These days, consumers want to get more from what they eat. From digestive support to energy boosts, food that boasts benefits for health and well-being is lining grocery shelves, even in the bakery aisle.
Here are a few popular functional health attributes worth mixing into baked goods.
Aiding the immune system
The top reason consumers purchase functional food and beverage products is because they’re seeking immune system benefits, according to a global survey. And breakfast seems to be the most popular time of day to consume these products, followed by between-meal snacks.
While immune system traits are most commonly found in beverages, yogurt, and breakfast bars, bakeries also have the opportunity to enhance their products with immunity-supporting ingredients. For example, bakers can add beta glucans derived from baker’s yeast to a variety of products. Beta glucan’s ability to strengthen the immune system is backed by research.
Other additive options include cream of tartar and sodium ascorbate. Cream of tartar offers immune support to baked goods and frostings through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. And sodium ascorbate, derived from ascorbic acid, aids healing, growth, and development.
Promoting digestive health
Products that promote digestive health were important to half of surveyed consumers. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ingredients bakers can use to add digestive support to their products.
The first is dietary fiber. Added fiber works best in products like breads and muffins, and there are several ingredient options available to help maximize fiber content claims. Food items that have 2.5 grams or more of fiber per serving can use “good source of fiber” claims, while those with 5 grams or more can take advantage of “high-fiber” claims.
And probiotics, which use good bacteria to balance the gastrointestinal system, are no longer just for dairy products — they’re also perfect for packaged baked goods. However, since most probiotics are sensitive to heat, it’s best to add them to products after the baking process, whether they are sprayed onto the finished product or used in fillings, icings, and frostings. This makes them ideal for items like cookies, pastries, and cupcakes. Adding prebiotics and postbiotics to the mix can further aid digestive health.
Lastly, there’s an ingredient that’s very easy to incorporate into baked goods, especially breads — lactic acid. Lactic acid is naturally present in fermentation processes, and it improves product digestibility, increases shelf life, and balances pH.
Strengthening protein content
Products with added protein are not just appealing to athletic consumers — among U.S. households, 55% consider high protein content an important factor in their purchasing decisions. Traditionally, eggs have provided baked goods with a reliable source of protein. But with the rising popularity of plant-based products, many consumers are looking for foods that use proteins from plants.
In a survey on consumer perceptions of plant proteins in bakery products, the majority of respondents thought that plant proteins made baked goods tastier (75%), healthier (74%), and more nutritious (73%). So adding ingredients with plant-derived proteins may present the best opportunity for bakers.
The most common way to add plant-based protein content is to use protein-rich flours and powders. In this area, ancient and sprouted ingredients offer concentrated proteins from a variety of plants and are good for use in cookies and brownies, as toppings for breads, and in a multitude of other applications. Other options, such as pea and soy proteins, also have a wide range in bakery. However, bakers who choose to use plant proteins should do so wisely — some plant-based ingredients negatively affect taste.
Bakery products may also benefit from the addition of whey protein concentrate. Functional whey protein can be used in place of high-fat dairy ingredients to add protein to baked goods without the extra calories.
Although the above health benefits are the most sought-after among consumers, other functional attributes may soon gain traction in the baking industry.
For example, consumers are increasingly interested in products that promote sleep and relaxation. Currently, these benefits are most prevalent in products like granola bars and late-night snacks. But some of the ingredients in these products — like glycine, magnesium, and casein protein — might help bakers provide consumers with rest-promoting indulgences in the near future.