By Ann Juttelstad
For growing bakeries, mixes provide consistency and quality. They also allow bakeries to pursue new product launches without investing significant time and money on research and development.
Preblended mixes simplify ingredient storage by reducing the number of ingredient sources. This ingredient solution also protects bakers from drastic market fluctuations.
The baking industry is in a state of transition: consumer preferences are diverging from the mainstream and some large commercial bakeries that once stood tall are showing signs of vulnerability. These trends have opened the door for a new batch of bakeries. These bakeries used to be niche players, but now either are making inroads into the wholesale business or expanding their existing wholesale businesses.
To ease this growth transition, these bakeries rely on mixes, concentrates and bases to provide consistency, quality and control. These easy-to-use solutions allow bakeries to expand without normal growing pains.
For example, many artisan bread bakeries have recorded significant growth in the last few years due to shifting consumer preferences. Many of these bakeries operate in a hands-on manner, where the chief executive officer of the company is found on the production floor. However, unexpected growth has caused these bakeries to buy bigger plants and automated production systems.
For these bakeries, their control wanes as the once modest operation morphs into a corporation. The founder of the company is no longer found on the plant floor, but instead is found in the office worrying about budgets.
This sudden growth has the potential to stall bakeries if they are not prepared. Fortunately mixes, bases and concentrates can rescue an operation by providing efficient, consistent and high-quality formulas. Switching from a scratch operation to a mix-based business may be daunting at first, but advances in blending have made it a viable option for many bakeries.
Bakers have countless options when switching from a scratch formula to a preblended mix. Complete mixes contain almost all of the ingredients needed for a formula, except water and sometimes yeast. Bases and concentrates also require water, but need additional bulk ingredients such as flour and sugar.
Choosing from these three options depends on many factors, including labor requirements and costs. Complete mixes are preblended, eliminating the need to scale minor ingredients and source flour. However, complete mixes generally cost more than concentrates and bases because the flour is purchased from the mix supplier. With bases and concentrates, bakers buy directly from flour suppliers, which may lower prices and improve flour consistency.
"A further benefit of concentrates is that the level of concentrate to flour can be varied among many products to give a range of product qualities and final product characteristics," one ingredient supplier states.
The use of preblended mixes offers special advantages to growing wholesale bakeries. There is less inventory to handle and plant space can be used for production, not storage. Mixes are purchased in sizes that range from individual bags to pallets to 40,000-lb. truckloads. This variability allows bakers to customize orders to suit demand. Mixes also allow for consistency from season to season, as the ingredients are tested to standards from batch to batch, unlike individual ingredients that may vary throughout the year.
For wholesale bakeries that are expanding by building new facilities or adding production lines, mixes provide a standardized yield that is an important economic factor. Variances in weighing and measuring ingredients produce yields that vary widely from batch to batch, line to line and plant to plant. Mixes are designed to produce exactly the same yield every time. Directions are designed to be simple, allowing unskilled production employees to manufacture quality products. Multi-plant bakeries are assured that each plant produces the same product with comparable costs, yields and product characteristics.
Mixes, bases and concentrates also allow bakers to normalize costs and avoid significant market fluctuations. For example, vanilla prices increased
dramatically in the last few years, causing many bakeries to accept razor thin margins on their products. By adding these ingredients to a preblended mix, market fluctuations have less of an impact.
Preblended mixes also simplify ingredient storage. Dry mixes use a dehydrated form of flavorings that typically are added as a liquid in scratch formulas, but are incorporated into mixes as free-flowing powders.
Enhancing a mix
For all the benefits of mixes, bases and concentrates, there are some disadvantages. Although consistency is ideal for a bakery with multiple plants, what happens when multiple bakeries purchase and use the exact same mix? Will the bakery food aisle be chock full of similar products with different packaging?
Thankfully, mix, base and concentrate suppliers promote customized solutions that provide unique finished products. These custom blends are tailored to the baker. Bakers also can use their own colorings, flavorings and other additives to imprint a unique flavor on a product.
Ingredients such as grains, fruits, herbs and vegetables provide points of distinction in bakery food formulas and can be incorporated into customized mixes. With the emphasis on low-carb waning, the opportunity is ripe for multigrain and other healthful bakery foods, and many ingredient suppliers are promoting grain blends for use in a variety of multigrain bread formulas. These blends combine a variety of grains, seeds and flavorings to produce multigrain breads, pizza crusts and bagels.
For an upscale appearance, fruits are added to a mix in dehydrated, freezedried or sugar-infused forms. These inclusions are more consistent than their fresh counterparts and eliminate seasonal price fluctuations. Dehydrated and freeze-dried products also simplify handling procedures. However, formulation adjustments are needed to accommodate the amount of moisture that the freeze-dried fruit absorbs.
Bagel mixes use either freeze-dried or sugar infused berries to provide particle integrity, color and flavor. Using freeze-dried berries will affect the color
of dough because the mixing process breaks up and blends the berries with the liquid portion of the dough. The result is a bagel that has color streaks and whole berry pieces. Sugar-infused berries retain their characteristic shape, and provide a sweet, slightly chewy bite without creating a colored swirl effect. Sugar-infused berries have a low moisture activity, are very stable in a mix and are easy to use.
Consumer preferences have led the baking industry on an unfamiliar path toward nutraceutical mixes that improve the health properties of bakery foods. Many ingredient suppliers are promoting various premixes that deliver health benefits in an easy-toincorporate format. These nutritional premixes encompass an array of healthful compounds, including calcium, B vitamins, choline, minerals, folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids. Some ingredient suppliers provide premix
formulations scaled per batch of dough, making the fortification step simple.
These mixes are extremely beneficial to bakers seeking to launch fortified products, but do not want to spend time sourcing separate ingredients. Nutritional premixes also simplify ingredient storage and inventory.
As consumer preferences change and bakeries experience sudden growth spurts, mixes, bases and concentrates provide the ideal solution to ease growing pains. Plus, ingredient technology has paved the way for customized ingredient blends that capitalize on baking industry trends.