California Raisin Pumpkin Walnut Muffins.
Aunt Millie’s uses one mix for all three of its cake muffins, customizing it with proprietary flavors, fruits, spices and confection blends.
Prepared formulas for ethnic areas such as the wide range of Hispanic baked goods will continue grab more market share.
Caravan Products is paying close attention to a report stating that healthful bread product sales rose nearly 20% last year.
Everyone has their own definition of what constitutes a "Base" or a "Mix", but generally, a mix is complete; you only add water and maybe one other ingredient, depending on the type of mix. Today, the variety and customization available in the prepared mix market makes the old one-mix-fits-all concept as archaic as using an abacus to calculate your taxes.
Many specific manufacturing issues can be solved using a full mix. Kroger Bakery, Cincinnati, OH did just that. The facility is unique in the fact that they run very high quantities of baked goods, but often in very small batch sizes. "Cake doughnuts were a challenge," Joel Payne, Sr. Scientist, Corporate Food Technology at Kroger says. "They involve a fairly delicate balance of 30 individual ingredients. Maintaining specification is very difficult when making a number of different small batches per hour. To maintain consistency between batches we use a prepared mix. Our rule of thumb is a formula with 20 ingredients or less is typically ‘from scratch’. Once the ingredient count climbs upward, it’s simply more cost effective to turn to a full mix."
On the other side of the spectrum, a base can be anything from simply a dough conditioner all the way up to everything needed for a specific recipe except a major stock item such as flour. Sweets, sours, grain blends, dairy blends — virtually anything imaginable is available in a base.
Brolite Products, Inc. located in Streamwood, Ill. took a simple base concept and expanded it to a wide range of both complex bases and complete mixes. "We offer over 75 different specific types of sours in both base and full mix form.
Some are made with white or whole wheat flours or types of wheat bran. There are also rye flour sour blends," David Del Ghingaro, Vice President explains.
One of the best reasons many bakers are taking advantage of prepared formulas today isn’t the long list of benefits that have been touted over the years. These are still important considerations; consistency from batch to batch, less inventory to store and handle, waste reduction, elimination of measurement errors, and of course the big one — reduced labor cost, since any operators can make the same perfect product every time using fail-safe mixes with simple directions in almost any language.
These are all great points. However, today, the biggest benefit is very simple: Profitable Diverse Marketing.
Aunt Millie’s Bakery of Ft. Wayne, IN., took advantage of customizing a mix to enter a new market without heavy financial risk. Rod Radalia, Technical Services Director, says, "We use one mix for all three of our cake muffins. We customize with proprietary flavors, fruits, spices and confection blends but, as for the mix itself, we only need to add water and oil. Cakes and cake muffins have considerably more minor ingredients than bread products. It’s simply more cost effective and better quality control to use a mix. We individualize each product to our own standards, but without the mix, the cost of the muffin line would have been a roadblock to entering that market as easily as we did."
By taking the risk out of trying new formulas, bakers can step into key market niches without heavy R&D costs or skilled staff. Want to add a line of crusty, unique artisan breads to your offerings? How about something that hits the growing ethnic markets such as bolilos? Maybe a designer dessert cake or some super muffins? The list is endless.
Kerrie Medlicott, Marketing Manager for Baking and Milling at Caravan Products located in Totowa, NJ, says that they get a lot of requests for custom blends.
"Although we have an extremely large range of stock mixes and bases, about 10% of bakers contacting us want a proprietary blend. This is a growing area," she says.
"Our customers are looking for something that will set them apart from everyone else and as a result we end up with a huge array of product formulas, each with a custom twist," David Del Ghingaro says. "Some formulations are proprietary, but most aren’t and that benefits our next customer."
Maybe your risk doesn’t lie in adventurous new products. Perhaps you are reformulating existing recipes to eliminate trans fat, or to cash in on the latest in health trends. You might simply want to switch out some higher cost ingredients with alternatives.
All this has to be done without changing what your customers have grown to love about your products. That either means spending a lot of time and expense in-house or partnering with a company that can cost effectively develop exactly what you need.
"With something like eliminating trans fat, you really need to work together closely ," Kerrie Medlicott says. "The goal is to create a product using a new formula that looks, feels and tastes exactly like the original product — only without trans fat. That can be a challenge for both sides."
To stay on top of all the latest ingredients, formulators have to keep a finger on the pulse of single source experts such as those dealing in whey, soy, egg, dairy, nutraceuticals and enzymes — particularly when there may be a new product coming out that may fit a need.
"It’s a chain." Gwen Bargetzi, Director of Marketing, Hilmar Ingredients, a whey provider located in Hilmar, Calif., says. "Base and mix manufacturers are relying on suppliers like us to help them improve existing products or create entirely new ones. This puts us in a unique and sensitive position. We must not only completely understand our ingredients, but we must understand the demands of their commercial applications. It’s an evolution of the traditional vendor/buyer partnerships and one that we find delivers the most value to both parties."
What’s Hot for 2007
Key growth areas for mixes and bases are Organic and Ethnic. Expect to see a wide array of new offerings in these areas, with a continuing rise in overall "Healthy" blends.
Caravan recently obtained a report that noted healthful breads rose in sales volume by 19.6% over this past year and the consumer trend to buying whole grains is not slowing down. Kerrie Medlicott says "Consumers are buying healthy baked goods. Bakers will obviously want more choices in that area from our products."
David Del Ghingaro, states that he believes the demand for organic baked goods will spread across the board in the coming year. "Organic grain mixes and bases are using a range of ‘ancient" grains that haven’t been seen in years and they are growing more popular by the day," he says. "Consumers are not balking at the added cost for organic products."
Everyone agrees that prepared formulas for ethnic areas such as the wide range of Hispanic baked goods will continue grab more market share. All suppliers will be dedicating a segment of their business to service ethnic blends so that bakers who don’t have the experience in the area can grab a share of this profitable market.
A Win-Win Situation
The great news is that regardless of what you might need — or in what quantity, there is a supplier out there who can deliver. Because of this, the coming year may be the perfect time to venture into a new market, with less risk than ever before.