Sometimes, you just can’t beat the original. “Last year, there were 335 new product launches with cranberry in North America, according to Mintel,” said Kristen Girard, principal food scientist, Ocean Spray Ingredient Technology Group, Lakeville-Middleboro, MA. “The cranberry is starting to be found across the globe in an increasing number of inventive combinations.”

Sweetened dried cranberries are process-tolerant to help manufacturers overcome many of the problems that traditionally arise when trying to use soft fruits or berries in baked foods and snack products, according to the agricultural cooperative owned by more than 700 cranberry growers. Such problems include uneven distribution within a dough or batter, unintended breakage and less-than-attractive colors in a finished product.

Raisins, of course, offer similar benefits. “Grain-based foods constitute more than 45% of the usage of California raisins from our entire crop,” said Larry Blagg, senior vice-president, marketing, the California Raisin Marketing Board. “This is true of baked foods, pastries, cereals, energy bars and more. California raisins are not new to the baking industry and are perhaps not considered trendy. But when bakers want to clean up or simplify their labels, there is no fruit ingredient that better meets that need. Our ingredient label says it all: ‘Raisins.’ ”

Nuts, too, enjoy broad popularity in baked foods. “We know the top two reasons consumers choose almonds over other nuts are nutrition and taste,” said Harbinder Maan, manager of North America ingredient and category marketing, Almond Board of California. “Not only do almonds provide distinct buttery flavor and unique texture, when compared gram for gram, almonds are the tree nut highest in protein, fiber, calcium and vitamin E.”

Texture also comes into play when selecting a nut. “I think what makes the walnuts work so well in baked foods is that walnuts are softer than other nuts,” said Rachel Zemser, technical consultant for the Walnut Board of California. “You want to bite into a soft brownie, and then you get that soft nut bite.”

According to the board’s website, a handful of walnuts provides 2.5 g of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), 4 g protein, 2 g fiber, 10% of the Daily Value of magnesium and phosphorous and antioxidants.