CHICAGO — Bread manufacturers have spent the past few years seeking cleaner labels, finding ways to remove certain ingredients. Yet, how much do people who eat bread daily care?

“Clean label has generally been overemphasized within the bakery segment,” said Janelle Crawford, strategic marketing lead for DuPont Nutrition & Health. “Certainly, clean label is a trend, but my message here today is to listen to what core bread users say and what they don’t say.”

Core bread consumers generally said they care about taste, freshness and price in research carried out by DuPont in 2017. Ms. Crawford detailed DuPont’s findings on Feb. 26 at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTech 2018 in Chicago. DuPont observed customers shopping for bread at different types of stores and at different times of day. The research also included an online survey with 385 bread consumers, one-on-on interviews with 24 bread consumers and sensory evaluations of four commercial white bread products.

“Freshness is paramount,” Ms. Crawford said. “Freshness was top of mind regardless of type of methodology and type of study we did. Honestly, it’s really been top of mind throughout the years when you ask what’s driving purchase intent, purchase of bread.”

The research showed 84% of the core bread consumers considered price somewhat important, very important or extremely important in their purchase decisions. More than one-third of consumers said coupons were somewhat important, very important or extremely important.

“It is about value for the money, but it has to deliver first on taste and freshness,” Ms. Crawford said.

Less than 5% of the people in the DuPont research said they looked at the Nutrition Facts Panel or the ingredient lists.

“It’s not about what they told us,” Ms. Crawford said. “It’s about what they didn’t say when they were talking about what is important, and what they weren’t talking about was the ingredients. Now, the caveat here is they were core bread consumers. So I totally recognize clean label is relevant. It is a trend. It does impact certain consumer segments more than others.”

People have different expectations when buying packaged sandwich bread in the bread aisle than they do when buying freshly baked Italian bread at an in-store bakery, she added.

Ms. Crawford called bread a low-involvement category, meaning people do not spend much time in the bread aisle. The DuPont research found 91% of consumers spend 5 minutes or less in the bread aisle. Many consumers already have established two or three bread brands that they buy. If their second or third choice of bread is on sale, they might consider buying it over their No. 1 choice. Core bread consumers said they were more likely to examine the ingredient list if a new bread came onto the market and they wanted to compare it to the bread they were buying. They said the same about coupons.

Core bread consumers generally are okay with bread that contains ingredients that they may not know, Ms. Crawford said. It’s an acceptable tradeoff if the ingredients allow the bread to meet their expectations for freshness, taste and price.

She said people in the research listed other ways bread makers may improve the retail bread category. Bakers could develop better-tasting low-calorie and low-carbohydrate bread. Bakers could increase the flavor varieties of specialty products, which could make bread a more desirable side item in ethnic meals such as Italian meals. Core bread consumers also said they want to feel better about eating bread. They want to hear reasons why they should eat bread.