It’s a new era of baking. New ingredients and innovative discoveries in the bakery sector continue to push the envelope when it comes to meeting consumer demands for clean-label, “keto-friendly,” low-sugar, plant-based, non-GMO, and, especially, gluten-free products.

Here are a “bakers’ dozen” — 13 — essential ingredients used in commercial baking, drawn from the vast baker’s toolbox that continues to change and evolve at a brisk pace. These are the ingredients — old, new, revitalized — that bakers need in order to keep up with the rapidly shifting trends and expanding consumer preferences.

Bakery products range in complexity from cookies, crackers, and biscuits to artisanal breads and elaborate cakes. Traditionally, these contain wheat flour as the main ingredient, as it provides bulk and structure (which is where gluten usually comes in). And, while a number of heritage wheats such as emmer (farro), spelt, triticale, kamut (Khorasan), einkorn, and others have enjoyed a surge in popularity, the use of non-wheat flours has surged as well.

Barley and oats are experiencing a major and welcome renaissance, well deserved for these most ancient of cultivated crops. “New” heirloom varieties of barley, such as black and purple barley, are making their way into production baked goods and other products. While barley, and some sources of oats are not recommended for persons with celiac disease, as they contain slight amounts of gluten and other similar proteins, many consumers with a sensitivity to wheat are able to tolerate barley and oats, especially the heritage varieties. (Some research indicates the same is true for heritage wheat varieties.)


Low-Carb Carbs

Aside from those who need to avoid gluten, consumers favoring popular diets such as paleo and keto are seeking wheat-free alternatives. These consumers also want ingredients that can bring baked goods more firmly into the low-carb circle. Flour producers have responded, offering flours from almond, coconut, and other nut sources.


Other nut and even vegetable flours — cauliflower flour most prominently —now on the market include tiger nut flour and chicory root flour. Meanwhile, potato and tapioca flours have made a strong comeback. Seeds and legumes, too, are becoming valuable flour sources, with quinoa, chia, and chickpea flours among the most popular of a veritable agronomist’s library of available sources.

“The hottest thing right now when it comes to flour is keto-friendly baking,” says Lin Carson, PhD, CEO of BAKERpedia, an online encyclopedia of baking and baking ingredients that boasts thousands of users daily and offers free webinars. The keto diet, first prescribed to treat children with epilepsy, began catching on with mainstream consumers only a few years ago. It encourages adopters to stay below a certain level of net carbs, ostensibly to shift the body into a ketogenic (or fat-burning) state in order to lose poundage quickly.

“I’ve seen four or five startup keto ingredient blending companies come out with new products, and they are instantly seeing success,” says Carson. “[The baked goods field] is the right place and ‘now’ is the right time for these products.”

The gluten-free flours of the past “just don’t cut it anymore,” she adds. “Consumers today want even lower carbohydrate, wheat-free options. That’s where almond and coconut flour come in; these flours are being used in everything from breads to bars to sweet treats. I would be surprised if these flours don’t go above 10% CAGR.” Currently, the forecasted CAGR for the ketogenic diet market through 2027 is 5.5%.

When it comes to starches, Carson says she wouldn’t be surprised to see an expansion of a variety of resistant starches — such as those from maize, tapioca, and potatoes  — used for low-carb, keto-friendly baking, although she sees this as more of a five-year trajectory. “If you have resistant starches on the ingredient label versus coconut flour, you will likely sell the one with the coconut flour faster because people don’t know what resistant starch is,” she says. “It’s a marketing issue. There needs to be more information and education about the use of resistant starches in baking, especially since the technology is there to support it.” 

“Clean label” has a place in the trending flour discussion as well, according to Chris Pasciuto, manager of national accounts/culinary for Bake’n Joy Foods, Inc. “Consumers don’t want to see bleached flour or bromate in ingredient lists,” he notes, adding that as a result, more baked goods manufacturers are switching to the use of unbleached and/or unbromated flour. (For a deeper dive into clean label, see “Keep It Clean,” page 36.)


Taste and Texture

The plant protein trend also is making its mark in baking with modern flours, especially those from seeds and legumes, touting their protein content. Taking the matter further, some bakers are even seeking out flour blends that include pea, chickpea, and soy proteins that boost the nutritional profile — and flavor — of a variety of bakery products.

“The alternative protein space continues to grow, and how that will translate in the baking industry remains to be seen,” says Carson. “While there are some new, plant-based protein ingredients on the market, I see this growing trend increasingly affecting the industry over the next five years.”

Formulating bakery products with plant protein ingredients, however, can create challenges when it comes to ensuring optimal texture and taste. One manufacturer has pointed out that when 100% gluten-free doughs and batters are fortified with protein, that protein can compete for the free water in the formulation, thereby causing the starches and gums — and, ultimately, the final product — to dry out. Introducing or increasing fats and oils can help better bind all ingredients together.

In terms of other texturants, one manufacturer recently released a line of seeds and semolina dust as an aromatic taste- and texture-enhancing topping for breads, bagels, pretzels, and pizza. Another recently brought back an heirloom wheat, lending breads and baked goods a nutty texture and buttery yellow color.


Healthy Fats

Since the drive to completely eliminate the use of trans-fatty acids in food manufacturing as of two years ago, ingredient technologists have done an excellent job of re-engineering shortening and other hydrogenated fat alternatives to accomplish the same tasks that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) once performed. Liquid vegetable oils don’t always react the same as shortening in baked products and often require further engineering to mimic the capabilities of shorteningand achieve the desired texture and flavor of the final product.

Modern engineering practices have led to the creation of a number of shortenings, laminating fats, frying oils, margarines, flaked shortenings, hardstocks, and mélanges to fit today’s specific baking needs. In a further bid to make the fat portion of baked goods healthier, one manufacturer has introduced a range of ingredients that includes nutritional lipids such as omega-3 fatty acids and phytosterols.

In addition, in line with goals to introduce the cleanest, greenest products possible, many brands have eliminated the use of Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil in favor of other alternatives. Palm oil, while it functions as a successful, trans-fat free shortening, has seen its reputation tarnished by reports that its sourcing has led to the destruction of natural forestry and habitats in these countries. Moreover, palm trees are slow to regenerate, so there is a limited supply of product. However, sustainable and well-managed palm sources in Africa and South America have been able to fill the supply gaps for this globally most-popular oil.

“Another trend continues to be the desire for non-GMO ingredients,” says Bake’n Joy’s Pasciuto. He notes that oil producers have been rushing to respond to this growing consumer demand, and, in fact, non-GMO soy and corn oils and ancillary products are now widely available.

The baking industry has enjoyed another side benefit from the loss of PHOs: Butter is back, and in multiple forms. When it comes to flavor and performance in certain baked goods, the simple fact is that butter is better. Demonized during the “fat scare” of the 1970s, butter was avoided by many manufacturers. In fairness, cost fluctuations and shelf-life impact for some products also have encouraged the use of vegetable shortenings. But high-end bakers recognize that for many products, there simply is no substitution.

Solid butter, clarified butter, and ghee (cooked and strained clarified butter) are enjoying liberal use in higher-end baked goods. Coconut “butter” also is on the trend track, due to its texture, flavor, and its shelf stability. Although these fats are more expensive than traditional vegetable oils, they also are well-suited to the aforementioned trends of keto and non-GMO. Coconut butter also is an excellent choice for vegan bakery formulations.


Transcendental Emulsification

In particular, new emulsifier options have helped bakers rise to the challenge of removing trans fats from their products by acting as replacements for vegetable- or palm oil-based shortenings.

One manufacturer has introduced an emulsification ingredient that performs well in baking formulations without negatively impacting flavor or increasing saturated fat levels. It allows bakers to respond to consumer demands for cleaner nutrition labels. Also available are new carbohydrate-based emulsifiers that function as stabilizers for trans-fat-free shortenings. They work especially well to prevent oil from separating in frosting formulations, even at temperatures up to 160°F.

Eggs, on the other hand, are natural emulsifiers that can help bind other ingredients. Moreover, they naturally increase protein, minerals, and vitamins, including vitamin A, biotin, choline, and B12. 

“In visits to commercial baking concerns, we have received more requests for help related to grain-free or gluten-free products ideas, or ideas that fit into the current keto dieting trend,” says Elisa Maloberti, a director at the American Egg Board.

“Mouthfeel is very important, which brings all types of egg product forms into play — most particularly egg white protein,” says Maloberti. She explains that egg white protein is especially popular in baking for its aerating and whipping qualities. “These qualities help create proper product structure and texture,” she stresses. “And one cannot overemphasize the importance of batter viscosity, which is a key factor affected when attempting to replace eggs.”


Although, according to the American Egg Board, some studies show that about 70-80% of consumers can tolerate eggs in a product that has been extensively heated (such as baked goods), vegan- friendly and allergen-free products have to forego eggs, making replacers a must.

New egg-free emulsifiers, such as those from legumes and potatoes, now offer expanded shelf-life stability. When replacing eggs with other emulsifiers, however, bakers must adjust mixing, floor time, baking, machining, and pumping to ensure the desired taste, appearance, texture, and structural integrity of the final product.


Getting a Rise

‘Clean label’ has heavily impacted commercial bread baking. When it comes to baking powder, Pasciuto says ingredient makers these days are working on removing sodium aluminum phosphate from the product. Other leavening agents also have been impacted by the clean-label movement, but some old classics — yeast, for one — are coming back to fill in.

In terms of yeast, Carson says she’s seeing a return to more natural, wild fermentation methods; essentially, what is known as sourdough. This dovetails with the push to replace bromate and azodicarbonamide (ADA) as oxidizers, following the lead of sandwich chain giant, Subway, which announced the removal of ADA from its bread as far back as 2016.

In order to avoid bromates and ADA, while also speeding up production times, Carson notes that some baked-goods manufacturers have turned to aged flour to jumpstart a more natural, long fermentation process. In addition, more ingredient providers are exploring organic yeast offerings. A recent study by Advance Market Analytics on global organic bakery products predicted this market will continue to experience double-digit growth for some time.

When it comes to acidulants, while Carson says she hasn’t seen a ton of innovation in this area, she has seen some recent studies on the effects of malic acid (found naturally in apples and other fruits) on dough porosity and anti-molding. “Some bread makers like this product because it creates that ‘hole-y’, artisan look in breads,” she says.

Other organic acids, such as fumaric acid, appear to provide promising solutions for bakers looking to enhance the production and shelf life of artisan and pan breads. These solutions also feature new engineering solutions affecting mix time and water absorption in order to reduce the amount of calcium propionate used, while also increasing volume and adding softness to the finished product.


Sweet and Salty

While the demonization of sugar and sodium is beginning to give way to rational, science-based messages, consumer demand for lower amounts of these ingredients remains high. Currently, sugar is by far the more rejected of the two, and more manufacturers are seeking ways to either reduce it or swap it out entirely for alternative sweeteners.

While the popularity of stevia has been holding steadily, another alternative sweetener that continues to gain favor among keto dieters is monkfruit, a zero-calorie fruit from Southeast Asia with more sweetness than sugar. One manufacturer combines this with erythritol, a mild sugar alcohol also derived from fruits and plants. When pre-combined like this, this product has a ratio of 1:1 alternative sweetener to sugar.

Aside from stevia and monkfruit, a new alternative sweetener growing rapidly in popularity, especially in the baking industry, is allulose. Allulose is a bulk, low-calorie sweetener that has the solubility and texture of sucrose. It’s about 70% as sweet as sucrose and boasts a flavor profile between those of sucrose and crystalline fructose.

Allulose browns well under a Maillard reaction and, unique to low/zero-calorie sweeteners, adds bulk in the same way sugar does. Yet, it has only 0.2kcals/g compared to sucrose’s 4.0kcals/g. It also is very well suited to fruit-based baked or filled confections, as its fructose-like sweetness causes those flavors to “pop.”

Allulose is found naturally in wheat, figs, raisins, and jackfruit and can come in powder, crystal, and liquid forms for use in baked goods, foods, snacks, and any other application that uses sugar. The FDA recently decided to exclude allulose from total and added sugar amounts on nutritional facts labels and panels. While its 30g/day GRAS limit is under review, allulose currently is suitable for bakery and confections, which allow it to stay within that level. 

Although the connection between typical consumption of salt (approximately 6-8g/day) and health problems in healthy people has been largely debunked by science, salt intake remains a concern for roughly a third of the population that is not healthy, dealing with obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, or other diseases. Sodium reduction technology has advanced markedly, and a number of suppliers offer solutions for salt reduction that conform to the needs of most formulations.

Some of the most effective salt-reducing ingredients on the market include those derived from vegetable extracts and concentrates, as well as natural flavor enhancers. However, one ingredient that has gained considerable ground in savory baking is soy sauce. Although still a source of sodium, its concentrated flavor and other flavor-enhancing components make it a viable option. With the availability of powdered and granulated soy sauce, in forms as light as pale gold, bakers can use the ingredient’s concentrated umami flavor and natural flavor boosting to lower the overall salt content in a formulation.


Inclusion Solutions

Inclusions are having a heyday lately, basking in the consumer demand for healthier options as well as increased attention being paid to texture. Healthful additions that can boost the nutritional profile of baked goods and other foods include nuts (or nut analogs for nut allergen-free formulations), fruits, and, in savory baked goods, vegetables and real dairy cheese.

Nuts and seeds are among the most popular inclusions in (and on) baked goods. They are naturally rich in protein and healthy fats. While the nuts most commonly used in baking are walnuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, and peanuts, use of pistachios and Brazil nuts has been on the rise.

Sesame seeds are also appearing more, driven by consumer attraction to flavors from the Middle East and Africa. In addition, research group Datassential has reported the introduction of other nuts from around the world, including tiger nuts (actually a type of tuber) and the baruka nut, which hails from South America and claims to have more fiber than any other nut.

Brazil nuts have one of the highest levels of the antioxidant mineral selenium of any plant food, and they are rich in monounsaturated fats, fiber, and protein, including the amino acid arginine as well as B vitamins. In the baking category, all of these inclusions make for appropriate nutritional enhancers in the growing line of functional energy and snack bars on the market.

While dried fruits such as raisins, cherries, plums, apples, and currants have always been popular in baked items, figs — again, with a nod to Middle Eastern cuisine — are seeing more use. So, too, are dried forms of blueberries and, more recently, aronia berries.


Not So Plain Vanilla

As basic as it sounds, vanilla can actually manifest an unexpected range of flavor profiles. This is especially evident when considering its terroir. As more consumers seek bolder, global flavors, one vanilla purveyor has expanded its line to include single-origin, pure vanilla extracts sourced not just from Madagascar and Tahiti, but also from Mexico, Uganda, and Indonesia.

Flavor-wise, vanilla from Madagascar is hailed as an “all-purpose” vanilla with a mellow, sweet, floral flavor, while Ugandan vanilla is creamy-sweet with notes of chocolate and pairs well with chocolate, caramel, and citrus dishes. Indonesian vanilla has a strong flavor profile, with woody, smoky notes, and can better withstand high-heat and slow-baked applications. Vanillin as an imitation vanilla offers a lower-cost, more widely available solution to vanilla, but might not conform to clean-label demands.

Many baked goods manufacturers experimenting with more plant-based proteins and products have turned to vanilla (and vanillin) to mask any off-flavors that may occur naturally with these protein ingredients. Vanilla also is used as an effective masker in some savory products.

Cocoa extract is also gaining traction as a flavor enhancer. Although chocolate has long topped the list of the most popular flavors, the chocolate and cocoa extract market continues to adapt to trends in the industry, including premiumization, clean label, Fair Trade, and sustainability. As the raw cocoa trend grows, especially among the keto crowd, applications for cocoa extract include functional chocolate truffles, raw edible cookie doughs, keto cookies, and more.

These ingredients — in fairness, we went beyond 13, didn’t we? — are still just the starting line-up when it comes to trending components in the modern commercial baking space. While many are just beginning to make their mark, opportunities for greater usage in both indulgent and more healthful baked goods will continue to expand, as specialized diets, clean label, all-natural, non-GMO, and other trends remain hot. Ingredient suppliers are not only staying ahead of these trends, but they can also provide the expertise necessary for the product developers seeking to formulate or reformulate their baked goods portfolio of offerings.