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Ethnic breads move into the mainstream

Mintel forecasts a big future for speciality flatbreads in Europe.

Variety is the spice of life in the bakery sector where ethnic breads are capturing an increasing amount of consumer attention. According to Mintel, the European market for flatbreads is on the verge of booming, driven by a widespread desire for alternatives to traditional bread products.

Mintel has gathered statistics from the UK, where ethnic flatbreads are already widely enjoyed for their taste, texture and versatility. These show continuous growth in value sales of the traditional Indian naan and chapatti since 2008.

An estimate from 2012 gives naan a 17% share of the UK speciality bread market, second only to wraps at 24%. The figures reflect retail value sales from 2010-2011, when speciality bread achieved the highest growth of all bread segments.

In the wake of the popular Mexican tortilla, consumer interest for other ethnic breads is expected to spread throughout Europe. And not all of them come from far afield. For example, Italian piadina, an unleavened flatbread from the Emilia-Romagna region, is among the bread specialities now on sale in a number of UK supermarkets.

From artisanal to industrial
Common to all such ethnic breads is their artisanal roots as staple food items made for day-to-day consumption. This is where manufacturers face their major obstacle when preparing an authentic handmade product for industrial production – the extension of shelf life from one day to several weeks or more.

To someone buying naan bread at the supermarket, it is often apparent that this issue has yet to be solved. Products quickly tend towards dryness and cracking, defects that the recommended sprinkling of water and spell in the oven fail to remedy. 

Solutions do exist, however.

Hanging on to freshness
One possibility is to use an ingredient system that draws on the functionality of hydrocolloids, emulsifiers and enzymes. While the strong water-binding ability of the hydrocolloids maintains bread moistness, enzymes and emulsifiers contribute to longer lasting softness of the crumb.

Over the years, we have worked with a number of possibilities for maintaining moistness and softness for up to 30 days. An important parameter in respect of naan bread is that it keeps a softer structure for good tearability during consumption. In our experience, fresh-keeping quality can be significantly improved with a limited impact on overall costs.

Regardless of which ingredient system you choose, modified atmosphere packaging technology is a must if the goal is a 30-day shelf life. Given the right conditions, ethnic flatbreads can boom into Europe with their softness and flexibility intact.

The ingredient system mentioned in this article is part of the DuPont™ Danisco® POWERFlex® range.