Bakery foods tend to be associated with comfort and stress-relief—benefits that consumers are seeking in year two of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed, one-fifth of US consumers described themselves over the past year as “highly stressed on a daily basis,” per Innova’s 2021 Health & Nutrition Survey. The good news is that stress management is easier thanks to an array of new bakery products in 2021.

According to the Innova Database of new products, bakery product launches (including cookies, crackers, bread, cakes, pastries, and baking ingredients) in the USA rose 3.2% from January to November 2021 versus the same period in 2020.

Bread and bread product launches grew the fastest, expanding 16.1%. Cookies and cakes, pastries and sweet goods were up by 5.7% and 5.4%, respectively; while crackers and baking ingredients were up just 0.6% each.

Better For You Benefits
Bakery innovators are increasingly catering to major health concerns, a trend reflected in 2021’s product launches.

Around 7.4% of US bakery launches made a sugar reduction claim in 2021, more than double the 2.9% of products targeting sugar reduction back in 2018. Concern over gluten continues. Just under 25% of 2021’s US bakery launches made a gluten-free claim, up from around 23% of launches in 2020.

One of the hottest health claims in bakery revolves around “keto” or “ketogenic” products. Approximately 2.9% of 2021’s bakery launches used either or both of those terms in product branding; while in 2019, just 0.3% of bakery launches did so.

But reducing the “bad stuff” in bakery products is just one side of the “better for you” coin. Bakery innovators are also showing affinity toward fortification with nutrients including protein. Approximately 9% of 2021’s bakery product launches in the USA made a high or source of protein claim, up from 5.2% of launches in 2018. In one instance, on-pack messaging for Thomas’ Cinnamon Plus Protein English Muffins (Bimbo Bakeries USA) notes that the new item is “made with whey protein crisps.”

Other products tout vegetables and grains. New Annie’s Organic Sea Salt Crackers (General Mills) promoted that the product features “Hidden Veggies” including sweet potato, pumpkin, tomato, and carrots. In another instance, Garden Lites, Rahway, N.J., introduces Veggies Made Great Keto Muffins and on-pack messaging notes vegetables are the first ingredient.

Iconic health ingredients are rising. Voortman Bakery Super Grains Cookies note that 60% of its grains are wholegrain oats, wheat, rye, and buckwheat. Fonio ancient grain was one of 2021’s most unusual ingredients, headlining Flackers Flax and Fonio Ancient Grain Crackers.

Fonio is an ancient grain native to West Africa, a tiny seed offering an impressive array of nutrients while possessing an earthy, nutty flavor. Look for more innovation around fonio in 2022.

Oats are a more familiar iconic health ingredient headlining bakery innovation.

Last year’s oat-powered new products included Betty Crocker Oat Tastic Chocolate Chip Muffin Mix, Bob’s Red Mill Sesame Thin and Crispy Oat Crackers, Core Foods Happy Gut Fiber Powered Oat Snacks, Brownberry Organic Oatnut Bread, and Gold Medal Gluten Free Oat Flour.

Speaking of flour, this niche opened the door to novel products in 2021, such as Fisher Pecan Flour and Favalicious Fava Bean Keto Flour.

Keto innovation was everywhere in bakery in 2021. On-trend new offerings included Natural Ovens Bakery Keto Friendly Hot Dog Buns, Luna Keto Brownie Bites, Otto’s Naturals Organic Grain Free Classic Brownie Mix, Arnold Superior Keto Bread, Oroweat Superior Keto Bread, and Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Hawaiian Sweet 100% Whole Grain Bread.

Plant-based innovation also rose in 2021. Just under 6% of new bakery products in the USA made a plant-based claim in 2021, a near 4x increase from the 1.5% of bakery launches in 2018 that did the same, per Innova.

Flying the plant-based flag were Krusteaz Plant-Based Wild Blueberry Muffin Mix, Real Food From The Ground Up Purple Carrot Crackers With Ranch Flavor and Clo Clo Cauliflower Breadsticks. The latter hints at the expanding popularity of cauliflower as a plant-based ingredient in bakery.

Sweetness, Full Flavor
Sugar reduction remains a growing theme, but sweet taste is working for brands like King’s Hawaiian which added Pretzel Slider Buns in 2021. Arnold Sweet Multigrain Buns went in the same direction.

Sweet flavors worked in bakery, partly inspired by desserts. Hostess Limited Edition Sundae Cupcakes were inspired by ice cream sundaes. Pop-Tarts Lemon Crème Pie and Boston Crème Donut Toaster Pastries and Nabisco Chips Ahoy Chewy Red Velvet Filled Soft Cookies also appealed to a consumer’s sweet tooth.

Those who remember the heyday of bundt cakes will appreciate Hostess Lemon Drizzle Baby Bundts, a modern spin on this nostalgic cake.

Hot and spicy flavors are trending in crackers. Goldfish Jalapeno Popper Flavored Baked Snack Crackers and Goldfish Limited Edition RedHot Original Flavored Baked Snack Crackers turned up the heat. So did Old El Paso Takis Fuego Taco Shells.

Crispy textures paced cracker innovation. Nabisco Ritz Cheese Crispers Chips were new as were Cheez-It Puff’D White Cheddar Cheesy Baked Snacks. Crispy also worked for Kellogg’s Cocoa Crispy Cereal Straws (a blast from the past).

Town House Dipping Thins make an overt connection with dips and have a dip-friendly spoon-like shape.

Cookie flavor innovation included seasonal notes like the Apple Cider Donut and Gingerbread flavors of Oreo Cookies.

Oreo doubles down on indulgence in January 2022 with Toffee Crunch and Ultimate Chocolate cookies. The Girl Scouts’ new Adventurefuls Brownie Cookies for the 2022 cookie season also rings the same bell.

With consumers’ growing interest in issues such as sustainability, this year’s bakery innovation may include more products like Brave Robot Climate Hero Super Cake Mix made with “non-animal whey protein.” Fancypants Baking Co., Walpole, Mass., also introduced three varieties of Upcycled Cookies made with okara flour, a waste product from soymilk production.

Tom Vierhile is vice president, Strategic Insights, North America for the Netherlands-based Innova Market Insights. He has more than 20 years of experience in new consumer packaged goods reporting and analysis. Tom holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from St. Bonaventure University and an MBA from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Follow him on Twitter at @TomVierhile.