Many wholesale bakeries are capitalizing on the recent health craze by touting their products' health benefits on the packaging. These claims include calcium, fiber, calorie and whole grain content.
Above: Butternut bread showcases its health content three times on its package.
Above: Manna Bread, which can be bought at Whole Foods, includes three health statements on its packaging.
Wonder bread touts its calcium claim in a red sunburst.
Natural Ovens' products draw attention to the vitamin and mineral mix, and the omega-3 content.
Food bars were one of the first bakery foods to capitalize on their healthful properties.
French Meadow's HealthSeed Spelt bread contains a list of healthful benefits on the back panel of its package. The product's benefits include protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
For weight watchers, Healthy Life and Pepperidge Farm's Light Style bread tout their reduced calorie count.
American consumers are obsessed with taking the easy way out. Overweight? Take a pill. Chest pains? Take a pill. High blood pressure? Take a pill. Bad eyes? Eat a carrot. Instead of focusing on a balanced diet with a regimen of exercise, many people would rather buy a bottle of the latest wonder drug.
This "magic pill" mentality has left many food processors wondering if food will be replaced entirely by pills in the future. To prevent this, more and more food processors are touting the healthful properties of their existing products, and launching new products with health concerns as the main priority.
Consumers seeking a healthful lifestyle should be seeking bakery foods rather than avoiding them. Bakers can capitalize on health-conscious consumers by promoting the healthful ingredients found in bakery foods, and by adding nontraditionalingredients to enhance the health value of a product.
Investing in new products aimed at health-conscious consumers may seem a gamble for high-volume bakers, especially when increasing commodity and employee-related costs are taken into consideration. For example, everyone remembers what happened to the low-fat craze. However, bakers must at least take a look at the rising sales of healthrelated products and realize opportunities are available. Already, many bakeries have began launching health-oriented products aimed at enticing this growing consumer segment.
"The customer is clearly showing great interest in products that promote health, whole grains, no sugar and low carbs," Gary Prince, George Weston Bakeries' president, stated in a teleconference earlier this year. To capitalize on consumer demand, George Weston announced that its new products will focus on nutrition and specific diets.
Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga., also is taking advantage of current health-related trends by launching several new products under the Healthline banner. These Nature's Own breads include products that are high in fiber and soy, and low in carbohydrates and sugar.
As consumer demand for healthful products continues to grow, bakers must evaluate their product lines to make sure they are satisfying this demand. Fortunately, a slew of ingredients is readily available for bakers that want to capitalize on the healthoriented trend. These ingredients include vitamins, minerals, soy, choline, lutein, fiber, probiotics, whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids and fruits and nuts.
Enrich and fortify
Creating healthful grain-based foods is not a difficult chore. In fact, all grain-based foods have inherent healthful properties. In 1943, the U.S. government mandated that flour be enriched with iron and B vitamins, including thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and folic acid. These vital nutrients naturally occur in grains, but are removed during the refining process. As a result of the U.S. government's enrichment mandate, once common deficiency diseases such as pellagra, beriberi, rickets and scurvy have been practically eliminated.
The United States government again stepped into the grain-based food industry in 1998 and implemented a fortification program requiring all enriched grain foods to be fortified with folic acid. Unlike enrichment, which replaces naturally occurring nutrients lost during processing, fortification involves adding more nutrients than are naturally found in grains.
The fortification of grain-based foods has recently received considerable publicity due to a paper penned by Karin Katrina, a noted speaker, author and nutrition therapist whose work focuses on weight and eating issues. In her paper, she cites several studies that say the fortification of grain-based foods with folic acid "has dramatically reduced the incidence of neural tube defects by 15% to 30%, though reports are as high as 51%." Besides reducing neural tube defects, the paper also links an increased intake of folic acid to reducing the incidence of vascular diseases and cancer.
High-volume bakers also can enhance the value of their products by fortifying them with calcium. Besides promoting strong bones and teeth, calcium also has been shown in some research studies to control hypertension.
Whole grains and fiber
Take a stroll down the bread aisle and it is easy to see how much it has changed in the last year. Although still dominated by traditional white and wheat breads, a growing portion of shelf space is being dedicated to premium breads, many of which are whole grain varieties. The growth of whole grain breads is evident by the amount of high-volume bakers producing this once niche product. Bakeries from Sara Lee Bakery Group and George Weston Bakeries to Natural Ovens are formulating whole grain breads to attract the purchasing power of the baby boomer population.
The benefits of whole grains are innumerable and scientifically proven. Despite the countless questions and debates focusing on the healthfulness of carbohydrates, both sides of the argument generally agree on one principle: whole grain breads are healthy. Whole grains provide consumers with an array of health compounds, including antioxidants, phytoestrogens and fiber. Plus, whole grain bakery foods can qualify for a health claim if a product contains 51% or more whole grain ingredients by weight per referenced amount.
In addition to a qualified health claim on whole grain bakery foods, bakers also can capitalize on these products' fiber content. Many whole grain products, including Brownberry's 100% Whole Wheat bread, prominently feature fiber claims on their labels that state that the product is a "good source of fiber." Other bakeries, such as Franz Family Bakeries, place an even greater importance on fiber promotion. The company's Smart Nutrition Healthy Carb whole grain bread prominently displays its fiber content in a circular illustration directly above the product's name.
Fiber also can be used to lower the net carbohydrate content of a product. Although net carbohydrates are not defined by Food and Drug Administration, most food manufactures derive this number by subtracting the fiber and sugar alcohol content of a product from its total carbohydrate content. This number is heavily relied on by the millions of American consumers following popular diets that discourage the consumption of carbohydrates.
Promoting the inherent healthful properties in grain-based foods has been successfully accomplished by many high-volume bakeries throughout the country. As a result, once niche categories such as high fiber and whole grain bakery foods are experiencing growing sales while the rest of the industry is mired in slow to stagnant growth. To gain an added advantage over similar health-oriented products, some bakers are moving their health initiatives a step forward by adding non-traditional, and sometimes nonfunctional, ingredients to bakery food formulas for the sole purpose of boosting health value. These ingredients , which are called a myriad of names including nutraceuticals , can be added to any bakery food.
In the baking industry, nutrition bars represent one of the first categories to widely tout specific ingredient additions and their healthful properties. The growing popularity of these bars has paved the way for other bakery foods to be infused with healthful additions.
"Some of the most sought after ingredients include lycopene, lutein and omega-3 fatty acids," notes a supplier of nutraceuticals to the baking industry. Other popular healthful additives include protein, probiotics, choline and antioxidants.
The most important aspect of formulating bakery foods with healthful additives is to gain a complete understanding of how these ingredients affect the function and taste of a product. In some cases, these ingredients have had very little exposure to bakery foods and high-volume facilities. As a result, it is essential to closely work with an ingredient supplier's research and development staff to gain a complete understanding of how these non-traditional ingredients affect a product.
It also is important to understand the labeling and inclusion regulations of these ingredients. For example, not all nutraceutical ingredients are approved for addition to bakery foods. As a result, the preliminary step in any formulation process should be understanding the uses and regulations of an ingredient.
Boosting the protein content of bakery foods through soy and whey protein has proven beneficial to both the health of America and the bottom line of a bakery. The addition of soy protein in a bakery food promotes heart health. Bakery foods with at least 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving can qualify for a health claim. Although this threshold is difficult for most bakery foods, adding any additional soy protein may help the marketability of a product. Flowers Foods' Nature's Own Wheat 'n Fiber bread's package highlights the soy protein content of the product (two grams per slice) directly under the fiber claim.
However, before rushing out and purchasing a truckload of soy protein, it is important to understand how the product functions in bakery foods. "It has been a challenge to add soy protein to bread," notes a leading supplier of soy ingredients. "Soy protein does not add structure to bread so we see the volume of the bread decrease. Other ingredients need to be added like wheat gluten and dough conditioners to give the bread the needed volume." The off flavor of soy protein also challenges bakerieslooking to formulate a product with the ingredient. However, advancements in masking the flavor of soy protein has yielded improved soy products. A recent study by Randy Shogren at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service found that adding yeast, extra sugar and ascorbic acid significantly improves the flavor of soy-based breads by reducing the "beany" aftertaste.
Protein's role in improving heart health has recently been overshadowed by popular diets that point followers toward a high-protein/ lowcarbohydrate diet. "Soy protein along with wheat protein are used to a great extent in low-carb formulations," notes one supplier of soy ingredients.
Whey proteins, which are cheese byproducts, also can attract high-protein dieters by boosting a bakery food's protein content. Various research studies have shown that whey protein assists in appetite suppression, reduces blood pressure and protects the body from infection. Unlike soy protein, one ingredient supplier says that whey ingredients have a bland, clean flavor and require no masking agents to hide their flavor.
Essential fatty acids
Soy proteins provide bakers with an ideal ingredient because they not only have health attributes, but they also can be used to formulate popular low-carbohydrate bakery foods. Omega-3 fatty acids culled from flaxseed provide the same dual benefits.
Consumers became increasingly aware of the value of omega-3 fatty acids in 2001 when the White House issued a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration asking them to actively promote the increased consumption of these ingredients in the American diet. Adequate intakes of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve cardiovascular health and are essential for normal functional development of the retina and the brain. American Heart Association recommends that consumers ingest 1,000 mgs of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids daily. Besides flaxseeds, omega-3 fatty acids also can be found in fish oil and walnuts.
"The soluble fiber in flaxseed meal holds water, thus retaining moisture and improving the shelf life of the finished bread."
Most bakeries incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into a formula use some form of flaxseed. Bakers can purchase milled flaxseed or flaxseed meal, which is a byproduct of flaxseed oil production. According to one supplier of flaxseed ingredients, milled flaxseed has a higher omega-3 fatty acid content than flaxseed meal because it is a whole grain that contains 40% oil. This oil provides omega-3 polyunsaturated, alpha linolenic acid (ALA).
Flaxseed also contains high levels of lignans, which are phytoestrogens that improve health. "Research suggests that these super antioxidants are protective against cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, thyroid and lungs," one flaxseed supplier says. Flax lignans also appear to improve serum cholesterol and lipid profiles.
Flaxseed also contains 27% dietary fiber, the majority of which is soluble fiber. As a result, the ingredient is ideal for creating lowcarbohydrate formulas.In typical low-carbohydrate formulations, bakers scale back their wheat flour and add gluten or fiber to provide the structure function of wheat flour. "The soluble fiber in flaxseed meal holds water, thus retaining moisture and improving the shelf life of the finished bread," one flaxseed supplier says. "Flaxseed meal will also contribute to a stronger low-carbohydrate loaf, providing resistance to crushing during shipping and shelf storage."
Many bakeries, including Natural Ovens, Manitowoc, Wisc.; French Meadow Bakery, Minneapolis; and Butterkrust Bakery, Lakeland, Fla., have taken advantage of flaxseeds' popularity and incorporated the ingredient into bakery food formulations. Natural Ovens' Health Max bread contains ground flaxseed, which contributes 500 mgs of omega-3 fatty acids per slice.
The Food Guide Pyramid places grain-based foods at the base of the pyramid because of their effect on overall human health. A new trend in ingredient technology has emerged that pinpoints specific aspects of health. To improve eye health, highvolumebakeries can use lutein, which is a carotenoid found in fruits and vegetables.
"In the human eye, lutein is an antioxidant that may provide protection from age related macular degeneration," says one supplier of nutraceutical ingredients. Another lutein supplier says that epidemiological evidence suggests that about 6 mgs of lutein a day may have a beneficial effect on eye health. There also is compelling scientific evidence that says that lutein offers skin health protection by filtering high-energy blue light.
Despite its benefits, this emerging ingredient only is approved GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) for use in cereal, energy bars, crackers and crisp breads. In formulas, lutein is heat stable and can be used at up to 2 mgs per serving.
One lutein supplier's product comes in an oil suspension in corn or safflower oil, or in a bead form encapsulated in gelatin. "A recent test in the fruit filling of bars showed that there was less than 10% loss in a product baked at 350°F for 15 minutes," the supplier of the ingredient says. At GRAS level, lutein does not affect the sensory properties of bakery foods or baking characteristics.
Antioxidants have recently gained popularity as fruit and vegetable suppliers attach the term to the marketing of their products. However, antioxidants also can be found in other forms. There are four types of antioxidants: natural or synthetic vitamins, such as vitamins A, C and E; phyto-compounds; enzymes; and other synthetic compounds. Antioxidants bind and inhibit oxygen radicals, or disease causing pathogens.
When adding antioxidants to a formula, it is important to know the heat stability of the ingredient. And because most vitamins are not heat stable, bakers may have to use encapsulated ingredients or find other forms of stable antioxidants.
One antioxidant supplier's naturallymixed tocopherol oils retain their antioxidant activity during the baking process. The ingredients are oil soluble and can be added directly to fat or oil ingredients such as butter, butterfat, vegetable oils and tallow. Naturally mixed tocopherol powder also can be blended with dry ingredients such as flour to protect the fats or oils in products.
Another antioxidant, lycopene, is derived from tomatoes and is fairly heat stable compared to tocopherol, and will not oxidize as rapidly. It also can be microencapsulated to prevent oxidation in the presence of iron and copper, which catalyzes and destroys the ingredient, one supplier of antioxidants says.
For bakers not keen on adding nontraditional ingredients to their formulas, a wide array of commonly used fruits is available to boost the antioxidant properties of bakery foods.
The nutraceutical field is so new that ingredient suppliers appear to be launching new ingredients daily. By keeping in tune with the nutraceutical world, a baker can capitalize on the health trend by being one of the first companies to use and promote a variety of healthful ingredients in bakery foods.
One ingredient growing in popularity in bakery foods is probiotics. According to a supplier of these ingredients, probiotics are "friendly microorganisms" that assist in maintaining the body's microbial balance. One supplier of probiotics manufactures and markets the products as blends of probiotic strains that provide benefits for specific aspects of health. These ingredients are custom-designed and can be microencapsulated or enteric-coated.
Sterol esters represent another emerging ingredient in the baking industry. These products can qualify for an FDA-approved heart health claim if a formula contains 1.3 grams of the ingredient. "Sterol esters may be added to bread products if the company has self¯affirmed them as GRAS for that specific use or if another company has notified the FDA that they are GRAS for the same specific use and the FDA has not objected," notes one supplier of sterol esters. The company's water dispersible powder ingredient can be added to formulas at 1.6 grams per 100 grams of flour.
Bakers also can add more minerals and vitamins to their products to boost health value. "Bread manufacturers are looking to add the fat-soluble vitamins A and E," one nutraceutical supplier says. "In the mineral area, bakers have shown interest in iron, zinc, and calcium. Baking temperatures may create issues with some of the heat liable vitamins, so manufacturers need to add antioxidants to minimize destruction." To provide stability to these heat liable vitamins and minerals, bakers can encapsulate these ingredients or add these heat sensitive ingredients in a coating or by spraying them on the top of a product.
When creating healthful bakery foods, the options are limitless. However, many of these ingredients have yet to be used in wide scale production of bakery foods. This fact should not discourage bakers from investigating these ingredients and
creating formulations with a healthful punch. A stroll through a supermarket paints a clear picture: consumers are seeking health benefits in every type of food they consume. High-volume bakeries can capitalize on this trend by offering products that taste great and provide healthful benefits.