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Baked goods: understanding consumer attitudes in 2021

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Understanding consumer attitudes towards baked goods in 2021

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to have an enormous impact on consumers and communities across the globe, one thing is certain: consumers’ considerations, needs and routines have changed and will continue to do so. Thus, today’s marketplace is evolving and transforming at a record pace.

The amount of information available to the consumer, combined with their increasing desires for product transparency, safety, sustainability and exploration, along with proactive health & wellness behaviours, has made it challenging for companies to keep up. While no one can truly forecast the future, there are signals in the marketplace that make it possible for us to determine the direction in which things are headed and how they are likely to evolve.

Expected impact of Covid-19 on bread and sweet baked goods


During lockdown, bread sales have experienced a boost as the majority of meals shifted to being eaten at home. As a food category, bread’s value, shelf life and versatility have worked in its favour during the pandemic. However, some people, finding themselves with more time to dedicate to breakfast, will have taken the opportunity to switch to slower breakfast options than toast; this has presented another challenge to the category.

In contrast, it is believed that, for the short term, the pandemic will negatively impact the cakes, cake bars and sweet baked goods market1​. Although consumers are currently looking to these products for a mood boost and for comfort, this is offset by an upturn in home baking and the loss of potential eating occasions. However, as the national restrictions ease throughout 2021, the market is expected to return to growth. It is anticipated that own-label will be first to see a resurgence as consumers economise.

What the consumer wants

The role of fibre in maintaining good gut health has been enjoying increasing media coverage in recent years and has fuelled consumers’ growing awareness about the relationship between diet and health and their demand for bakery products with improved nutritional value. Therefore, consumers are looking for more interesting bread choices offering a wide range of flavoursome and nutrient-packed ingredients delivered to them in a sustainable way.

Equally, for 2021, it is likely that innovation in cakes and sweet bakery will be mainly focused around new indulgent and sustainable concepts, along with better-for-you recipes, as consumers look for more ways to treat themselves, both in and (eventually) out of home. 

Enhance indulgent experiences with natural colours and flavours

Various slices of rainbow cakes on a white tray_shutterstock_1007816050

Consumers continue to base their cake purchase decisions around flavour. As an indulgence-driven category, the launch of new flavours inspired by popular culture, innovating with novel formats (e.g. incorporating unexpected yet complementary flavours into recipes), luxurious flavours and contrasting textures can spur impulse purchases and excite interest in the category. In fact, 77% of consumers indicated taste as the most important factor when choosing a cake, cake bar or sweet baked goods, with price being the second most important2​. And 65% said that they would like to see more innovative flavours2​.

For a fantastic way to add flavour to your baked treats, ADM Nutrition’s authentic collection of ingredients uses the company's flavour creation expertise to bring the best of nature into great-tasting, consumer-winning flavours and full-formulations.

While flavour has long been the focus of innovation, today’s visual and share-focused societal trends are driving innovations that engage more of the senses, according to Mintel’s study on global food and drink trends, entitled ‘Eat with Your Eyes’. Brands are experimenting with vibrant colours, innovative shapes, multifaceted textures and engaging aromas to make their products worthy of consumer praise and social media posts.

Coloured Buns

Although an increasing number of consumers are interested in bright colours, they also expect formulations to remain natural and clean labelled. ADM’s Outside Voice research revealed that half of consumers questioned prefer foods or beverages containing natural ingredients, which they consider to be beneficial to their health.

ADM’s portfolio of  colouring foods and vegetable powders tap into this growing trend, aiding baked goods suppliers to create their own signature display of fresh, naturally multi-coloured breads, buns, rolls and more. Take your sweet treats to new heights, by using ADM’s fruit powders which contain up to 600% fruit flavouring equivalent, providing not only a feast for the eyes, but also a fruity explosion for the taste buds. From raspberries to lemons and mangoes, there’s a colour and flavour for everyone. 

Clean, sustainable and responsible

Covid-19 is driving consumer demands around transparency as more people have become aware of supply chain issues that could potentially impact the health and safety of themselves, employees and their local community. Beyond “what’s in it?”, consumers want to know “where is it from?”, “how was it made?”, “who was the farmer or producer?”, and “how sustainable is the packaging?”.

Brands can meet consumer expectations around ethical and sustainably sourced products by expanding sustainable packaging initiatives, ensuring shorter supply chains and supporting local communities. Through initiatives such as the ADM Field to Flour Growers Club*, ADM’s 80-year old heritage in producing natural ingredients (including colours and flavours made from natural fruit and vegetable sources) and its clean-label friendly solutions, ADM delivers integrated, vertical connections from farm to finished product. We provide the foundation for wholesome nutrition with simple ingredients sourced from nature, supported by our technical know-how and focused on solving the most exacting baking challenges.

Two farmers in a field examining wheat crop-GettyImages-628368384

*The ADM Integrated Sustainable Supply Chain partners with the finest growers of the best possible wheat. Members will engage with ADM to help drive quality, innovation and service as well as delivering an overarching focus on improving the environmental way in which they grow their crops.

Aim for artisanal quality and solve the sensory challenges via 'clean' additives

The rising demand for clean label, has led baked goods suppliers to explore ways to manufacture ‘all-natural’ products without artificial additives or preservatives, focusing on quality ingredients and traditional recipes. People who favour premium cakes/sweet baked goods show an above-average willingness to pay more for freshly baked, award-winning and ethically sourced products3​.

However, sensory attributes also play an important role in choosing baked goods, and pose a challenge to bakers wishing to streamline their ingredients list. Here, ADM Milling’s Clean Label Multi-Purpose Improver offers one solution. Formulated for those who are concerned about having additives with chemical-sounding names in their baked products; ADM took the blueprint for their existing Multi-Purpose Improver (MPI) and removed E472(e) DATEM emulsifier from the recipe. Designed to be used in all bread processes and all mixer types, it exhibits exceptional tolerance through varying processing conditions and ensures excellent volume, texture, crust and crumb colour in the baked product.

Give bakery a nutritional boost to become permissibly indulgent

Growing awareness about the relationship between diet and health has increased consumers' demand for bakery products with improved nutritional value.

While white bread still remains the dominant choice for consumers, it is still perceived as an unhealthy option, with 47% of people who eat and buy bread agreeing that eating a lot of bread is unhealthy.

Breads on rustic vintage heart background loving healthy food-AdobeStock_259803965

What people look for in bread varies widely, with different attributes each appealing to a minority. Health-related factors chime well with consumers, with three of the top four appealing factors being linked to healthiness6​:

● Wholegrain @ 40%
● Keeps for a long time @ 38%
● High fibre content @ 31%
● Health benefits @ 25%

With wholegrain and high fibre content being listed as key appealing factors of bread, why does brown bread continue to struggle? This is likely due to consumers looking to “bread with bits” to provide them with a more flavourful means to gain these desired health benefits.

A recent survey suggests that 73% of consumers believe that a cake can be healthy and delicious2​. However, in 2019, still only 3% of launches in the cakes and sweet baked goods market made a low/reduced sugar claim. And (although it has doubled) launches with high or added-fibre claims was just 2% in 2019 1​. Nevertheless, healthy innovation is not limited to these elements, as many launches explored the addition of fruit, vegetables or seeds to boost their image as healthy.

With nutrition enhancement in mind, Fibersol-2, a neutral-tasting soluble dietary fibre, can be your partner to open up new paths for fibre enrichment, and consumer interest in areas of digestion. Applicable for use in snacks, baked goods and bars, it maintains the functional properties of sugar without sacrificing texture.

ADM also recommends adding Fresh Up to Bakery products. Add this to a standard bakery recipe to replace Glycerol (E422). Fresh Up is a sweetener sourced from nature and can be used to improve the softness of the dough and to provide a clean label solution.

Blueberry cupcakes close up cropped

In summary

Bread’s continued competition from other breakfast choices and an endless selection of lunch foods, both for those buying lunch out of home and for those preparing their lunch themselves, has led to the forecast that bread sales will fall by 3% over 2020-25, to 1.7 billion kg. However, 97% of consumers reported to have bought bread in the month to July 2020, demonstrating bread still has a role to play for the vast majority of people. Packaged sliced loaves remain the most popular type due to the format’s strong value proposition and suitability to a variety of uses5​.

In light of the renewed focus on the nation’s health prompted by the pandemic the industry will be challenged with the task of improving health perceptions of bread and bakery products. Bakery brands will need to engage with consumers on an emotional level while evolving the conversation on fibre to capitalise on the gut health trend7​.

Cakes and sweet bakes are enjoyed almost universally, with 91% of consumers stating that they had eaten them in the three months to December 20194​. 9% ate them more than once a week and 17% once a week. Despite the ongoing spotlight on the detrimental effects of excessive sugar intake and an increased awareness of healthiness more generally, these treats have remained a desired and indulgent food.

ADM Baking Solutions' portfolio

Learn more about our extensive portfolio of wholesome nutrition ingredients plus complementary ingredients and key enablers to meet your needs for optimising taste, texture, nutrition, functionality and cost factors at​ and​​ or email the ADM Milling Team @ fnyrf4sybhe@nqz.pbz​ and the ADM Nutrition Team @ uryyb-ahgevgvba@nqz.pbz​​.


1​  Mintel, Cakes, Cake Bars and Sweet Baked Goods: Inc Impact of Covid-19. UK, April 2020
2​  Mintel, Cakes, Cake Bars and Sweet Baked Goods: Inc Impact of Covid-19. UK, April 2020 – Base: 1,637 internet users aged 16+ who have bought cakes, cake bars or sweet baked goods in the last three months (Source: Lightspeed/Mintel)
3​  Euromonitor
4​  Mintel, Cakes, Cake Bars and Sweet Baked Goods: Inc Impact of Covid-19. UK, April 2020 – Base: 2,000 internet users aged 16+ (Source: Lightspeed/Mintel)
5​  Mintel, Bread: Inc Impact of Covid-19, UK, September 2020
6​  Mintel, Bread: Inc Impact of Covid-19, UK, September 2020 – Base: 1,933 internet users aged 16+ who bought bread in the last month (Source: Lightspeed/Mintel)
7​  Mintel, The Future of Bread, Bakery and Cakes: 2021, UK, February 2021