Growing worries about the health effects of sugar and carbohydrates are pushing bakery food companies in new directions.

When it comes to weight gain, Americans are increasingly likely to view carbohydrates as the cause. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s (IFIC) 2018 Food & Health Survey, 25% of Americans identified carbohydrates as the source of calories most likely to cause weight gain, up from 20% in 2017, and 19% in 2012.

Sugar already is in the doghouse. According to IFIC, one-third of Americans identified sugar as the calorie source most likely to cause weight gain in 2018, up from 20% in 2012. 

Since bakery foods tend to be rich in carbohydrates and sugar, this news is ominous. Indeed, the booming popularity of low-carbohydrate diets like the Paleo diet and the Ketogenic diet point to where things may be headed.

But give bakery food makers credit for adapting with initiatives like portion control as a way to have your cake and eat it responsibly.

Hostess Brands was on board with this approach in 2018 with Hostess Individually Wrapped Cake Slices in flavors such as Cream Cheese Pound Cake. Packaged in candy bar-like wrappers, Cookies United’s The Original Cakebites brand launched Coffee Cinna-Crumb and Ultimate Party Cake in 2018, both with “all the cake in just one bite!”

Bimbo Bakeries also favored portion control in 2018 with Tia Rosa, a new single-serving line of baked goods including Pachoncitos Pound Cakes, which are sold in two-count wrappers for sharing or mindful consumption. Each cake has 250 calories. 

Bite-sized offerings were another way to exercise portion control while tapping into snacking behavior. Ozery Bakery Brioche Bites snacking bites take the indulgent taste of traditional brioche and offer it in a format suitable as an appetizer or a snack. Each bun has just 75 calories. In a similar vein, Stonefire Authentic Flatbread Naan Dippers open up new usage opportunities for naan bread.

A more radical approach to making bread and bakery products more healthful is to swap “bad” ingredients with “better” ingredients. Cauliflower and eggs were two ingredients benefitting from this approach.

Green Giant Cauliflower Pizza Crust has half the calories of regular pizza crust as it is made with more than 80% cauliflower. This shrinks the carbohydrate count from around 27g per serving to just 16g per serving. Crepini Protein Egg White Wrap Mini Egg White Thins use egg whites to replace much of the wheat flour normally used for this sort of product.

Cookie and cracker makers both leveraged thinner textures in a nod to calorie, carbohydrate, and food allergy concerns. These efforts continue to fuel a growing trend.

La Panzarella Gluten-Free Oat Thins offer consumers a gluten-free alternative to thin wheat crackers. Nonni’s ThinAddictives Chocolate Chip Artisan Thin Cookies are pitched as the “perfect treat for a healthy and happy life,” and come in 100-calorie packets in flavors like Almond Chocolate. Mondelez Global added a Pistachio flavor to its Nabisco Oreo Thins line in 2018.

Kellogg readied Cheez-It Snap’d Crackers for a January 2019 launch. This super thin and crispy snack has real cheese inside and out for a “completely new snacking experience.”

Julian Bakery’s Primal Thin Crackers connect the thin format with the trending Keto and Paleo diets by using flax, sesame, and chia seeds as ingredients instead of wheat, driving the net carbohydrate content down to just 3g per serving. Sejoyia Coco-Thins Snackable Cashew Cookies use ingredients like coconut, cassava flour, and coconut sugar to achieve a similar goal. 

Cassava flour is an up-and-coming bakery foods ingredient. Popular in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, cassava is a root vegetable that is gluten-, grain- and nut-free, making it suitable for low-carbohydrate diets like the Paleo diet. Another wheat flour alternative –plantain flour—is vegan, grain- and gluten-free. Real Coconut by Danielle Hunter Plantain Flour Cookies makes the case for plantain flour as an alternative to wheat flour.

Protein has invaded almost every nook and cranny of the packaged food and drink industry and bakery products are no exception. Americans hold the macronutrient in high regard; 55% of U.S. households say that “high protein” is an important attribute to consider when buying food for their households, according to a 2018 Nielsen survey.

“That is bullish for launches like Crunchmaster Sea Salt and Roasted Garlic Snack Crackers with 5g and Crunchmaster Protein Brownie Thins with 8g of vegetable protein per serving.  Sunnystreet Waffles are not only novel for their shelf-stable, ready-to-eat format, but also are rich in plant-based protein with 10g of protein per serving.

Protein-rich cookies and baked goods have become increasingly common in recent years, perhaps as a more palatable and exciting alternative to protein bars.

Bake City Muffin+ Protein offers 16g of protein per muffin, primarily from milk protein isolate. No Cow Protein Cookie provides 12g of protein per cookie, none sourced from dairy ingredients. Alpendough Protein Cookie touts its “clean ingredients” like pumpkin seed protein powder, a plant-based protein source just gaining traction.

Clean label was a prominent trend in bakery products in 2018, especially in the bread aisle. Arnold Organic Bread dispensed with artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives as well as high fructose corn syrup for its new 22 Grains & Seeds Bread. Dave’s Killer Bread Organic Bagels added a Boomin’ Berry flavor absent high fructose corn syrup, artificial preservatives, and artificial ingredients.

Flowers Foods showed that clean label does not mean sacrificing taste with Nature’s Own Perfectly Crafted Bread in 2018. Offered in thick-cut fluffy slices with a flour-dusted crust, this bread is free from artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, GMOs, and high-fructose corn syrup.  Also going the “crafty” thick-cut route was Pepperidge Farm with its no high-fructose corn syrup Farmhouse Butter Bread which is said to be “perfect for grilled cheese, a savory sandwich, or enjoying on its own.”

Organic Triscuit Crackers took the venerable Nabisco Triscuit brand in a clean label direction in 2018 while Frito-Lay hopes to give Campbell Soup and its Goldfish brand something to think about with new Imag!ne Cheese Stars, “poppable” star-shaped crackers made with real cheese as the first ingredient.

Trader Joe’s gave us a glimpse into the future with its Vegan Banana Bread with Walnuts, an offering free from the normal dairy and egg ingredients found in this popular comfort food that appeals to growing ranks of vegans.

With poorly defined and legally challengeable label claims like “natural” falling out of favor, food makers are leaning on hero ingredients to communicate “better for you” properties. Sprouted grains, avocado, turmeric, chickpeas, and coconut sugar were some iconic health ingredients that bakery product producers turned to in 2018.

The actual health benefits of sprouted grains may be murky, but consumer perceptions are clearer. According to a 2017 GlobalData survey, 60% of Americans believe that sprouted grains and seeds have a positive impact on health.

This “healthy halo” could be a boon for products like Trader Joe’s Sprouted Whole Grain Pizza Crust which is made from a blend of seven sprouted whole grains and whole wheat. Angelic Bakehouse Sprouted Mash Sprouted 7 Whole Grains Wraps use sprouted whole grains to deliver at least 21g of whole grains per serving. 

Love Sprout Live hopes to overcome the flavor-challenged reputation and crumbly texture that some sprouted grain loaves are known for with bread that “doesn’t sacrifice flavor.” Sprouted grains are even landing in cookies where Lancaster Food Company introduced Sprouted Choc Chip Cookies in 2018.

Healthful ingredients like avocado, turmeric, lentils, and chickpeas are trending in baked goods, especially crackers. Mondelez Global added an Avocado Cilantro & Lime flavor to its Nabisco Triscuit brand in 2018 to tap into consumer enthusiasm for everything avocado. RW Garcia Organic 3 Seed Crackers offered consumers an approachable way to consume turmeric and chickpeas with Lentil with Turmeric and Chickpea varieties.

Alternative sugars could drive innovation in 2019 and beyond as bakery product makers are beginning to experiment with “better for you” ingredients like coconut sugar. Simple Mills Soft Baked Cookies are “smartly sweetened with unrefined honey and organic coconut sugar,” the latter helping the brand claim a 25% reduction in sugar versus other “natural cookie counterparts.”

Many bakery product makers went in the opposite direction when it came to sugar. The rising popularity of sweet Hawaiian-flavored bread inspired General Mills to branch out in this flavor direction with Pillsbury Grands Sweet Hawaiian Flaky Layers Biscuit and Pillsbury Crescents Sweet Hawaiian Crescent Rolls refrigerated dough products.

Sweet flavors helped power cookie innovation in 2018. Mondelez Global continued to churn out a dizzying array of new limited-time flavors for its Nabisco Oreo franchise. Kettle Corn, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, Rocky Road Trip, Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake, Birthday Cake Flavor Crème, and Cherry Cola saw shelf-time during the year.

Kellogg and Pepperidge Farm followed suit with sweet flavors, the former with new Keebler Whoopsy Fudge Stripes drenched in fudge and the latter with Pepperidge Farm Mackinac Oatmeal Milk Chocolate Soft Baked Cookies “loaded with oatmeal and milk chocolate chunks to satisfy your cookie cravings.”

Indulgence advanced in a more savory direction for crackers including mash-ups incorporating influences from popular salty snacks. Sunshine Cheez-It Duoz Baked Snack Crackers & Pretzels bring cheese-flavored crackers and pretzels together in a single box. In Season Snacks Trail Mix Crispy Crackers does much the same, but combines crackers with nuts, seeds, and fruit.