Bread is a beloved comfort food that’s withstood the test of time — centuries, in fact. Even amidst evolving trends and dietary needs like low-carb, gluten-free, and clean label, bread continues to adapt and remain a staple at the table.
And with all the nutrition today’s recipes offer, bread is no longer viewed as a high-carb, high-calorie food. Instead, it’s experiencing a surge in popularity. The main focus of emerging bread trends is on boosting health benefits, bringing back fresh-baked memories, and mixing in new and adventurous flavors.
Wholesome, natural ingredients
Driven by consumers’ desire to eat healthier, rising trends like plant-based and clean label continue to shape food and beverage products across the board. And bread is no exception. Fortunately, there are plenty of possibilities for baking in health benefits while satisfying popular consumer trends.
Whole grains continue to be sought after for their health contributions. Over 80% of consumers consider whole grains to be healthful, compared to the less than 50% who believe enriched reﬁned grains are healthful. And millennial and Gen Z consumers rate whole grains as one of the most important nutritional descriptors in baked goods.
More specifically, breads made with ancient grains and sprouted grains are growing in demand. More than a third of consumers are more inclined to buy products that are rich in ancient grains. And sprouted grains boast improved digestibility and nutrient absorption while adding unique flavors to bread.
Bakers can also choose from a wide variety of fruits and vegetables — such as carrot, banana, pumpkin, coconut, and algae — to enrich breads with more plant-based and health-boosting ingredients. There’s a lot of room to experiment here, whether such ingredients end up “hidden” in flours or generously added in juice form to influence taste and color.
Back to basics
While there’s still a place for sliced bread with a longer shelf life, today’s consumers gravitate toward loaves with a fresh-baked, handcrafted look. But those who don’t have the spare time or skillset for baking still crave the nostalgic homemade appeal, texture, and taste of such breads. This has led to a renewed interest in sourdough and artisan creations.
Unfortunately, freshness often means an early expiration. And without family members to share it with, the 28% of households in the U.S. that are single-person will end up wasting food. So there’s a growing demand for smaller-sized loaves that individuals can enjoy on their own.
From sweet to savory, the options for new and unique bread flavors seem endless. Some companies are offering their flavor experiments in limited-batch and seasonal releases — within the last several years, limited-batch claims on food products have increased by 36%. Limited-time offerings are a great way for bakeries to test out new recipes and appeal to adventurous tasters.
When it comes to savory and spicy flavors in bread, medicinal spices like turmeric and paprika are trending, as well as cultural flavors from around the globe. From North African flavors like cinnamon and cumin to the sausage and egg-filled breads on the streets of South Korea, flavor inspiration is everywhere.
On the sweet side, consumers are interested in “not too sweet” treats that don’t come with a side of guilt. Breads offer the perfect opportunity to enjoy a slice of dessert and pastry flavors and go easy on the calories and sugar. Bakers can use fruit and floral flavors — like hibiscus, cherry, or citrus — to bake in hints of sweet or tart flavors without too much added sugar.
Whether these trends fade out quickly or stick around for years to come has yet to be determined. But bread manufacturers are well equipped to respond to changing demands. The rich history and versatility of bread will ensure it always remains a favorite snack or mealtime staple.