From added indulgence to enhanced nutritional benefits, dairy ingredients can improve the marketability of baked products.
Today's market is one of change and opportunity for bakers. “Bakers can use dairy ingredients to capitalize on three important market trends: first, more natural products with cleaner labels; second, permissible indulgence in smaller portion sizes; and third, gourmet cheese combinations,” says Sharon Gerdes, senior account manager, Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), Des Plaines, Ill.
Keeping it clean
The importance of ingredients “you can pronounce” cannot be overstated, says Wendy Achatz, of Achatz Handmade Pie Co., Chesterfield, Mich. Consumers are reading labels more than ever before, and chemical-sounding ingredients scare many of them away. If it takes too long to read the label consumers won't eat it, Achatz notes.
Using natural ingredients, including real butter and cream, allow premium products to be placed in upscale venues, such as Whole Foods stores. Last year, for instance, Achatz Handmade Pie Co., created a new line of frozen ready-to-bake pies to supply the Whole Foods Market chain in the mid-Atlantic region. “This program helped Whole Foods Market increase its bakery sales,” says Dave Achatz, president and co-owner. “We use no hydrogenated oil or preservatives in our pies, which makes our products fit perfectly in the all-natural trend.”
All natural dairy ingredients also are key to the success of Kitchen Table Bakers, Syosset, N.Y., makers of Gourmet Cheese Crackers, and winners of the Sofi™ (Special Outstanding Food Innovation) award for Diet and Lifestyle at the recent New York Fancy Food Show. The whole cheese cracker is “only a dairy product,” says owner Barry Novick, citing the fact that the crackers are primarily cheese with only the addition of herbs and seeds to fill out the label statement. The item fits perfectly into a complex-carbohydrate diet and is gluten-free, wheat-free and sugar-free.
The nutritional impact of ingredients also has consumers reading labels. An article for The Lembert Report from June finds, “Two out of three consumers strongly agree that they want to prepare healthy foods at home.” An ingredient just introduced by Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Montpelier, Vt., is 50 percent reduced fat cheddar cheese made with omega-3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The polyunsaturated fatty acid is considered a “good fat” and one that is heart healthy. Furthermore, DHA is good for the eyes and for the health and development of children for the first two years of life. It also is particularly important for pregnant women in the third trimester when significant brain growth occurs.
With consumers watching their budgets more than ever, the news is still good for bakers willing to use premium ingredients in their offerings. Consumers are giving themselves permission to indulge in smaller portion sizes, says DMI's Gerdes. “Real butter, cheese and cream cheese ingredients are not only natural, they also add permissible indulgence to bakery items. In times of economic downturn, consumers are still looking for a way to reward themselves, and bakery items with real dairy ingredients are a great way to create this indulgence. By scaling these delicacies into smaller portions, bakers can deliver all the flavor of real dairy in a size that fits every budget and lifestyle.
Achatz Handmade Pie Co. offers pies that range from a 3-lb., family-size pie to a 6-in., 1-lb. pie for two people. In addition, it sells half pies for smaller appetites or fewer servings. “People are eating at home more now,” says Wendy Achatz, “but they still want small indulgences. They won't put a cheap $3 pie on the table for company, but they will serve a $15 pie and still save money by eating at home rather than dining out.”
For those who prefer a lower fat content, bakers can use great lower fat cheeses, such as reduced fat pepper jack. Adding yogurt or yogurt powder as an ingredient is another way to add great dairy flavor with minimal fat, Gerdes notes. Yogurt and yogurt powder can add flavor and nutrients, such as protein and calcium, to many bakery items.
Baked treats, such as a peach snack bar with a yogurt coating, that combine a chewy-creamy texture also are popular. DMI recently developed a fact sheet on yogurt powder that is available for bakers to use.
The Vermont Butter and Cheese Co., Websterville, also has developed premium formulas using its signature ingredients. For instance, crème fraîche and Vermont cultured butter provide rich decadence to its butter cookies. The company also recommends adding butter to maple syrup for maple butter to enhance pancakes or waffles, and making honey-orange butter to embellish crepes. These small indulgences will improve the consumers' eating experience.
Gourmet cheese takes center stage
“Cheese brings real consumer value to bakery items,” Gerdes says. The melt and stretch properties of cheese is an important part of the cheese experience. DMI's technical support hotline can help bakers select the ideal cheese for their dairy application, Gerdes adds. “For a gourmet touch, combine several cheeses, or use a combination of cheese and herbs or other savory condiments. Suggested combinations include: Cheddar and jalapeños, Romano and garlic, Swiss and Dijon mustard, Gruyere and rosemary, or Asiago and sharp cheddar. Savory combinations are ideal for focaccia breads, breadsticks, muffins and crackers.”
Reduced fat cheeses also are a gourmet and nutritious label option when used properly. The cheesemakers at Cabot Creamery Cooperative have suggestions for using reduced fat cheese in formulations:
- Chill the cheese, then shred finely straight from the cooler; finer shreds will combine better with other ingredients
- Heat low and long; oven temperatures above 450°F are not recommended; overbrowning can cause cheese to dry out, resulting in flavor loss
- Slice and portion baked products when they are still hot to maintain integrity
- Store in the refrigerator or cooler; reduced fat cheese will remain fresh for months if left unopened
By taking advantage of these marketplace trends, bakers can realize benefits including improved market share, increased distribution channels and the good will of their customers. “People are getting creative with this economy,” says Wendy Achatz, and providing consumers with wholesome foods is one way to create a niche. Giving people what they want has always been a sure way to success.