Sweet but healthy? Cargill finds unmet demand for healthier sweet baked goods

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: Getty Images - andresr
Image Credit: Getty Images - andresr

Related tags Cargill Bakery & confectionery Healthy indulgence

While consumers often look to the sweet bakery category for sugary fixes and chocolatey crunches, CPG companies might have an opportunity to innovate a new — healthier — path forward for the space, according to a recent survey and analysis from food ingredient company Cargill.

In a report titled “Sweet Delight – Decoding Consumer Bakery Decision,​” Cargill surveyed 1,200 consumers about how they purchased cakes, pastries, and cookies and provided insight into the claims, textures, tastes, and ingredients resonating with them.

Overall, consumers are still turning to the sweet baked good space to satisfy a sweet tooth. The report found that 54% of consumers said they purchase bakery products to satisfy cravings, outweighing aspects like health considerations, and 44% of them purchased a bakery item as a reward. And when it comes to why a consumer purchases a product, the report found that 42% of consumers were most influenced by the ingredients, 39% by nutrition scores, and 28% by specific product claims.

But while consumers are still looking to sweet baked goods for indulgence, Cargill found that there was an unmet need for healthier bakery items, as Cargill Global Consumer Insights Manager Ana Ivanovic and Senior Strategic Marketing Manager Jana Mauck told FoodNavigator-USA.

Consumers do want that indulgence and tasty product, but also products to be healthier, but there are not a lot of choices out there that are actually helping them satisfy all those needs,​” Ivanovic said.

Meeting the need for healthier baked goods

Though “inot yet mainstream,​” certain consumers want “tasty but healthier​” sweet baked goods that, for instance, could provide a “quick energy boost but without the sugar crash,​" Ivanovic noted.

When it comes to specific health claims, consumers often have a spectrum of what they consider healthy. For one, “certain claims like all-natural or 100% traceable … are really universally important​” and can be claims for healthier sweet baked goods, Ivanovic said.

Heart and immune health claims also have popped up across the food and beverage industry but “are still very small claims in bakery,​” creating another opportunity to innovate in the space, Ivanovic said.

From better-for-you to premium indulgences: Opportunities for innovation

Cargill also identified three benefits/platforms ripe for innovation: fresh from the oven, better for you, and premium indulgences -- each representing a different opporutnity for innovation.

For instance, when it comes to the better-for-you platform, Cargill found slightly more opportunities for cakes, while premium indulgences had opportunities for cakes, pastries, and cookies, Ivanovic said.

And what drives a consumer to one of these healthier products is different than in the standard products. When it came to premium indulgence rich, creamy, and buttery come to the top, while chewy and moist would appear more for everyday treats, Mauck explained. But when it came to those healthier platforms, the ingredients used in the products were often more important, she added.

Understanding the dynamic of the health-conscious consumer

While an opportunity exists for healthier baked goods, Ivanovic pointed out it’s important to “be mindful that it's a specific group of people that are after those more ... healthier platforms,” and it’s not typically all consumers. Consumers looking for healthier baked goods often have high incomes, shop more online, and are willing to pay more, she noted.

"People who are after better for you ...they want to sacrifice a little bit of taste in order to get that healthier profile, and those are also people who are ready to pay more for high-quality ingredients like very, very specific ingredients that they are seeking out.​"