also tells us that one in two North Americans believes food produced with local ingredients is better not only for their health, but for the environment too.


Reviewing this and more data, a clear picture emerges of what consumers want in 2022: healthier and “simpler” breads, produced close by, with local, familiar ingredients, and with superb taste and texture. Step forward, the artisan loaf.

Perfecting the art of artisan
The ideal artisan bread has four key characteristics. One key element is its appearance – we eat with our eyes and 58 per cent of Canadians believe food that looks good will taste good too. A rustic, irregular shaped loaf with a signature crisp crust and a dusting of flour, grains or seeds on top signals craftsmanship and quality. Taste must also be perfected, as it is still the top driver of all bakery purchases. In artisan loaves, sourdough, grains and seeds can all contribute to unique and mouthwatering tastes. The addition of sprouted grains can take breads to the next level – delivering great flavour and texture while also enhancing nutritional value.  

Health is the third cornerstone of artisan breads. This is where grains and seeds can shine, offering highly desirable nutrients such as fibre, protein and various vitamins and minerals – each grain or seed playing its own role in the goodness of the bread.  All are widely known and have scientifically proven health benefits, making for persuasive healthy positionings. 

A story is the final, and most intangible, attribute of a perfect artisan bread. Linking the desires for traceability, authenticity, local provenance and emotional connection, storytelling is an effective marketing tool for bakers.

Grains and seeds: the panacea for differentiating artisan breads?
Sourdough has long been a cornerstone of successful artisanal baking. But combining it with grains and seeds can deliver on all the qualities consumers expect from artisan breads – incredible taste and texture, long-lasting freshness and enhanced health. Puratos’s innovative Softgrain solutions, for instance, are selected whole grains and seeds that have been meticulously cooked in sourdough. There is now renewed focus on these natural ingredients as science continues to uncover more of their health benefits, technology improves their functionality and supply chain developments allow better access to them than ever.

Ultimately, grains and seeds provide all four characteristics of the ideal artisan loaf, and more. Leveraging the potential of these “power ingredients,” especially in combination with sourdough for its distinctive taste and texture, constitutes a sound foundation for successful artisanal baking. / BJ

Danielle Aucoin is bakery product manager at Puratos, an international group which supplies innovative food ingredients and services for the bakery, patisserie and chocolate sectors.

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