LAS VEGAS The ongoing pandemic, inflation and the Russia-Ukraine conflict are having an impact on how consumers eat, prompting a shift toward simple, unprocessed plant proteins as well as healthful animal proteins, said Suzy Badaracco, president of Culinary Tides Inc., who spoke at the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) Sunday, Sept. 18, at the IBIEducate session “Inside the Plant-Forward Trend.”

Bakers should consider incorporating both when developing new products.

 “Consumers are no longer vilifying animal, and they are no longer vilifying plant,” Ms. Badaracco said. “They want to see them as a combination: bakery products, snack products with actual milk instead of almond milk, perhaps.”

Such blended or “hybrid” products may be perceived as healthier, with simple, recognizable ingredients, she added, noting that many plant-based alternatives are seen by shoppers as highly processed and less nutritious. 

“If you have a product that’s plant-forward, talk about its attributes and its strengths,” she said. “Don’t talk about how it’s better than a different alternative product.”

Ms. Badaracco highlighted quinoa, sesame seeds, oats and sunflower seeds as grains and seeds with high affinity among consumers. She said new and less familiar grains such as fonio and Kernza will continue to emerge, tapping into consumer desire for new flavor experiences. During times of political or economic turmoil, consumers typically embrace comfort food. However, she said, consumers remain eager to experiment, despite the stressors of the day.

“This is the big twist,” she said. “Comfort usually returns because it’s calming, but instead experimentation drivers are still here… They want global. They want to try new things. They want spicy. They want citrus. They want extremes on the palate still.” 

She offered examples of sauces and seasonings that may elevate plant-forward bakery formulations, including pesto, Caribbean jerk and Korean barbecue, as well as less familiar gomashio, piri piri and Baharat.