How can makers and formulators of baked goods adapt to changing buying habits?
The challenge continues for formulators and makers of baked goods – starting with a pandemic, international conflicts, and the resulting economic crisis. Here’s how to look beyond the fog and determine consumer-centric next steps.
The hidden sense that keeps bread consumers coming back for more
Consumers use all five senses when consuming baked goods. And although taste and aroma are often articulated as ruling preferences – while texture is the key for consumers to assess the quality a baked product, determining not only the first time a consumer buys it, but also, whether they repeat their purchase.
When buying packed baked goods in a supermarket, then the consumer is not able to assess the taste and aroma of the baked goods before buying. That means that the first test that a baked product undergoes on the supermarket shelf is an appearance test, conducted by the eyes. Take for instance, a loaf of wholewheat sandwich bread – does it look nice and fresh? The second test is a more hands-on examination. A whopping 73% of consumers* squeeze the product to evaluate what they hope is confirmed later by the taste and smell senses. Does it feel nice and fresh? Some baked goods need to be spongy but with a crispy crust, while others need to have the perfect crumb that balances soft and flaky. This first touch experience to assess texture triggers a decision-making process that is complex yet split-second.
Food is culture and culture is local, and that translates into local preferences for baked goods. Some preferences are driven by inheritance, while others are a consequence of the money-saving times that we live in.
Which brings us to a highly-discussed topic in the baking industry – do factors that keep consumers coming back for more still apply in the current unpredictable economic climate?
What does a deep dive into fast-evolving consumer buying habits look like?
For many consumers around the world, baked goods are a key part of their daily food intake. While preferences vary around the globe – for example, fluffy sandwich bread in the USA, rustic rye bread from Scandinavia, or the butter-soft brioche loaf from France - a McKinsey study shows that 68% of consumers worldwide have changed their shopping behavior in response to increasing prices and uncertainty of what the future looks like, with more than half testing private labels. This is in stark contrast to consumer sentiment before COVID-19 where priorities and shopping behaviors for around 60% of shoppers took into account climate change and reduction of food waste (Euromonitor International Lifestyles Survey, fielded January to February 2020).
Today priorities have changed; more and more consumers are trying new grocery brands in search of better value for money.
However, there is a need to take a closer look into what is often considered a homogenous “consumers are doing this” mindset. According to Adam B. V. Diggle, Business Unit Director for Baking at Novozymes, “Consumers are still adapting to this challenging economic situation which impacts what they spend on baked goods. To understand the evolving purchasing patterns, we closely track consumer buying patterns. That determines the three consumer groups that are reacting to the new reality.”
- There is a group of consumers that is forced to search for the cheapest-possible baked goods – for this group, every cent counts
- Then there are consumers with a disposable income who are able to prioritize high quality and superior eating experience despite the price pressure. These consumers will try to reduce spend, for example by going from boutique bakeries to premium retail brands. Premium retail brands that want to cater to this demographic will need to meet the consumer expectations of high quality and healthy at an affordable price
- A third group of consumers that falls between the aforementioned two, is used to buying premium retail baked goods and is now searching for cost reductions. For this set, the ‘next-best’ option will be mid-tier baked goods that offer value-for-money without significantly trading down on the quality and eating experience
There may be a race, but it is not one to offer solutions for the most budget-friendly baked goods.
Your brand needs to compete on more than just the price
It is true that consumers are focusing on reducing food spend and consequently, changing their buying habits. The competition in low-price baked goods means the solutions you provide will need cater for affordability, but not at the expense of sustainability, quality and texture experience. As more consumers experiment and move from one product category/brand to another – typically a cheaper option to what they used to buy – it becomes very critical to offer the right products in your portfolio to appeal to your baking community and eventually the consumers. This doesn’t naturally mean focusing on cost-reduction options; it means to provide solutions needed to appeal to varying sub-segments of consumers in the market, even the sub-segment that still chooses baked goods that are sustainable and last longer to reduce food waste.
Adding freshness enzymes to your recipe and formulation might add a fraction to the cost but lead to customers choosing your offerings over competitors, even in low-priced baked good categories. These enzymes can create the appealing texture for when the consumers do the squeeze test in the supermarket. Furthermore, adding them to your recipes can make a positive impact on the world by extending natural freshness and reducing food waste – creating an opportunity for consumers to save money by making their baked goods last longer.
Every consumer shift presents a risk for the baker to lose a loyal customer but also an opportunity to win a new customer. The formulator can gain business by offering solutions to adapt to consumer needs by offering sustainable solutions that hit the sweet spot between affordability, high quality, and appealing texture.
*73% squeeze a pack of bread to assess whether the bread has the desired texture when choosing bread in the supermarket (Consumer test, Germany, isi)
Looking for ways to add freshness to your baked goods?
Looking for ways to add freshness to your baked goods?
Explore which freshness enzyme solutions for baking suit your needs.