Bread increasingly viewed as ideal vehicle for added nutrition

by Staff
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KANSAS CITY — Bread’s nutritional credentials are growing due to fortification, and the trend will continue as manufacturers compete for shelf space at retail and market share in the goodfor-you category.

“Some people are looking for more than just an enriched white bread — it is a different product,” said Lee Sanders, senior vice-president of government relations and public affairs for the American Bakers Association. “Whole wheat white, for example, provided higher fiber and higher moisture content with a traditional enriched white taste giving consumers value for what they want.

“People want to choose what they eat and are looking for better nutrition. They want products that meet more than one function and are more than just a carrier for a sandwich — people want additional nutrition, quality and good taste in the foods they purchase and eat.”

The latest entry into the competition is Mrs Baird’s, Fort Worth, Texas. The company recently announced the addition of vitamins A and E to its line of sandwich wheat bread, including Mrs Baird’s 100% Whole Wheat, Honey Grain, Honey Wheat and Split Top Wheat.

Dan Larson, marketing manager for Mrs Baird’s, said before the enhancements there were no significant amounts of vitamins A and E in Mrs Baird’s non-fortified wheat bread products. After the enhancement, two slices of Honey 7 Grain bread contain 25% of the recommended daily value of vitamins A and E. Two slices of 100% Whole Grain, Split Top Wheat and Honey Wheat each contain 20% of the recommended daily value of vitamins A and E. The bread varieties experienced no change in taste or texture following the enhancement, he added. minerals bakers may wish to reduce.

“If you look at the history of enrichment, and the fact that we’re the base of the food guide pyramid, it’s easier to understand why we need to reduce sodium. We need to reduce sodium not because bread is a high-sodium food, but because people eat so much bread.”

Fresh bread sales from stores, including Wal-Mart, totaled more than $8.3 billion for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 7, 2010, according to The Nielsen Co.

“If you introduce a bread that meets consumer needs and include some added value nutrition, it is likely to be well received,” Ms. Sanders said. “An excellent example of this would be iron enriched white bread, which was really appealing to parents who wanted to provide additional iron and vitamins for their children in a product that children found appealing.

“With regard to antioxidants, with consumers’ added desire to increase their intake, why not offer that through a bread product and fill the consumers’ desires for such a valueadded product.”
Cost a factor

What gives industry, and consumers, pause when considering fortified items such as bread is the dreaded “c” word — cost.

“I think there is some amount of it out there,” Mr. Bachman said. “I don’t think the consumer has latched onto it because frankly there is a pretty hefty price increase to do those things over and above what a regular loaf of bread costs.” He gave a hypothetical situation.

“If you looked at a pound loaf ingredient cost and said it cost 20c a pound to add two or three micronutrients, it would add 1c to the cost per pound. If you want to add omega-3s, that’s another 5c on top of that 22c.
“Percentage-wise, you’ve increased your ingredient costs by 25% just to enrich that. If your bread is selling for $2.49 and now you’ve got to get $2.79 for this enriched loaf or fortified loaf, the consumer isn’t picking up that that’s why the price difference is there.”

Manufacturers also face challenges beyond costs.

“Current food additive regulations prohibit fortification of whole wheat and whole grain with folic acid,” Ms. Sanders said. “Several years ago, A.B.A. considered a potential citizens petition to change that regulation, but the consumption studies of all folate containing foods that would have been required by F.D.A. were cost prohibitive.”

Bread manufacturers continue to pursue fortification despite the costs and the challenges associated with creating a premium product amid stringent regulations. Manufacturers have adapted and have made advances in fortification by calling enriched bread “premium” bread and trying to make them “a good source,” which is 10% of the recommended daily value for a nutrient, Mr. Bachman said.

“I do think you’re going to see more of those products, and hopefully the consumer will purchase them and understand that there is a cost associated with it,” he said.

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