With the continued emphasis in the media and new government legislation surrounding healthy eating and overall wellbeing, it is no surprise that consumers are much more conscious of what they're consuming on a day to day basis.
With this in mind, ingredients in food products are now being scrutinised more closely, backed up by the demand for greater consumer awareness around where their food has come from. This makes it more critical that food producers are able to adapt and amend recipes to reflect these changing demands and communicate those changes clearly to their customers.
The need for change
The bakery industry has clearly seen some of the impact of this, with over two thirds of shoppers in the UK choosing to buy healthier options, those labelled with less salt, sugar, fat or calories.
Sugar reduction is a key priority, backed up by legislative changes in the form of sugar taxes, which add costs; reinforcing the need for producers to find alternatives, particularly natural ones and alter recipes accordingly. This remains a major challenge.
The same can also be applied to salt, where the long-term impacts of high salt intake on both blood pressure and heart disease are well known. So far, salt reduction has been a real success in the UK with many food products now 20-40% lower in salt than they were a decade ago, including in bakery products like bread. The targets set by the Department of Health in 2014 have driven this progress, but there is still some way to go.
High levels of fats - in particular saturated fats - have long been associated with obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and much like sugar and salt, they have become a key focus area for reduction targets, especially in more processed foods.
Meeting the new consumer mindset
The recent focus on the need for more accurate and detailed food labelling has made it much easier for consumers to make informed purchases. Content of food products is clearer and it is easier to avoid the dreaded ‘red’ markers if they're trying to maintain a healthier diet.
Not addressing the reduction targets set out in 2014 could lead to taxes being extended further, targeting specifically food deemed to be 'less healthy' and potentially restrictions on where products can be advertised. There is also the chance of further cost differentiation if more healthy alternatives become subsidised - which emphasises the need for food manufacturers to keep pace with the changes in demand.
Key trends impacting food manufacturers
On top of these factors, we also know that consumers themselves are much better informed. With increasing trends to have more organic, additive, preservative and artificial colouring free options, alongside the demand to cater for intolerances such as gluten or lactose, food manufacturers have their work cut out!
It is not just the targeted reduction areas that will influence purchases since expectations on food contents has grown and so it is vital that food producers can review their recipes and ingredients to address these concerns without sacrificing quality.
How can recipe management help?
By having a tool that enables manufacturers to quickly amend recipes, in R&D and production, and assess the cost impact is key.
As is the ability to link recipe changes to labelling, so that health conscious consumers - or those with allergies -are able to clearly see what is inside the product.
Using consumer research
Assessments of consumer tastes and preferences can generate opportunities for cost savings, by changing specifications or substituting for lower-cost ingredients. They can also improve the value of a product and drive more sales through value-added processes and ingredients that are able to address market needs.
Given the current consumer interest in the health benefits of certain foods (natural products, those free of genetically modified organisms and artificial ingredients), an efficient recipe management process can help to drive growth by introducing new product lines that focus on these demands.
How to move forward successfully
1. The tools to act fast
In bakery, there is increased focus on reduction in E-Numbers and other additives such as emulsifiers, preservatives and conditioners. By being able to find more natural alternatives to these and also address the desire for no sweeteners and reduced sugar, producers can adapt their recipes quickly and will be able to meet changing consumer demands.
2019 has seen the significant growth of vegan alternatives to meat and dairy within bakery products, for example vegan sausage rolls, and being able to respond to this rapid change in eating habits quickly has provided advantages to some producers.
2. Flexibility for competitive advantage
Flexibility is key and those companies with an efficient recipe management solution have been able to reduce their exposure to commodity-pricing volatility and availability by having a flexible formulation approach to build alternative recipes for products.
By having this approach, food manufacturers to change recipes based on relative price and availability of ingredients, or in response to the preferences of different consumer groups, and so gain the all important competitive advantage.
3. Investment in automation
The importance of food labelling linked to recipes changes is also key, particularly when it comes to identification of allergens.
By being able to automate label production from a specified recipe avoids duplication but more importantly ensures that labels are always accurately aligned with product contents, even when multiple product recipes may be in use.
How can you get started?
ColumbusFood for bakeries is an industry-specific ERP solution designed to help you keep up with changes in consumer demand or government legislation, while maintaining the quality that your customers demand.
Food is at the core of what we do — providing the right ingredients for a healthy ERP system.