Grain-based nut-like bits can extend or replace nuts as toppings and within baked snacks. 
Inclusion Technologies

KANSAS CITY — Bakers have intensified competition when vying for the consumer’s snacking dollar. With mini meals the new norm, especially for millennials, producers must find ways to differentiate and add allure to baked snacks. Bake-stable inclusions are proving to be a cost-effective and efficient way to do just that. They can also solve allergen problems, and many make attractive toppings.

And they help sell the finished item, noted Scott Cowger, vice-president, Cereal Ingredients, Inc. (CII).

The fabricated piece

Inclusions such as fabricated flavorful bits, chips, chunks, crunches, fillings, flakes, nuggets and sprinkles are designed to withstand the rigors of baking. They may be colored, fortified and texturized. And through careful manipulation of formulation, suppliers control their performance in the finished product.

Such items may be designed to engage the consumer, said Kyle Stuart, culinary scientist, Parker Products.

“Inclusions can take baked goods to new heights,” he said. “A great flavor goes a long way, but intriguing texture and aroma takes it up a notch.”

Ideally, these types of inclusions are added to baked goods with minimal or no adjustments to formulations. The way they go into — or onto — a baked good is what the consumer experiences; some are designed to absorb moisture and plump up, while others go through controlled melt or bleeding for visual effect.

Pieces that hold their shape and integrity through baking make unique eating experiences, Mr. Stuart said.

“When you provide a consumer with the satisfying crunch of a hard toffee in a brownie or muffin, you deliver elements that many other snack products lack,” he said.

Such characteristics can make a big difference in product appeal. Smokey Waters, director of culinary innovation, Pecan Deluxe Candy Co., said, “Bake-stable inclusions allow you to add different textures and experiences that delight the customer. Imagine a blueberry muffin filled with sweet, crunchy blueberry bits and topped with an orange ginger crumble. Not only do you surprise the taste buds with a pop of unexpected flavor, but you also add texture and dimension to a traditionally one-dimensional product.”

While inclusions provide an easy way to deliver flavor, color and protein content, their main job is to boost product appeal.

“After all, first, you eat with your eyes,” said Bob Hatch, chairman and owner of CII.