The number of new product introductions in the Bread & Bread Products category has remained relatively stable in recent years. As with many other food categories, factors such as health, organics, functional ingredients and convenience have influenced the types of products being introduced. The popularity of low-carbohydrate diets has also influenced product development, as Mintel's Alissa Ostrowski reports.

Products continue to evolve within the Bread & Bread Products category, despite new product introductions remaining relatively stable from 2002 to 2003. Sophisticated fortification ingredients are becoming an industry standard, a trend that will likely continue as consumers grow increasingly interested in purchasing products that do more than simply remove fat and calories.

The organic segment is experiencing new growth, particularly in the North American region where new product introductions include mainstream, everyday items and premium products for special occasions. In addition, changing dietary trends such as frequent snacking and low carbohydrate diets have created another source of competition.

Launch activity

click on the table to enlarge
Source: Global New Products Database
Note: Numbers include new brands and line extensions, but do not include packaging changes and products flagged as new and improved

The Sweet Biscuits/Cookies sub-category posted nearly 7,000 product introductions over the period covered, followed by the Cakes, Pastries & Sweet Goods segment with 3,767 launches. The Bread & Bread Products Category fell fourth, however, looking at data from the first three quarters of 2003, it appears that activity is expected to increase 6% by the end of the year.

click on the table to enlarge
Source: Global New Products Database
Note: Numbers include new brands and line extensions, but do not include packaging changes and products flagged as new and improved

Activity within the Bread & Bread Product sub-category consists primarily of variety/range extension launches. According to the chart above, the number of new product launches is expected to decrease by 23% while the number of variety/range extension introductions will increase by 40% by the end of 2003 - suggesting that producers are expanding existing brands to include varieties with new flavours and ingredients.

click on the table to enlarge
Source: Global New Products Database
Note: Numbers include new brands and line extensions, but do not include packaging changes and products flagged as new and improved

The European region led the category with 1,178 product introductions over the period covered. However, looking at data from the first three-quarters of 2003, it appears that activity within the region is declining as a 17% decrease is expected by the end of the year.

Product trends

Organic, natural, and handmade
Historically, the European region led the market for organic bakery products; however, launch activity from 2003 proves that organic bread products are faring well in other countries as well. In North America, for example, the number of organic bread products is expected to increase more than 700% by the end of the year. The selection is also expanding - recent launches included mainstream items such as pizza dough and also upscale products reserved for special occasions.

Fortified products
There continues to be a move away from removing ingredients from bread (e.g. fat and calories), towards the addition of healthy and functional ingredients. Popular added ingredients include vitamins, minerals (especially calcium and iron), more functional ingredients such as probiotics and omega-3 oils (for heart health and cholesterol reduction). Specialised products targeting specific demographic groups, such as women and children (covered in a separate section), are also prevalent.

Low carbohydrate and light variations
The high protein/low carbohydrate phenomenon affected product development within the category, particularly in the US where recent media attention surrounding the issue greatly influenced dietary habits. The long-term success of low carbohydrate products is questionable; however, the market is far from saturated leaving room for new entrants to develop the category in the US. It is important to note, however, that low carbohydrate bread products are not commonly found in other locations, including Europe - the most active region within the Bread & Bread Products sub-category.

Notable launches in this category include the introduction in the US by Food For Life Baking of two low carbohydrate bread products in Savory Herb and Original varieties. The company also adds that its products are also free of preservatives and made from select organic ingredients. Also in this sector, CarbX Tract introduced a Cinnamon Raisin Bread variety in the US, and Arnold Foods introduced a 100% whole wheat bread under the Brownberry Bakery line in the US, claimed to be an excellent source of fibre, to have 1/3 less calories than regular wheat bread, and to be low in fat.

Children's products
Children often have different taste preferences and health needs than adults, making it a common occurrence to encounter products with special features, flavours, and nutritional benefits. As mentioned earlier, fortified products often target specific age groups, evident from the recent activity involving calcium-fortified products that promote bone development in young children. A number of influential producers are investigating the segment, including Sara Lee in the US with the launch of the Ironkids Crustless Bread in 2001, which provides 25% of the recommended daily allowance of calcium.

Specialty bread
During the last decade we have seen an influx of specialty breads inspired by recipes from around the world. A better-travelled consumer has demanded more premium and adventurous choices, and has thus helped the fortunes of the specialty segment. Recently, the segment has simply become more consolidated and mainstream. The growth in this segment has also encouraged the consumption of bread as a meal accompaniment, or as something to be eaten alone. Popular specialty breads include ciabatta, focaccia, wraps (increasingly used as an alternative to the humble sandwich), tortilla, pita bread, naans (with filled varieties again to be consumed as a sandwich), and chapatti.

Convenience
Many products have short shelf lives, leaving consumers no option but to freeze a portion of the loaf for later use. However, once frozen, the preparation time increases considerably. Therefore, a number of producers developed new products that remain fresh for a week or more, while others opted to simply reduce the product size (half loaves) to eliminate waste. Portability issues were also addressed as consumers are consuming snack foods more than ever, explaining the recent increase in bread-based hors d'oeuvre and appetiser varieties.

Ingredients/flavours
Recent launch activity included a number of savoury favourites such as garlic, tomato, and cheese. In addition, the blending of the dessert category with the Bread & Bread Products segment is a common occurrence - honey, cinnamon, cranberry, chocolate, and orange flavours appeared in a number of instances.

As mentioned earlier, specialty bread items are influencing the category considerably, making it likely that future developments will include products such as Heinz's World Wide Wraps Heinz Mix & Dip Kit in Germany. The kit includes tortilla wraps with sauce sachets (to add to the wrap), and a separate Asian, Mexican, or Greek Style base to create a separate dipping sauce.

The future of the category

Mintel expects the specialty breads category to continue to evolve, borrowing flavours and formats from ethnic sources.

Meanwhile, the market for children's products is expanding, with a number of age-specific varieties included in many mainstream offerings. It is therefore likely that the category will see an increase in specialty children's products with unique features, such as the Sara Lee Crustless Bread in the US.

Mintel expects continued evolvement of small bite-sized products that give consumers the opportunity to grab a quick snack while on the run. Also, products that double as hors d'oeuvres will continue to appear in variety packages such as the Melba Toast Party Pack in Belgium from Van Der Meulen, mentioned earlier.