More bakery foods makers jumped on the clean label trend in 2015. It meant giving the boot to artificial flavors, trans fat, ingredients with genetically modified organisms, and high fructose corn syrup.

According to Canadean’s Product Launch Analytics database of new products, the percentage of new bakery foods claiming to be free of high fructose corn syrup nearly tripled in 2015, going from 5.3% of launches in 2014 to 14.1% of introductions in 2015. The percentage of launches claiming to be free of artificial flavors, trans fat, and genetically modified ingredients nearly doubled over this same period.

The pervasiveness of the trend is shown by launches like Mamma Bella’s Frozen Garlic Toast. Brand owner T. Marzetti Company said the product ticked off many clean label boxes with its lack of artificial flavors, synthetic colors, GMOs or preservatives.

Bread giant Bimbo Bakeries developed a Nature’s Harvest 100% Stone Ground Whole Wheat bread with 25g of whole grains but no artificial flavors, artificial colors, or high fructose corn syrup. The company’s Oroweat HealthFull 100% Whole Grain Bread made similar claims. With its Flax & Sunflower and Nuts & Seeds flavors, this sliced bread also illustrated the growing popularity of seeds as baked goods ingredient.

Seeds undoubtedly add texture to bread, but they are also closely associated with improved health credentials. For Dave’s Killer Bread in a Seeded Organic Buns Million Dollar Bun flavor, that translates into 1,020mg of omega-3 per serving along with 8g of protein, 5g of fiber, and 18g of whole grains – health credentials that can make even the most indulgent hamburger seem “better for you.”

Other bakers used ingredients like seeds to make up for the absence of allergen-related ingredients such as gluten, soy and dairy. That was the case for Three Bakers’ Great Seed Whole Grain & 7 Seed Bread with pumpkin, millet, flax, chia, sunflower, sesame, and hemp seeds.  

Sprouted grains and seeds made a stronger play for consumer attention in 2015, a continuation of a growing trend in recent years. The Oldways Whole Grains Council tracks the number of products using its Whole Grain Stamp that contain sprouted grains or seeds and has quietly documented a doubling of sprouted products since 2013. In 2013, just 134 products globally used the Whole Grain Stamp and contained sprouted ingredients, a number that rose to 274 products in 2015. Many of these products are baked goods.

Last year saw sprouted grains and seeds move to niche categories like croutons. Chatham Village Sprouted Ancient Grains Baked Croutons paired the sprouted concept with ancient grains like amaranth, quinoa, and spelt. Dave’s Killer Bread Sprouted Whole Grains Bread features sprouted whole wheat flour with sprouted oat-, rye- and barley-flakes as ingredients.

Baked goods marketers have steered clear from making specific health claims for sprouted grain or seed ingredients. Generally speaking, the germination process central to creating sprouted grains and seeds is believed to enhance the bioavailability of key nutrients protected inside the intact shell of a seed or grain.

While the specifics may be lacking, consumers seem to be bullish on sprouted grains and seeds. Canadean’s 2015 ingredient survey found that 68.2% of American consumers felt that sprouted grains or seeds would have a “positive impact on health” compared to a negative or neutral impact on health. Of 100 ingredients surveyed, sprouted grains and seeds tied for number 17 on the list when ordered by positive impact on health, putting sprouted grains or seeds above hazelnuts, flax, quinoa and chia on the list.

The Paleo diet trend also impacted baked goods innovation in 2015. The Paleo diet is typically free of grains, making the trend a challenge for the bakery industry. That led to innovations like Mikey’s Muffins Paleo Friendly English Muffins which use eggs, almond flour, and coconut flour instead of grains. Coconut flour also is used for Julian Bakery Paleo Bread, a gluten- and GMO-free bread low in carbohydrates.

Food allergy concerns inspired the introduction of Treasure Mills School Safe Vanilla Cupcakes, a nut- and dairy-free product geared toward children with food allergies. With schools taking a more proactive position in preventing food allergies, there may be more innovations like this in 2016.

Proactive health claims are relatively rare in baked goods, making digestion- and protein-related claims stand out. Mission Digestive Health Flour Tortillas feature digestive and immune system supporting probiotic cultures with two tortillas delivering some one billion probiotic cultures.

Protein has been a star in so many food categories the past few years. Baked goods join the trend with the Life Choice Protein Brownie, a ready-to-eat brownie delivering 7g of protein per brownie and promoted as a “delicious new way to get the protein you’re looking for.”

Moving in a completely different direction, indulgent dessert flavors sweetened baked goods innovation in 2015. Bagels went sweet with Sara Lee Deluxe Red Velvet Bagels, a “limited edition” launch in one of the dessert market’s hottest flavors. Sara Lee also added an Apple Pie bagel to its “limited edition” lineup. Bimbo Bakeries’ Maple French Toast flavored Thomas’ Mini Bagels were also on-trend. The mini size is said to help make the bagels more than just a breakfast item, with on-the-go snack possibilities.

Snack cakes also had a sweet tooth. Hostess Brands added a Sea Salt Caramel flavor to its Hostess Zingers Cakes, albeit for a “limited time only.” The brand followed up with a Candy Corn flavor of Hostess Cup Cakes and a Peppermint flavor Hostess Ho Hos Cakes extension later in the year; both were also limited time launches. Entenmann’s Little Bites Seasonal Favorites Snack Cakes celebrated the holidays with a Hot Chocolate Marshmallow flavored extension.

Confectionery brands inspired TastyKake Kandy Bar Kakes in a Reese’s Peanut Butter flavor. Elsewhere, consumers also found Pillsbury Crescent Rolls with a Hershey’s flavor with chocolate to be drizzled over the top of a roll (that is generally not served as a dessert item). Confectionery-inspired flavors like caramel and fudge highlighted Kellogg’s Special K Brownies in Heavenly Caramel and Divine Fudge varieties.

Cookie innovation in 2015 took many directions in 2015, with breakfast emerging as a new growth opportunity. Kellogg went after breakfast with its Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Breakfast Biscuits. Featuring 21g of whole grain oats per bar—plus ingredients like real chocolate—these biscuits claim to satisfy morning hunger.

Another cereal brand – Post Honey Bunches of Oats – also went on-the-go with a breakfast biscuit boasting 30g of whole grains per serving for “long-lasting energy.” Nothin’ But Granola Cookies went after breakfast with oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit – ingredients closely identified with the first meal of the day.

Cookies mean indulgence to most and that is where much new product innovation tracked in 2015.  Red velvet was hot for big brands like Keebler and its Fudge Stripes Red Velvet Cookies along with Nabisco and its Oreo Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies. Salted caramel was another winner with Pepperidge Farm Sweet & Simple Cookies in a Salted Caramel variant.

Cookies as much confection as cookie also pushed the indulgence theme. Cadbury Crème Egg Cookies from Burton’s Biscuit Company evoke the popular Easter candy in a chocolate-drenched cookie. Burton’s also launched Cadbury Fingers Cookies, a crunchy biscuit covered in Cadbury chocolate.

The brownie flavor was red hot in 2015. There is something about the brownie flavor that suggests indulgence without being overly indulgent. Nabisco Oreo Brownie Batter Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, Nabisco Chewy Chips Ahoy! Brownie Soft Cookies and Pepperidge Farm Dessert Shop Soft Dessert Cookies in a Mint Chocolate Brownie flavor were all on-trend.

Cracker innovation followed many of the same paths blazed by bakery and cookie product makers. Cracker makers experimented with vegetables with RW Garcia 3 Seed Crackers in Sweet Pea and Sweet Beet flavors and black beans with Dare Breton Black Bean with Onion & Garlic Gluten Free Crackers. Sprouted seeds and grains were represented by Simply Sprouted Way Better Snacks Sprouted Barley Crackers.

Balsamic vinegar and toasted coconut made interesting iconic health ingredients for Mondelez Global’s Balsamic Vinegar & Basil and Toasted Coconut & Sea Salt flavors of Nabisco Triscuit Crackers. Earth Balance worked a Vegan Cheddar flavor into its Earth Balance Vegan Cheddar Flavor Squares crackers – a new “plant-based diet friendly” cracker.

Trendy breads spurred cracker innovation. Nabisco Wheat Thins Toasted Pita Oven Baked Crackers were hailed as a whole-grain rich alternative to chips. Keebler Town House Focaccia Oven Baked Crackers are “inspired by Italian artisan breads.” Specialty breads like focaccia and ciabatta are bright spots in the bread market, according to Canadean, and that excitement is flowing into crackers.

Flavor innovation for crackers generally steered clear of dessert flavors, but did incorporate indulgence in different ways. Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish brand channeled fast-food lovers with its new Cheeseburger Baked Snack Crackers. The Cheez-It Baked Snack Crackers brand doubled down on the toasty flavor with an Extra Toasty extension.

Mini- and bite-size products have been very popular in snacks and confectionery products in recent years, but one launch may signal a move in the opposite direction. Mondelez Global’s Nabisco Ritz Big Crackers are geared toward “big snacking” with pizza snacks one serving suggestion offered. Big size crackers leverage the “mini-meals” trend and bear watching as we move into 2016.


Originally appeared in the March, 2016 issue of Prepared Foods as In and Out.