Different countries, similar baking trends

by Laurie Gorton
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LONDON — Globally speaking, the future of baking is … China. That shouldn’t be a surprise. What also emerges from a look at worldwide trends is the similarity of bakery and snack market conditions in most developed countries. In still-developing regions, it’s another story, according to an exclusive report on international bakery trends in the September issue of Baking & Snack.

Gluten-free, a category with deep roots in Italy, is now sprouting in France and the rest of Europe, while convenience rules the roost at breakfast just about everywhere. Single-serve packaging styles are proliferating all across the globe as well. And in most developed markets, sliced pan bread continues its long, slow twilight retreat.

American bakers won’t find the top-line items in most other countries to be all that different, but each market has its own wrinkles.

Per capita bread consumption declined or stagnated during 2012-13 in 65 of the 80 markets tracked by Euromonitor International, London.

“There is a flatter level of consumption in America and Western Europe,” said Lamine Lahouasnia, Euromonitor’s head of packaged food. “People are eating less bread. The second challenge is what is happening in the Middle East and Africa, but the reason is different. Consumption is declining because the government subsidies of wheat flour are being cut. Economic sanctions also affect baked foods in places. For example, Iran had to halve its flour subsidy.”

So, where’s the good news for bread?

“Asia Pacific is a shining star, although bread is not yet an everyday product there,” Mr. Lahouasnia observed. “But even with the competing staples, interest in Western cuisine — and bread — rises every time KFC opens another store in China. And Turkey ranks No. 1 in per capita bread consumption in the world.”

There’s good news in specialty categories.

“Organic and high-fiber are growing worldwide, compared with the 1% growth seen overall for baked foods,” observed Ewa Hudson, head of health and wellness, Euromonitor International.

Mr. Lahouasnia added, “It’s important, however, to state that in most markets around the world, gluten-free accounts for no more than 2.5% of total sales.”

When bakers can take the value-added route, they benefit. Certain styles stand out: added-protein, ancient grains, super-grains, whole grains, high-fiber and even vegetable-supplemented items.

“Manufacturers need to be value-driven rather than volume-driven,” Mr. Lahouasnia said. “They must try to get more value from the product. These trends will be difficult for the baking industry to take on, but the results will be items for which bakers can charge two and three times more.”

Younger individuals are different from their elders in their tastes in baked foods and snacks.

“If anything, the younger populations are going against baked foods for reasons of diet and weight control,” Ms. Hudson said.

Consider the examples of Australia and New Zealand. Tom Kennedy, current president of the Australian Society of Baking, briefed Baking & Snack about trends there.

“Over the past five-year period, the change in breads has been the significant move away from white bread and rolls, particularly pre-packaged to the artisanal, healthier and gluten-free breads and rolls,” he said. “Bread is still popular with older Australians, but younger Australians are more adventurous and looking for other options, particularly when it comes to breakfast on the move.”
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