baked; chocolate; cake; mix

* Whole grains gain speed.

* Allergen-free expands beyond gluten.
* Indulging amid a difficult economy.

Judging purely by the number of introductions cited in the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), the baked goods category appears to be one of the few which saw across-the-board increases in 2010. Baking ingredient introductions in the U.S. were well ahead of their 2009 levels and even managed to match 2008's, while crackers continued a slow, steady upward climb. New cookie launches were well ahead of 2008, though significantly shy of their 2007 numbers.

In fact, looking at the statistics from Mintel GNPD, whereas other categories had their introduction high-marks in 2008, baked good introductions appear to have hit their peak in 2007, at least in terms of the segments under review. That year saw nearly 2,600 new introductions, compared to 2,100 in 2010, but the past year was significantly ahead of the 1,500 launches of 2009.

In breads, dollar sales of packaged wheat bread surpassed white bread for the 52 weeks ending in July 2010, when wheat bread sales had increased 0.6% to $2.6 billion, per Nielsen Co. White bread sales, meanwhile, declined 7% to $2.5 billion--but remained ahead in terms of volume, albeit with a shrinking lead. Americans had purchased 1.5 billion packages of white bread over the prior 52 weeks and 1.3 billion packages of wheat bread.

No doubt, wheat bread's rise has been a byproduct of its healthier reputation, as consumers have begun to see 100% whole-wheat/whole-grain breads as more nutritious than their white bread counterparts. However, white bread has its own benefits, and one 2010 launch, in particular, sought to strengthen its healthy reputation.

Sara Lee North American Fresh Bakery expanded its Soft & Smooth bread line to add Soft & Smooth Plus Bread Made with DHA Omega-3. The docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3 purportedly helps to support healthy brain development. The product was available in a Made Whole Grain White, as well as a 100% Whole Wheat variety. Each contained 12mg of DHA omega-3 per two-slice serving--at least 10% of the Institute of Medicine's suggested daily amount for children.

For consumers unable to enjoy wheat-based breads for fear of gluten, USDA scientists in Manhattan, Kan., developed a process to produce "high-quality, gluten-free bread." The researchers at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Grain Quality and Structure Research Unit removed a certain amount of fat from a corn protein called zein; thus, they were able to produce a dough more similar to wheat dough, in addition to free-standing, hearth-type rolls that resembled wheat rolls. While the researchers had been able to develop some gluten-free pan breads from other grains, they had been unable to produce free-standing rolls, because the rolls would spread out too much. As noted in the results published in the November/December 2010 issue of Agricultural Research, removing some of the fat from the zein protein's surface allowed the proteins to stick to each other--much like wheat proteins do, giving the zein-based dough the same elastic properties as wheat dough.

Free and Clear
Gluten-free was an active positioning for new products in 2010, and this followed an already-active 2009. In fact, per an Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) report in March 2010, gluten-free product development is on the rise globally and can be partially attributed to improved labeling regulations; increased awareness of gluten intolerance; and the advent of gluten-free products that are more in-line with consumers' taste expectations. Edward & Sons Trading Co. added gluten-free, brown rice crackers called Rice Snax in four flavors: Lightly Salted, Onion & Garlic, Bar-B-Que and Salt & Vinegar. The bite-sized crackers promised 26g of whole grains per serving and no trans fats, hydrogenated oils or cholesterol. Another launch, Gluten Free Pesto Sea Cracker from the company Two Moms In The Raw, tried to combine the gluten-free trend with the still-niche raw food trend; the dairy-, gluten- and wheat-free sea crackers were handmade using 100% raw and organic ingredients and free from added oils and refined sugars.

In the cookie aisles, Glen Foods introduced Gluten Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies under its Glenny's brand, while Enjoy Life Natural Brands' Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies were free from wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish, shellfish and gluten. Certainly, gluten-free positioning was not limited to crackers and cookies. Nor, however, was allergen-aware positioning limited strictly to gluten. Liz Lovely introduced U.S. consumers to Chocolate Moose Dragon Cookies, which were certified organic and vegan. Made using fair trade chocolate, the fudgy chocolate chip cookies promised to be egg- and dairy-free and low in sodium, and the range included such other options as Snickerdudes, Macaroonies Sock-It-To-Mes, Ginger Snapdragons, Cowboy Cookies, Cowgirl Cookies and Peanut Butter Classics.

Allergen-free introductions were by no means limited to U.S. stores, either, as Cherrybrook Kitchen introduced Gluten Free Dreams Harina de Pastel de Chocolate (chocolate cake mix) in Mexico. Free from dairy, eggs, gluten, nuts, peanuts and wheat, the all-natural mix was kosher-certified and suitable for vegans. The Cherrybrook Kitchen range also included Bizcocho de Chocolate y Nuezes (fudge brownies with nuts), Galleta Azucar (sugar cookies) and Galleta de Chocolate (chocolate chip cookies).

For a Treat
As those products would suggest, the baked goods category is not without its indulgent aspects, and several introductions in 2010 clearly catered to that trend. For its biggest launch in the baking aisle, Duncan Hines introduced Amazing Glazes and Decadent Cakes. The former was described as a "one of a kind glaze designed to elevate the baking experience," with the chocolate or vanilla variety promising to "help home chefs create spectacular desserts with professional results." The company did note that, unlike traditional frostings, Amazing Glazes were not as heavy or sweet and were convenient.

The range's Decadent Cake line included what the company described as "incredibly indulgent" offerings: Triple Chocolate Cake, featuring real chocolate chunks and rich fudge, and Apple Caramel Cake, with real apples and rich caramel.

Kraft Foods even attempted to capitalize on the indulgent aura of the term "cakes," with its Oreo Cakesters brand, and the company noted its Nabsico 100 Cal Oreo Mini Cakesters contained no high-fructose corn syrup or trans fat. Kraft Foods also expanded its 100 Calorie Packs brand with the launch of Oreo baked chocolate wafer snacks; Lorna Doone baked shortbread cookie crisps; and Chips Ahoy! baked chocolate chip snacks. However, the 100-calorie trend lost a bit of steam in 2010, with the only other notable introduction being the Canadian launch of Christie Thinsations Chunks Ahoy! Fudge Drizzled Cookies from Christie Brown.

While the U.S. launch of Golden Cherry Blintzes Filled Crepes from Old Fashioned Kitchen contained 100 calories per serving, the products also noted they were kosher-certified and free from preservatives and trans fat. Likewise free of trans fat--and all fat entirely, for that matter--Miss Meringue Vanilla Mini Meringues had 110 calories per serving, as did other varieties Peppermint Crush Mini Meringues and Chocolate Mini Meringues.

Sapere Natural Foods' All Natural Goji Berry Shortbread Cookies were also free of trans fats, but this organic product eliminated artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, as well as hydrogenated fats. In addition, the products promised to be low in calories, fat and cholesterol, while being a good source of fiber.

High-fiber offerings abounded throughout the baked goods category, as the health-oriented trend continues to show its staying power. Promising to be "high in fiber," Lucini Italia's Cinque e' Cinque Tuscan Chickpea Frittata Mix also contained 9g of protein and no trans fat or gluten. Varieties included Tuscan Fiery Chili, Rosemary Cinque and Traditional Cinque.

Feeling 100%
The 4g of fiber in Dave's Killer Bread's Rockin' Rye Bread were complemented by 6g of protein and 100% whole grains. USDA organic-certified, the range also included Killer Blues Bread, Killer Good Seed Bread, Killer Power Seed Bread, Killer 21 Whole Grains Bread, Killer Good Seed Spelt Bread and Killer Cracked Wheat Bread. Whole wheat proved particularly popular in the U.S., and United States Bakery introduced 100% Whole Wheat Bread under its Franz brand. Free from high-fructose corn syrup and trans fat, each slice contained 3g of fiber and 8g of whole grains, and the range included such other varieties as Sweet Home Maple Brown Sugar Swirl Bread, Hawaiian English Muffins and New York Bagel Boys Bagels.

The 100% whole-grain positioning proved key to Canada Bread Company's Dempster's Body Wise Multigrain Loaf, which provided 50Kcal per slice and claimed to be a good source of fiber. In the U.S., S.B. Thomas' BetterStart Light Multi Grain English Muffins promised to be an excellent source of fiber and a good source of protein and thiamin. Van's Natural Foods' Wholegrain Waffles boasted 6g of fiber and no artificial colors or flavors. The product was made with a blend of eight whole grains: amaranth, barley, brown rice, dark rye, millet, oats, quinoa and whole wheat, and it was sweetened with a touch of honey, per the company. 

Those whole grains received additional positive health news last year, as well. A study published in the June 14, 2010, Archives of Internal Medicine found substituting brown rice or another whole grain for white rice can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. The study of 39,765 men and 157,463 women found five or more servings of white rice a week increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 17% and, per the researchers, supported "the recommendation that most carbohydrate intake should come from whole grains rather than refined grains to help prevent type 2 diabetes."

Dare Foods' First Galletas Integrales (whole-grain crackers) in Mexico featured whole grains and boasted of being 100% natural; low in saturated and trans fat; and kosher-certified. Also eliminating trans fat was the U.S. launch of Edible Adventures' Biscotti Babies Double Chocolate Biscuits, a handmade, all-natural product made with whole wheat.

Kashi added Roasted Garlic Whole Grain Crackers to its Heart To Heart range. The kosher-certified product promised six natural antioxidants and, per the manufacturer, featured added heart-healthy ingredients to promote healthy arteries and blood pressure. The product's plant sterols were to reduce cholesterol, and the crackers' heart-healthy vitamins included B6, B12 and folic acid. In addition, each serving featured 27g or more of whole grains.

Eco-Grain 7-Grain Bread from EarthGrains was 100% whole-grain, all-natural and free of high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. Perhaps most notable about the product was its sustainability. The manufacturer claims it is the first to quantify the percent of its product produced using sustainable practices.

The Global Mix
The adoration for sweet treats was by no means confined to the U.S., as introductions around the world attempted to capitalize on the trend. Dr. Oetker introduced Thailand shoppers to Alphabet Icing, described as an easy-to-use product for decorating cakes, buns, cookies and any sweet treats, and the UK saw the same company launch Super Cook Scotbloc Chocolate Flavor Cake Covering in a milk chocolate variety, promising to be quick and easy to melt, while also providing a glossy finish. Furthermore, the product, available in white and dark chocolate varieties, was vegetarian and free of hydrogenated fats and artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and preservatives.

The latter three were also absent from Freedom Foods Pancake Mix, but setting this product apart was its omission of dairy, egg, gluten, nuts and wheat, GM ingredients and MSG. Gluten was a particular target of elimination in introductions around the world in 2010. In Finland, Ravintoraisio's Provena Sunnuntai Gluteeniton Vaniljanmakuinen Kakku-Ja Muffinssimix (vanilla-flavored cake and muffin mix) was free of lactose and gluten, as was the Italian introduction of Dr Sch‰r's Brown Bread Mix, a product suitable for bread-making machines, with no wheat and high in fiber. The same company introduced German consumers to Gluten Free Crackers and Fette Croccanti (cracker toast), both of which were free of wheat and lactose.

In cookies, manufacturers tried to capitalize on the healthy benefits of certain aspects of a couple of launches. Galletas Gullún's Gullún Diet-Fibra Biscoitos de Soja y Manzana (soy and apple cookies) contained high oleic sunflower oil, said to be among the healthiest edible oils, courtesy of its rich unsaturated fatty acid content. Spanish shoppers benefited from the whole-wheat flour and pea fiber, which provided another healthy boost: 8% dietary fiber.

In Germany, Coppenrath Feingebck touted the omega-3, fiber and calcium content of its Coppenrath 100Kcal Hazelnut Cookies, in portion-controlling, 100-calorie bags. In the same country, the company also launched Gluten-Free Cocoa-Orange Cookies. Meanwhile, French shoppers found weight-control cookies from gerlinèa. The gerlinèa Matin Croquant Biscuits de RÈgime Hyperprotèinès were available in an apple and fig variety, naturally rich in fiber and promising vitamins, calcium, iron and magnesium. Similarly targeting a more healthful consumer, Hwa Tai Industries Berhad introduced CrackerPlus Wholemeal Crackers in Malaysia. The product featured added fiber and promised to be high in vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, D and E, as well as calcium, iron and protein, assuring that the vitamins were "important for eyesight, the release of energy from carbohydrates, the development of strong bones, and cell formation."

Looking ahead, such health-oriented introductions are likely to continue, with vitamin and mineral fortification, as well as whole grains, drawing particular attention. While cakes would seem unlikely candidates to capitalize on a healthy positioning, the incorporation of "ancient" grains could well give such launches something of a health aura.

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