How did you get to where you are today and what are your aspirations?
“While studying to become an industrial management engineer, I never dreamed that one day I would end up so deeply involved with food.
The truth is that a few years after university, I was working in a cheese factory and then onto the bakery world, where I was lucky enough to work in both artisan and industrial businesses.
Along the path I developed my knowledge of food safety and food production, not only by attending BRC training courses but also by developing as an auditor for ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. The real experience and knowledge though came from everyday problem solving.
The great challenge is to be the trend setter – that’s the dream. In reality however, it’s about establishing the new product or range that our production has the capacity (knowledge, technology, resources) to execute in a large scale. This is inevitably the time-consuming process of finding a product and then transferring it to production (including packaging, technical info, laboratory analysis and of course consumer testing).
Six years ago, I launched a new business (Honesty Bakery), being responsible for all aspects of the company. We couldn’t back then establish a separate NPD team, so as well as other roles, I took this under my belt.
My passion for the bakery business and the fact that I am constantly looking for trends, trying products and inevitably reading about the industry, made it possible to establish quite a few new and innovative products in a relatively short time. I had a strong ally in our production manager and bakery team though – couldn’t have done it without them.”
What are the big NPD trends in global bakery?
“Conscious eating is having a real impact on NPD in the bakery industry. There is no way a bakery can run away from the reality that consumers are more than ever interested in knowing exactly what they eat.
Together with health trends, the shift away from animal protein and awareness of global warming is making the challenge bigger than ever.
We are living in a unique period of transition and discovery. Never before have we had so much space to innovate.
The challenge is not just replacing one ingredient with another (vegetable milk replacing dairy, for example), but more importantly to create products that are accepted by a community that is embracing the new trends. Vegan products must be tasty for vegans but also for flexitarians and meat eaters.
When replacing an ingredient, we get alterations in physical properties of our products, therefore, we often have to adapt a whole recipe to allow for the substitutions of one ingredient.”
What challenges can occur in ingredient substitution and what are your recommended best practices to address them?
“The health trend will only get bigger. The market is shifting towards conscious eating in so many ways that we will see traditional everyday products decrease in demand, while premium treats will grow.
People will indulge occasionally, rather than a little bit every day. They will spend the same amount of money to buy a smaller number of products, which is already happening in the biscuit business.
As the market is more aware of the use of preservatives and processing aids with mysterious E numbers, it’s time to explore natural ways of guaranteeing shelf life.
Nutritional information will get more attention and food labelling regulations will change to keep up with consumers’ taste for information. As a result, it’s up to bakery professionals to continue to innovate and create the next product for the right market.
New product development requires time, structure and financial commitment. Big players have good systems, whereas small independent ones still struggle to develop a product and place it successfully in the market.
We all have to work with suppliers and insist they look for specific ingredients at the necessary scale. It really is a case of joint efforts with all parties (consumers, manufacturers and suppliers).
Huge challenges exist for various players when introducing new products. They often have to change and adapt hygiene practices and cleaning routines. Technical and quality departments are massive partners in the whole process.
I found specific challenges in the supply of natural colourings, such as vegetable powders, for example spinach powder.
While products were available in 2012, the supply was not constant, and the origin of the raw ingredients created issues in terms of ensuring traceability. This is an example of how NPD is so dependent on supplier relationships – and on global demand.”
What emerging technologies or scientific developments will affect the industry?
“Following the need to reduce animal products, a number of plant-based alternatives to butter will rapidly surface.
Incorporating the use of ancient grains and more traditional methods to produce bread in daily bread production is a challenge many industrial bakeries are looking at.
We will also see other forms of protein quickly being accepted by consumers, for example insect protein powders are now widely available.
As the market shifts from the gluten-free trend and towards rapid growth in healthy eating (the quickest shift in diets that we know of), we will have to keep our eyes on every new ingredient and product.
As consumers, we are more informed than ever before. We travel more, we receive news and constant information at the tip of our fingers. We look for experiences and moments.
The sooner the bakery industry captures consumers’ needs, the quicker successful products will hit supermarket shelves and shop counters. We need to do this the right way, with structure and confidence, so we can produce and supply safe products, to an ever-changing consumer group.”
Ask The Expert offers a regular source of advice on technical matters from industry professionals who are all IFST members and has been created with the help of the IFST.