by Glen Thompson , chief editor
Thomas' Squares Bagelbread whole wheat variety contains 56 grams of whole grains and 8 grams of fiber.
Shown is Thomas' 100% Whole Wheat Squares Bagelbread variety. Other flavors include plain and everything.
Innovation often crops up where it is least expected. Case in point: the bagel. This most basic yeast roll's humble beginnings have been traced back more than three centuries. Yet, since the first batch was boiled and baked, the bagel has remained essentially unchanged. Until now.
Canada-based George Weston Bakeries, under its venerable Thomas' brand, has launched Thomas' Squares Bagelbread, this year's R&D New Product Innovation of the Year award winner. What set this product ahead of the pack? First, as the name indicates, this is a square-shaped bagel. Next, the Bagelbread's center hole is significantly smaller than that of a traditional bagel.
These breaks with tradition have produced a markedly different appearance in a product that has long been taken for granted. But this is hardly a case of form failing to follow function. In fact, these changes specifically were implemented to address the changing roles of bagels in current eating habits.
While these two changes, both visible to the naked eye, have been crucial to the product's out-of-the-box success, another signification innovation, unseen but nonetheless core to the Squares Bagelbread identity, lies in a key formulation change to the centuriesold bagel-making process.
To provide consumers with a roll that retains the flavor of a bagel while approximating the soft bite associated with bread-aisle slices, Thomas' has tweaked the simmering stage that unbaked bagels undergo prior to baking. "Traditional bagels are boiled to give them a hard, crusty exterior," says Pankaj K. Talwar, Thomas' vice president of marketing. "We wanted Thomas' Squares Bagelbread to give consumers a softer eating experience. We accomplished this texture change by steaming the Squares Bagelbread instead."
The square deal
According to Talwar, Thomas' Squares Bagelbread slides easily into a toaster slot or sandwich bag. In addition, it matches the shape of most deli meats. All told, these points increase sandwich-building efficiency, making the product's square shape an effective time saver for Squares Bagelbread's target market of "moms 35 to 54 who want nutritious and tasty food for their home," a Thomas' spokesman says.
As to the decreased diameter of the center hole, Thomas' listened to its customer base to find out what makes or breaks a bagel-eating experience. "We've learned from consumers that when biting into traditional bagels, the condiments sometime squeeze out the side or come through the hole in the middle," Talwar says. "The small hole in Thomas' Squares Bagelbread helps keep condiments like butter, mustard or mayonnaise on the bagel and not in your lap."
Initially released to select markets in February and distributed nationally in July, Thomas' credits inspiration for the Bagelbread line with the company's commitment to instilling all-meal appeal into what was once considered a breakfast food.
"Thomas' has been making breakfast better for more than 125 years," Talwar says. "And we wanted to uphold our tradition of exciting and innovative products by creating a product that would help bagels go beyond breakfast to lunch, dinner and snack time."
Squares Bagelbread is available in Plain, 100% Whole Wheat and Everything varieties. All are high in protein with no trans fat. There are six squares per pack and one pre-sliced square constitutes a serving.
Thus far, feedback has been encouraging. Thomas' test results show that both bagel and bread consumers enjoy the product's taste, consistency, wide variety of uses and overall healthfulness.
"The 100% Whole Wheat variety contains 56 grams of whole grains and 8 grams of fiber," Talwar states. "Whole grain foods provide the nutritional benefits of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants."
PHOTO PROVIDED BY GEORGE WESTON BAKERIES