Monica WatrousLOS ANGELES — Has bread shed its bad-for-you reputation? Recent trend reports suggest consumers are currently on good terms with the sandwich staple.

“It’s refreshing to see that bread is once again increasing in popularity amongst consumers and is no longer considered ‘bad for you,’” said Jonathan Davis, senior vice-president of research and development at La Brea Bakery. “I’d attribute this to the fact that in recent years, bakeries have been more transparent when it comes to letting consumers know which ingredients are used.”

Mr. Davis, along with Melissa Trimmer, corporate chef and senior manager at Otis Spunkmeyer, shared bakery and snack trend predictions for 2019 with Food Business News. Both La Brea Bakery and Otis Spunkmeyer are business units of Zurich, Switzerland-based Aryzta.

Sourdough was the bakery’s breakout star in 2018, helped by positive health perceptions of fermented foods and traditional preparation techniques, Mr. Davis said. On Pinterest, searches for “baking bread” grew 413% from the year before. Facebook also identified bread as a buzzword and noted rising interest in alternative flours such as spelt and rice flour and ancient grains such as einkorn wheat.

Einkorn wheat bread loaf“I think after consumers realized the process behind making certain kinds of breads, and the ingredients used, they concluded that when made correctly, bread is actually a healthy part of one’s diet,” Mr. Davis said.

That said, white bread is toast.

“Despite the fact that white bread has been a dietary staple for years, I think we’ll see less varieties of white bread on bakery shelves, particularly at artisan bakeries,” Mr. Davis said. “Given the little nutritional value and neutral taste, and because consumers are now, more than ever, looking for bold flavors, I think consumers will be more demanding when it comes to bread.”

He also expects the gluten-free bread trend to lose steam in the year ahead.

“It’s so hard for bakeries — especially smaller ones — to make a great-tasting gluten-free bread,” Mr. Davis said. “Given this, along with the rise in sourdough and other bread varieties over the last several months, I don’t think gluten-free bread will have quite the allure it had in 2018.”

Consumer demand for transparency and quality will continue to drive product development in snack foods, Ms. Trimmer said. Ingredients such as wild Maine blueberries, Tahitian vanilla and Belgian chocolate elevate a traditional muffin or cookie.

Birthday cake oatmeal creme piesNostalgia is another driver, she added.

“Think about snack cakes and oatmeal creme pies,” featuring a gourmet twist, Ms. Trimmer said. “I don’t see that slowing down at all.”

She also expects to see more bold and global flavors used “in a way we haven’t thought of them before” and continued interest in food and beverages featuring functional ingredients.

“Everything from the turmeric fad to ginger in water to maple water,” Ms. Trimmer said. “We’re seeing all these interesting ways not just to hydrate, but hydrating to heal. And the same thing goes with food.”

Whole grains, sprouted grains and multigrain mixes add health benefits and a complex taste profile to bread, Mr. Davis said.

“I think we’ll see bakeries take advantage of new baking techniques and incorporating new ingredients to make breads even more nutritious,” he said.