According to Maya Erwin, VP of Innovation and R&D at Blue Diamond Growers, generational shifts are shaping trends. Erwin is an expert on marketing, food, fitness, technology and consumer trends, having spearheaded numerous successful brand marketing and innovation programmes during her 14+ years with the Californian cooperative.
“Spending habits over the past several years show that many younger consumers are dedicated to leading a healthier and more sustainable life, and are shrugging off the habit of bouncing from one fad diet to the next,” said Erwin.
“As younger consumers gain buying power, they are forcing companies to pay closer attention and care to how their products are sourced. Research from the Equitable Food Initiative found that 32% of Millennials and 25% of Gen Z consumers state they almost always base purchase decisions on sustainability.
“Millennials and Gen Zs are looking for more plant-based, clean label and ethically produced goods, but are still expecting their healthier swaps to still deliver excellent flavour and good texture.”
Gluten-free verus free from
Gluten-free products are prepared without the gluten protein found within wheat, rye and barley. According to Spoonshot, there has been meteoric growth in gluten-free claims, with consumer interest nearly quadrupling over the last decade, upping the ante for bakery manufacturers to rapidly expand their portfolios with quality gluten-free offerings. The uninteresting, dense goods of yesteryear no longer cut the mustard.
On the other hand, the overarching free-from trend is way more complex. Free-from goods can include cruelty-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, sugar-free, lactose-free, nut-free and gluten-free, among others, and Mordor Intelligence forecasts the market to grow at a CAGR of 9.5% by 2026.
What consumers expect in healthier baked goods
Consumers are looking for a short, simple list of ingredients they can trust. According to data from Innova Market Insights, 91% of Americans believe food products with recognisable ingredients are healthier.
“Additionally, consumers are also paying close attention to what is not on the label,” added Erwin, noting that a study by LEK Consulting found that over 60% of consumers prefer products that make the ‘no artificial ingredients’ and ‘no preservatives’ claims.
Market research firm IRI found that more than half of consumers want a functional boost from their treats and are seeing out products fortified with additional vitamins and minerals. Superfoods are also a great purchasing influencer.
“Snack and baked goods producers are looking for ingredients that enhance nutritional appeal without detracting from flavour and texture. Ingredients such as almonds are proven to add nutritional benefits with appealing taste and texture,” said Erwin.
Mordor Intelligence predicts the global gluten-free bakery market to grow at a CAGR of 11.24% by 2024. The market is expected to grow because treats such as macarons, cookies, brownies and cakes produced with gluten-free flours appear to be a healthier and more nutritious substitute for products made with wheat flours. Almond flour is a popular alternative to traditional flour because it contains the same nutritious boost that consumers can get from the whole almonds, has a low glycaemic index and is naturally gluten-free.
Whether vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian, more consumers are hunting out options that hold dairy-free, egg-free and vegan claims. In fact, Nielson reports 39% of people who are not vegan still actively try to incorporate plant-based foods into their diet.
Meeting free from expectations
According to Erwin, producers wanting to create free from treats that meet the evolving needs of consumers need to follow a few rules:
Although eliminating certain ingredients, remember to maintain the fibre content and clean label positioning.
Think egg replacements, chia seeds and aquafaba.
Zero in on ingredients that bring nutrition and functional benefits to the mix, like almond flour, almond protein powder, and almond milk.
Blue Diamond Growers is an agricultural cooperative of over 3,500 Californian almond growers. Founded in 1910 as the California Almond Grower’s Exchange, the organisation claims to be the world’s largest tree nut processing and marketing company, helping to make California’s almond crop (valued at over $1bn) the state’s largest food export.
The Sacramento-based company also produces almonds in various forms, including roasted almonds, almond milk, almond flour – which adds a nutter flavour and fluffy texture to baked goods and ticks a number of boxes like non-GMO project verified, vegan, keto-friendly and paleo.
Blue Diamond’s Tasty Little Cup range – including Chocolate Cake, Brownie with Diced Almonds, Confetti Cake and Molten Chocolate Cake – is made with Blue Diamond Almond Flour and produces a delicious fresh dessert in 60 seconds.
The coop also produces a range of Baking Mixes, again with the wholesome goodness of almond ﬂour sourced directly from its network of California growers. Available in four variants, Brownie Mix, Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix, Chocolate Cake Mix and Yellow Cake Mix.
“While it might seem challenging to offer baked goods that meet the expectations of health conscious consumers, remember to keep it simple. Starting with plant-based ingredients, such as almonds, ensures a solid and nutritious starting point for the next delicious – yet healthy – indulgence,” said Erwin.