KANSAS CITY — The world continues to shrink. People are traveling internationally and experiencing new food and cultures first hand. And if a flight across the pond isn’t in the budget, there’s always the internet. People can feast with their eyes on food from around the world simply by turning on their smart phone.
“In my Instagram feed, I’m watching things that are going on in London, Copenhagen, New York and California,” said Scott Rosenberg, director of marketing and customer service, Lantmannen Unibake USA, Lisle, Ill. “And right now, the world is at our fingertips on our phones. It is easy to see what people are eating around the world.”
Ideas are imported and exported easier than goods. There are no tariffs on trends.
“We really do see trends going back and forth across the ocean,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “The U.S. has been a trendsetter in the gourmet burger trend by upgrading the hamburger bun. That spread across Europe. A trend moving this way into the U.S. is a greater interest in food quality. We see that influence in the artisan bread market.”
Interest in quality and clean label created a global demand for more unpackaged fresh bread products. An obsession with the ideas of natural, handmade and the distrust of artificial ingredients is changing the perception of healthy food.
In one form or another, grain-based foods remain at the core of most diets around the world.
“Bread is a global staple,” said Kara Nielsen, sales and engagement manager USA, Innova Market Insights. “Grain is a global staple; it always has been.”
Evolving concepts of bread
Exposure to how bread is consumed around the world has widened Americans’ perspective of how grain-based foods can fit into their diets. Mintel’s “Packaged Bread — U.S. — July 2016” report showed that 66% of surveyed respondents enjoy trying new varieties of bread, and 57% like sampling bread products from other cultures or regions.
“I don’t see the American bread aisle changing all that much,” Ms. Nielsen said. “But tortillas, flatbreads, matcha buns, Japanese milk bread and classic European pastries like croissants and Danish — these are expanding the category in the U.S.”
While grain-based foods have a place at tables around the world, the way consumers approach them is often entirely different from region to region.
“In America, health is a big driver for bread consumption, whereas in other parts of the world, flavor is more important,” Ms. Nielsen explained.
It’s also worth noting, she said, how much more bread is consumed in other parts of the world compared with the United States. For example, in Europe bread is consumed between 43 (94.7 lbs) and 96 kg (211 lbs) per capita per year while in the United States it’s just a little more than 17 kg (37.4 lbs), according to data from Innova Market Insights.
“When you look at the amount of bread consumed in Europe, it’s a core staple, and it’s not questioned if bread is healthy for you,” she said. “That just doesn’t enter the equation for consumers like it does in the U.S.”
Ideas about quality and form travel as well. People return home from traveling abroad and want to enjoy the bread they ate on vacation at home. Bakers have listened, and consumers are seeing those products in their local supermarkets.
Bakerly, Miami, brings brioche to American consumers with its Family line, offering a brioche spin on sliced sandwich bread as well as hand braided, baguette, burger buns, brioche rolls and chocolate rolls.
“Above being a delicious and most versatile bread, brioche is unique and must follow rigorous baking techniques that have been passed down through generations of bakers,” said Gabriela Grossmann, marketing assistant, Bakerly. “We have perfected this art and are sharing the brioche love with every American consumer.”
Beyond high-quality baked goods, consumers are also thinking outside the traditional bread box.
“Growth in the market is being driven by more versatile and interesting bread varieties such as flatbreads and ethnic breads,” Ms. Grossman said.
In the United States, tortilla sales have grown 20% from 2011 to 2016 while consumption grew about 11%, according to Mintel’s “Packaged Bread — U.S. — July 2016” report. Tortillas and other alternative formats such as pita and flatbreads enjoy a boost from other trends as well as a healthy perception and easy eating for on-the-go lifestyles. These bread varieties complement ethnic dishes Americans are seeking out and carry a healthy halo of having fewer carbs and calories than conventional sandwich bread.