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Turning around a stale bread market

Healthy Nordic thin breads with reduced wheat flour could be one way to the consumer’s heart.

By Jan Charles Hansen, principal application specialist, bakery

Traditional wheat-based bread is facing a tough time in Europe. From being a dietary staple, today it is seen in an increasingly negative light by consumers concerned about the content of additives, salt, fat, gluten and carbohydrates. 

According to the market researchers at Mintel, value sales of packaged bread fell 5.3% in the UK alone in 2013-2015. Across the European bakery segment, the forecast is negative growth up to 2020.

The challenge for the bakery industry is to find new ways to reach out to consumers. Many of the big brands are already taking the first steps. Their strategy is to appeal to the one thing that concerns Western consumers most – their health.

Nordic inspiration
At DuPont, we have accommodated this by setting a healthy direction for our development work. With inspiration from the Nordic region, our bakery team has explored some opportunities with thin bread – a soft, dimpled product with a thickness between that of toast bread and tortillas. The product has been a firm favorite for years in Sweden and Finland, where consumers treat it as a sandwich bread.

Our idea was to develop a thin bread concept with a flour content comprising 50% Nordic grains – oats, buckwheat and barley. High in fiber and other important nutrients, such as heart-healthy beta-glucans, these grains give the bread’s nutritional profile an instant boost. Their inclusion also reduces the refined wheat flour to just 50%.

The problem with dryness
In the past, the large surface area of Nordic thin breads has led to rapid dryness. So, for a long time, manufacturers distributed the thin breads frozen to maintain their freshness until thawing prior to sale. Today, the availability of fresh-keeping enzymes means freezing is no longer necessary as the flatbreads can keep their fresh feel for up to 14 days.

Our work with enzymes and emulsifiers for tortillas, which also need to stay soft and flexible during ambient storage, gives us a good starting point when looking at thin breads. The main difference is that the thin bread dough is yeast raised and requires a proofing step during production – in other words, thin breads are more like bread than tortillas.

A fresh-keeping combination
Because of the high staling speed, the enzyme-emulsifier combination has to work a little harder than in tortillas. We have obtained the best result using a powerful fresh-keeping enzyme with two vegetable-based emulsifiers. Xanthan gum is added to support processing efficiency.

Our application trials have demonstrated that producing a healthy Nordic-style thin bread is straightforward – making it one idea that could tempt consumers back to store bakery shelves.

We tested POWERBake® Thins and GRINDSTED® Xanthan from the DuPont™ Danisco® range.

The spider diagram illustrates the findings from a sensory analysis of Nordic thin breads made with a combination of oat, buckwheat and barley. After seven days in storage, trial three was found to have the best softness, taste and bite.