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Identifying the clean label bread consumer

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When shopping for breads, more consumers are looking closely at packages, reading ingredient lists and otherwise gathering information about the trustworthiness of products.

When shopping for breads, more consumers are looking closely at packages, reading ingredient lists and otherwise gathering information about the trustworthiness of products. Increasingly, bread consumers are checking for products with simple, understandable ingredients that have a clear purpose.

Although industry frequently refers to this preference as the “clean label” trend, that term is not widely used among consumers themselves. Last year, Lesaffre Corp. commissioned market research company C&R Research to gain insights into the clean label bread consumer. Specifically, the research sought to discover how consumers feel about bread ingredients and how that information affects purchase decisions. Key takeaways included:

• What “clean label” means to bread consumers

About two-thirds of consumers who participated in the study said they had heard of the terms “clean eating” (68%) or “clean label” (64%); but despite this awareness, they generally did not identify as “clean label shoppers.” Instead, they preferred terms like “balanced” or “whole.”

Consumers tend to interpret “clean” descriptors as having to do with ingredients. In interviews conducted as part of the study, bread consumers said they prefer products made with recognizable ingredients (56%) and short ingredient lists (65%).

Ingredients consumers consider “clean”

The study showed that many consumers will say no to baked goods with ingredients that are hard to pronounce (37%), perceived to be unhealthy or not “good for you” (29%), or unnatural (22%). Instead, bread consumers tend to prefer ingredients familiar to them. Fiber, calcium and yeast are the ingredients the largest number of consumers identified as “clean.”

• Other attributes influencing bread consumers’ decisions

Bread consumers are information-seekers. More than 7 in 10 (74%) said in-depth product information would prompt them to choose a different brand, and over half (56%) said they carefully read nutrition labels before deciding to buy a product. Consumers also inspect packaging for other visual indicators that the product meets their expectations for authenticity, simplicity and transparency. The study found that reduced packaging and a handcrafted look and feel are attractive cues that underscore a product’s “clean” attributes.

However, when choosing breads, taste and texture are the priorities. Over half (57%) said it is important to enjoy food.

Takeaways for bread manufacturers

Formulation difficulties can arise when trying to deliver on consumers’ desire for taste and texture while also maintaining a clean label, especially considering that most emulsifiers and extended shelf-life ingredients have chemical-sounding names that are hard to pronounce. For example, large-scale production of dinner rolls and hot dog buns requires very high consistency and softness in crumb and texture—attributes which emulsifiers typically contribute to these goods.

Fortunately, ingredients such as enzymes are available to formulators as “clean” alternatives to emulsifiers and anti-staling agents. As consumers continue to check bread labels, brands may find untapped value in alternative dough conditioners and shelf-life extension ingredients that can meet expectations for a clean label.

Editor’s note: To read similar articles, click the link to visit FBI’s “Blue ribbon strategies for the bakery aisle” digital magazine.

Bill Hanes, vice president of marketing and strategy, has spent 23 years serving the baking industry as a member of the team at Lesaffre Corp. In his current role, he helps bakers understand trends in the market and how the company can help grow sales.

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