When determining if a product is healthy, many consumers looked beyond nutritional characteristics. 

KANSAS CITY — While many Americans demand products with more protein or less sugar, they may not understand why they need it or how it affects their diet. According to the International Food Information Council, consumers lack the knowledge to determine what health benefits are associated with specific foods, which may be fueled by the abundance of conflicting nutrition information available to them.

They can speak to their doctor or dietitian, visit a web site or defer to a friend when trying to solve a dietary issue. However, the prevalence of pseudoscience has created a breakdown, where many are likely to consider one item more beneficial based on characteristics other than nutrition, such as packaging, length of ingredient lists and freshness.

This can make it difficult for bakers developing nutritious products that respond to current diet trends. They must thoughtfully create an item that is not only healthy but also healthy in ways shoppers can understand. On the other hand, this gives businesses a chance to reach out to customers in new ways.

“While informed consumers are looking for transparent information, this provides baking and snack manufacturers with an opportunity to publish policies on product reformulation and the areas they are aiming to target in innovation and R.&D. such as vitamin D, fiber and whole grains, to avoid conflicting information and be transparent about responsible indulgence,” said Sharon Bligh, director, health and wellness, Consumer Goods Forum (CGF).

The impact food has on health and well-being is top of mind for most Americans. In this setting, they have demanded greater transparency, and those companies responding in a timely manner have seen brand loyalty — and profits — grow.

“There is a clear opportunity for baking and snack manufacturers to build trust with their customers by defining and clearly communicating their flagship initiatives as well as by communicating their achievements in supporting consumers lead healthier lifestyles,” Ms. Bligh said. “Transparency of ingredients will help consumers make the right choices per their own personal diets, and, therefore, the ease in accessing this information will help the industry build trust.”

When the definition of healthy varies so widely, brands that honestly articulate the features of their products are poised to win over the public. Creating a dialogue with consumers can help them understand how bakery items can be used to improve their well-being or should be enjoyed in smaller portions.

Snack bar manufacturer Kind, New York, used this brand of transparency to connect with health-conscious shoppers by disclosing added sugars in its products two years before the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.)’s deadline for food companies to list them on product packaging. Kind also pushed the F.D.A. to reevaluate its regulations for “healthy” claims on labels, which had not been updated since the 1990s, after the regulatory agency sent a warning letter objecting to the brand’s use of the phrase “healthy and tasty” on several of its snack bars.

“We believe Kind has an important role to play in helping deliver clear and consistent nutrition information to our consumers so they can better identify the types of foods recommended as part of a healthy eating pattern,” said Stephanie Perruzza, registered dietitian and health and wellness specialist at Kind. “We’ve received positive support from our community. Many have applauded us for our transparency — something health experts and consumers alike have come to expect from food companies.”