Decadent and nutritious — two adjectives not commonly used together to describe baked goods and snacks, but consumers’ definitions of healthy are evolving, much to the delight of bakers.
“Self-denial is taking backstage as health and indulgence increasingly co-exist in the mind of the consumer,” said Jeff Manning, chief marketing officer for Cherry Marketing Institute. Superfruits such as the Montmorency tart cherry are the embodiment of these seemingly inconsistent ideas … and ingredients bakers can take advantage of to bestow a healthy and indulgent halo upon their products simultaneously.
“Montmorency tart cherries are a natural superfruit ingredient that adds a unique sweet-tart flavor and nutrition value to any formulation, allowing health and indulgence to co-exist,” Mr. Manning said.
According to Mr. Manning, more than 50 studies have explored the potential health benefits associated with Montmorency tart cherries. These include improved sleep, cardiovascular benefits and even exercise recovery. While food labeling regulations can hinder bakers from making flat-out claims about the health benefits of cherries, the superfruit does carry with it a healthy halo recognizable to consumers.
“While few foods can make actual health claims, manufacturers are seeking ingredients that have strong science behind them,” Mr. Manning said.
This marriage of nutrition and indulgence in one ingredient can make bakers’ and snack producers’ products appealing to consumers, but the cherries carry with them some functional benefits as well. They can bind dry ingredients, increase moisture, add volume and create texture. The low water activity of the dried form allows them to be used in low-moisture snacks. And while bringing these functions to a formulation, Montmorency cherries are also clean and label-friendly, something consumers can recognize on the ingredient list.
While cherries have long had an obvious place in the baking industry as a pie filling, they have since taken their functional and nutritional benefits outside of the pie crust to other bakery applications, thanks to their unique flavor and visual and textural appeal to consumers.
“They add a sweet-tart flavor, offer visual appeal with their bright red color and, in the case of dried tart cherries, provide a chewy texture that pops against a variety of other textures,” Mr. Manning said.
Bakers can find these cherries in dried, frozen, juice, canned or concentrate forms. They are ideal for use not only in traditional pies but also other baked goods — such as pastries and breads — and granola bars, where they have seen wide use paired with nuts, seeds and chocolate.
For more information on Montmorency tart cherries’ uses in baked goods, visit the Cherry Marketing Institute’s website, www.choosecherries.com.