The bakery foods market couldn’t make up its mind about what direction it wanted to go in 2014. Bakers mixed equal parts of naughty and nice in new product innovation.


This schizophrenic behavior divided new product activity nearly in half, with health- and wellness-inspired innovation sharing the stage with sensory- and indulgence-inspired creativity. Consumers in both camps would have been satisfied by what they saw on the new product front in 2014.

Health and wellness aficionados would approve the bakery market’s embrace of ancient grains. No longer a novelty, ancient grains helped guide big brand innovation. 


Pepperidge Farm signaled that ancient grains were no flash in the pan with its Ancient Grains Whole Grain Bread. The loaf bread features “a touch of amaranth, quinoa, sorghum and teff,” with two slices providing 8g dietary fiber and “a day’s worth of whole grains.”


Once content to leave ancient grains to the packaged food world’s upstarts, larger companies indeed reversed course and jumped on the bandwagon.  That can happen when there were not one or two—but four—different ancient grains seeing a doubling of sales in 2014.


According to SPINS, sales of products made with Kamut brand khorasan wheat, as well as spelt, freekeh and amaranth, grew by 686%, 363%, 159% and 123%, respectively, for the 52-week period ended July 13, 2014, across natural, specialty and gourmet channels—plus health- and wellness-positioned items in conventional US supermarkets. No doubt about it: Ancient grains are hot.


Also banging the ancient grain drum was Milwaukie, Ore.-based Dave’s Killer Bread, which introduced 21 Whole Grains & Seeds. It features ancient grains such as millet, amaranth, Kamut brand khorasan wheat and quinoa. The bread also boasts a seed-coated crust with flax and pumpkin seeds—the former delivering 220mg of ALA omega-3s per serving. Dave’s Killer Bread has quietly become a force in organic breads, cracking $60 million in sales during the 52-week period ended May 18, 2014, says IRI.


Older baked goods brands also leveraged health credentials, though in different ways.  Hostess will forever be known as the maker of the Twinkie, but the resurrected brand struck a “better for you” chord with Hostess Greek Yogurt Cakes made with real Greek yogurt, honey and fruit. Offered in flavors such as Chocolate Swirl and Strawberry Swirl, these coffee cakes have 25% less sugar than original Hostess coffee cakes.


Protein and oatmeal were other difference makers in 2014. Bimbo Bakeries USA’s Thomas’ English Muffins brand tapped both with its Double Protein Oatmeal extension, showcasing a blend of wheat and rice proteins that deliver 7g of protein per serving.


Gluten-free products continued strong in 2014, with some supermarkets betting big on future growth. In December, Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets announced the introduction of private label, gluten-free brownies, cookies and cupcakes in all of its 85 stores. Nearly 13% of all new bread, cake, pastry and morning goods launches made gluten-free claims in 2014, per Datamonitor Consumer’s Product Launch Analytics database of new products, so market saturation may not be here just yet.

Another change in gluten-free was the presence of more products sold alongside “regular” breads—not banished to special supermarket sections. This is a trend helped by greater involvement from category heavyweights. Bimbo Bakeries USA joined in with Goodbye Gluten Bread, a brand said to be from diminutive-sounding Goodbye Gluten Bakeries, a marketing tactic common in craft beer, where mega-brewers often make products look like they come from small upstarts.


Indulgence was the other major theme for baked goods innovation in 2014. This often meant introductions inspired by the season or flavors popular in other types of snacks.


Fall of 2014 brought an explosion of pumpkin-spice-flavored foods, from potato chips to chewing gum, to the point where the flavor trend was lampooned as much as it was celebrated. Thankfully, not all seasonal baked goods flavor inspiration was Jack-O-Lantern-inspired. Pepperidge Farm, for example, hit on another fall favorite with Caramel Apple flavored Swirl Bread. Sara Lee Desserts pleased gingerbread cookie fans with Limited Edition Gingerbread Pound Cake.


The popularity of soft pretzels has elevated the pretzel flavor in bread and baked goods, though the trend has been stronger in foodservice. Rudy’s Organic Bakery Pretzel Rolls add flair to hamburgers and lunchtime sandwiches. Immaculate Ready to Bake Pretzel Dough lets consumers make their own soft pretzels at home.


Snickerdoodle is an old-fashioned flavor that is rising in cookies. Earthgrains Baking’s Sara Lee Cakes line added a Snickerdoodle snack cake flavor in 2014 to grab sales that might normally gravitate toward cookies. Permissible indulgence was the theme for Antonina’s Artisan Bakery’s Mini Cupcakes, in flavors like Double Chocolate and Banana Nut Chocolate Chip in portion-controlled three packs of 3oz cookies. 

The artisan concept gained traction in 2014 and could continue to rise in 2015, as consumers look for cues signaling higher quality and better taste. The word “artisan” is perceived by American consumers as being most closely associated with handmade products, as well as products that are “authentic” and have “unique taste,” says a Datamonitor Consumer Q4 2014 global survey.


Authenticity is the core message for St Pierre Premium French Brioche Loaf, pre-sliced bread said to provide a true French experience. New from Manchester, UK-based Carrs Foods International, the bread is baked in France and shipped frozen, so the “French experience” is literally baked in. Once thawed, the bread has a 28-day shelflife.


Two of the more creative new baked goods in 2014 offer shape innovation. Eat the Ball Fresh Frozen Bread appeals to sports-obsessed consumers with bread shaped like footballs, basketballs and more; simply thaw and eat. In-store bakery/deli supplier Rich Foods had a novel butterfly-shaped design for its Our Specialty Sandwich Flats. The Flats come open-faced; simply fill with sandwich ingredients and fold over for a quick sandwich.


Two other new breads offered promising ideas. Vineland, N.J.-based Bridor Inc. launched a new Soft Artisan Sandwich Bread line with a softer texture compared to hard, crusty artisan breads that can be difficult to bite into. Softer-bite artisan bread for older consumers is a new idea.


Fullerton, Calif.-based Eureka! Baking Company introduced a trio of breads, including a Top Seed flavor packaged in bags made with so-called Green Polyethylene from Brazil’s Braskem—a 36% bio-based, renewable raw material sourced from sugar cane-based ethanol. 


Cookie makers turned 2014 into a flavor-fest, highlighted by a year-end tsunami of pumpkin-flavored cookies. On-trend were Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Flavored Milano Cookies and Nabisco Oreo Pumpkin Spice Crème Oreo Sandwich Cookies.


No flavor maker was quite as prolific as Mondelez Global’s Oreo brand. Mondelez played the seasonal flavor to the hilt in 2014 with Fruit Punch, Limeade and Caramel Apple Oreo flavors. The brand also used other cookie and candy flavors for its Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Flavor Crème sandwich cookies, as well as its Cookie Dough and Marshmallow Crispy Flavored Cookie Sandwiches.


Filled cookies paced an above-average amount of new product innovation in 2014, often inspired by lava cakes. A classic example is Chicago, Ill.-based Chudleigh’s USA’s new Mini Cookie Cups, a cross between a filled cupcake and a lava cake. Pillsbury Melts Ready to Bake Cookies also took inspiration from lava cakes, with its S’more Sensation and Molten Fudge Cake flavors—both with “gooey, melted goodness” when baked.


Nabisco Chewy Chips Ahoy went to the well twice in 2014 with new filled cookies.  Oreo Crème Filled added the crème center of an Oreo brand cookie to Chips Ahoy! soft cookies, while Birthday Frosting Filled added white crème flecked with colorful sprinkles to the center of these same cookies. Kellogg’s Keebler brand went the filled route, making it possible for consumers to enjoy S’mores year-round, with Keebler S’Mores Sandwich Cookies featuring a marshmallow center.


Cake, dessert and ice cream flavors inspired plenty of launches in 2014. Nabisco Chips Ahoy! Ice Cream Creations Chewy Cookies added flavors like Root Beer Float and Mint Chocolate Chip. Red Velvet has become a top cake flavor and is now spreading its wings into cookies, with Red Velvet-flavored Gramdma’s Ready to Go Snacks Frosted Cookies from Frito-Lay.


Another growing flavor trend involves thin cookies, a response to obesity concerns that have 50% of Americans saying they are trying to lose weight, per Datamonitor Consumer’s 2013 global consumer survey. Thin is in for Yonkers, N.Y.-based Greyston Bakery’s “light, thin, crispy” Cookie Thins in flavors like Chocolate Mint Brownie Crisp. Thin is also in for Mrs. Thinster’s Cookie Thins Crunchy Cookies, an “extra crispy, extra crunchy” launch from Aventura, Fla.-based That’s How We Roll.


Healthful cookie launches took a back seat to indulgent launches in 2014. One trend that stands out is new cookies targeting breakfast: a broadening of the breakfast biscuit trend from 2013. 


Nabisco’s Belvita—the brand that helped create the breakfast biscuit sector—extended into cookies with Soft Baked Breakfast Biscuits in Cinnamon and Banana Bread flavors, each with 20% of the daily value of fiber. Fiber was also big for General Mills’ new Fiber One Soft-Baked Cookies, with one cookie delivering 20% of the daily value of fiber.  Quaker Oat & Yogurt Sandwich Biscuits extended breakfast cookies into sandwich cookies with Strawberry and Vanilla cookies.


Cracker makers had “chip envy” in 2014, partly because sales growth for chips is expected to outpace growth for crackers going forward. Per Datamonitor Consumer’s Market Data Analytics, the compound annual growth rate for potato chips and tortilla chips are expected to be 2.8 and 1.9%, respectively, for the period from 2013 to 2016, easily outpacing the cracker market’s 1.2% expected growth rate.

Crackers based on snacks like pretzels and chips paced 2014’s new product innovation, including Cheez-It Grooves Crispy Cracker Chips from Kellogg’s Sunshine Biscuits unit.  The “thin & crispy” crackers feature a rippled surface—a novelty for crackers—inspired by rippled potato chips. Also new was Keebler Town House Pretzel Thins Oven Baked Crackers, offering “classic baked pretzel taste in a thin, crispy cracker.”


Creative flavor innovation in crackers came from crossover innovation inspired by other baked goods. Keebler Club Cornbread Cracker Bites offer a “delicious cornbread experience” without having to bake one’s own cornbread. Frito-Lay’s new Twistos Baked Snack Bites combine croutons with crackers for a new snack that can be eaten on its own or as a complement to soups or salads. Twistos has been available in Canada for a while but was new to the U.S. in 2014.


Bolder, sweeter flavors and savory flavors inspired cracker innovation in 2014. Nabisco Triscuit Thin Crisps Brown Rice & Wheat Crackers hit bold and sweet notes with Wasabi & Soy Sauce and Cinnamon Sugar flavors. Kellogg’s Special K Cracker Chips added a Chili Lime flavor, while Bold Buffalo & Ranch was on tap for Nabisco Ritz Crackerfuls Grab & Go Filled Crackers. Even bacon–which has invaded myriad food categories the past two to three years–hit crackers in 2014 with Ritz Bacon Crackers.


From the better-for-you front, organic dairy producer Horizon Organic made a surprise foray into crackers with seven new products, including two new Sandwich Crackers, two new Snack Crackers and three Snack Grahams. All are “feel good,” organic options for families looking to avoid GMO ingredients and high-fructose corn syrup. Healthful seeds and ancient grains are present in Back to Nature Multigrain Flax Seeded Flatbread Crackers, made with golden flax seed, brown flax seed, millet and more.

One flavor trend to watch in 2015 is the degree to which cracker brands jump on the seasonal flavor bandwagon popular in packaged cookies. The year 2014 saw Mondelez Global debut Nabisco Triscuit Cranberry & Sage Crackers as a limited-edition launch, a sign that 2015 may see more seasonal-inspired flavor innovation in crackers.