MUNICH, GERMANY — At iba, held Sept. 15-20 in Munich, attendees learned that when it comes to baking trends and consumer preferences, it truly is a small world, after all. The desire for health and wellness isn’t driven by geography. Consumers all over the world have become increasingly aware of what they’re eating and where that food is coming from.
“The similarities and connections between the U.S. and international markets are very strong,” said Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the American Bakers Association.
To share data on U.S. clean label and health-and-wellness trends, and to share thoughts on best practices based on those trends, Mr. MacKie sat down with Mark Hotze, vice-president of North America for Corbion, Inc., and Brian Dwyer, vice-president of manufacturing for the Kroger Co., on the stage at iba’s Speakers Corner.
“We are seeing health and wellness claims are the fastest-growing areas for sales at the retail level in the U.S. market,” Mr. MacKie said.
It is more important than ever for bakers to strike a balance between the claims on better-for-you products and the indulgence that often comes with baked foods, he said. The question remains: Is there room for both?
“The indulgent category is still very important to our shoppers,” Mr. Dwyer said. “Our stores are laid out so that when you walk into a Kroger, you come through the in-store bakery first, and a lot of those indulgent items are right there. It’s like a gauntlet of sweet goods.”
The difference, Mr. Dwyer said, is in the control consumers are exerting over their choices, such as with portion sizes.
“In the past, our shoppers would pick up a 12- or 8-inch pie, but we’re seeing a move toward the 5-inch pies,” he said.
While people’s desire for indulgence remains, they want to feel better about their choices.
From a formulating perspective, Corbion also does not believe that health and wellness and indulgence are mutually exclusive.
“Consumers want food to taste good,” Mr. Hotze said. “At the end of the day, that’s the discussion.”
The key is partnering with bakers to develop better-for-you products that can still satisfy a sweet craving. Formulating for portion size as well as freshness are challenges that may be overcome through collaboration.
“We want to help our customers answer the consumer’s question, ‘Is this worth the calories?’” Mr. Hotze said.
Through Kroger’s proprietary research data, the company has seen a rapid rise in sales for health-and-wellness types of foods. In fact, the company’s Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic private label products have seen the fastest-growing sales of any brand Kroger has rolled out, said Mr. Dwyer, who also noted that national brands that carry better-for-you and organic products are doing well.
The success of Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic are not limited to the U.S. markets. The brands were recently rolled out in Alibaba stores in China.
“We’re seeing some positive results already, so the demand is there,” Mr. Dwyer said.