Indian Bakery Industry: Catering to Health and Wellness

The Indian bakery industry is passing through an impressive growth phase. However, for players to reap the benefits of this promising potential they need to be responsive towards the market trends. One of the prominent market trends spearheading through the Indian bakery industry is the rising demand for healthy bakery products, which is a product of rising awareness about health and wellness among the consumers.

The Indian bakery industry is thus making sincere efforts to ensure that it uses ingredients which are recommended by the health-conscious customers. Ashok Malkani takes a look at the growing healthy bakery segment in India, and also how  the Indian bakery and confectionery industry is making efforts to meet the.demands of its discerning health conscious consumers.

The Indian bakery industry, over the last few years, has matured and been able to reach this covetous position due to the availability of better ingredients which range from chocolate, toppings, fillings and flavours to the quality and variety of grains used for biscuits and breads. Also, now we have new players who are willing to go that extra mile to produce bakery goods which meet international standards.

A variety of products have entered the Indian bakery industry during the last two decades, which have contributed to the change in consumer tastes. Today urban middle and upper class Indians’ tastes for bakery products are not restricted merely to bread, biscuit and cake but also to other products including burger, pizza, muffin, donut, etc.

Demand for Healthy Bakery

Several happening trends are now floating in the Indian bakery and confectionery industry. Consumers today seek fresh, natural and minimally processed food products. Beneficial ingredients that help fight disease and promote good health are also important. In fact, inclination towards healthy eating is not only limited to India, but is a global trend. This trend is manifested in the Indian bakery industry too, in a big way.

A recent report by Nielson Global Health and Wellness Survey regarding culinary habits of young people reveals that they are concerned about what they eat. The survey, conducted on youth from over 60 nations, revealed that they were keen to know details of what they consumed – from food ingredients, genetically modified food, to organic food. And this involved bakery products too as they had compunctions about the ingredients used in these products. From bread to muffins and cakes and pastries the consumers were keen to ensure that ingredients used were healthy to keep them hale and hearty.

The growing wave of health consciousness in the bakery industry is manifested by the growing demand for gluten-free breads and sugar-free cakes among other trends. The global market for gluten-free bread, according to Euromonitor, was valued at 1 billion USD in 2015, accounting for 31 percent of all gluten-free food globally.

In the US, Canada and several other countries, attention to clean labels has become the order of the day. Nowadays many take note of the labels on the bakery products regarding the calories, etc. that the product contains. This trend has become popular in India too, though the manufacturers seem to believe that consumers pay scant attention to the facts mentioned on the labels.

Health in the Bread

Bread is one of the major consumed items of the entire bakery industry. But white breads made with maida are harmful for health.

Silky Mahajan, a senior dietitian/nutritionist in Bangalore, believes that white flour is like white poison. “During processing of maida from wheat, endosperm of the wheat is removed from the germ (wheat germ) and the bran (wheat bran). As all necessary nutrients are lost during processing of maida, food made from it utilise nutrients from the body for absorption. As a result, our body gets depleted of vitamins and minerals,” she averred.

According to her, when products like white bread, pizza, donuts, samosa, noodles, etc. are consumed by people they quickly release sugar into your bloodstream. The high Glycemic Index (GI) of maida spikes your sugar levels, making the pancreas overwork to release insulin in sufficient quantities. If these products are consumed frequently, the insulin production will gradually reduce, which can make you a diabetic.

White flour is also acidic and likely to cause digestive problems. It also raises bad cholesterol levels. So what is the alternative for health conscious consumers and health conscious bakeries?

Whole wheat bread is a healthy pick for most health conscious folks as it contains a decent amount of both protein and fibre. They are good as long as you are not gluten sensitive.

Dieticians and nutritionists advise consumption of whole grains because they are naturally low in fat and are cholesterol free; contain 10 percent to 15 percent protein, and offer loads of healthy fibre, resistant starch, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and often, phytoestrogrens (plant estrogens). With all those nutrients in one package, it is no wonder that whole grains provide so many health benefits, including protection from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and from even some cancers.

It may be stated that the use of whole and multigrain flour are actually ancient baking practices. Many bakeries, in the wake of growing demand for health consciousness, now specialise in whole grain and multigrain products, including varieties of artisan breads.

The growing popularity of multigrain breads, wholegrain breads and sugar-free desserts reflects a healthy transition in eating habits among people. This change has not only made major industrial bakery players in India, including Britannia, ITC, and Parle improvise their products but has also induced new entrants like Patanjali, GAIA, etc. into the healthy bakery segment.

Here it deserves a mention that Modern Food Enterprises, the maker of Modern Bread, is repositioning the brand in to the health and wellness space with the launch of a new product portfolio. Addressing media persons at the launch of the product line, Aseem Soni, Chief Executive Officer, Modern Food, said: “The products launched have new packaging and graphics, and are promoted digitally.” The new portfolio of Modern Food includes Milk Plus bread, Hi-Fibre Brown bread, 100 percent Whole Wheat bread and Multigrain Superseed bread, which is made from seven grain flour and contains Omega 3.

Nourishing Biscuits

Besides bread, another extremely important item for the Indian bakery industry is the biscuit.  India’s biscuit industry, the third largest in the world after USA and China, is witnessing a major transition as consumer preferences are undergoing change.

With an evolving palate and a health-oriented outlook, a section of the Indian consumers are now demanding much more than glucose and Marie biscuits. These consumers are, instead, willing to experiment with new flavours and textures but, at the same time, are not willing to compromise on health and taste. They are demanding that manufacturers reduce trans fats and sugar content in biscuits and add products which are beneficial for the overall well-being of a person.

Catering to such evolving needs, biscuit manufacturers in the country are now concentrating on the health segment through introducing products which are health-oriented and appeal to the palates of the consumers at the same time.

Thus bakery product manufacturers are coming up with ‘diet’ versions of their popular merchandise. Surya Food & Agro Ltd. has come up with Marie Lite, Britannia has come up with the Nutrichoice range, Unibic has introduced Multigrain range, GAIA has the McVitie’s Digestive, Sunfeast has Farmlite, etc.  Britannia, Parle, Anmol, and others too have introduced digestive biscuits for the health conscious.

Healthy bakery products in the Indian context presently include four parameters. Besides being endowed with whole grains, vitamins and minerals, they should also have low sugar and salt content and contain less trans fat and saturated fats. Besides, they should preferably satisfy the allergen concerns, holistically.

Avoiding Trans Fat

Fats are used in bakery products to enhance the shelf life in bakery products. But with the people becoming more health conscious and the authorities making it necessary for the Indian bakery industry to declare the content of trans fats and saturated fats on the labels of packaged food along with other nutritional information, the Indian bakery industry is seeking low trans fat oils from the oil manufacturers, who are now gearing up to manufacture special low trans or trans-free products.

It is hard to imagine a basic category of bakery ingredients that has changed more over the years than fats and oils. The big move out of animal fats into vegetable oils during the 1970s was only the tip of the iceberg. Whether produced by blending or breeding, the new oils eliminate trans fat, reduce saturated fats and bring omega-3 fats into everyday products.

Researchers at Dow AgroSciences have developed Omega-9 oils using traditional plant breeding. Omega-9 Canola oil allows, according to the company, the food service and food processing industries to reduce “bad” (trans and saturated) fats and increase “good” (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats in food products, without sacrificing food’s taste, oil functionality or performance. The company claims that the oil is uniquely high in heart-healthy monounsaturated or omega-9 fats.

AAK Kamani Pvt. Ltd. too has come up with a range of new products. Prakash Chawla, the CEO of the company, lists the new range of oils to help bakery industry improve its quality along with facilitating health and profitability. The company has come up with CakeLite, PuffLite and KLite;  shortenings and margarines which add value to the finished products. PuffLite is a trans fat free bakery shortening ideally suited for puff products such as croissants, puff pastries, etc. K-Lite is a trans-fat-free aerated multi-purpose bakery shortening which finds application in various bakery products and performs better than your average commercially available margarine or bakery shortening. K-Lite is a new-age bakery fat that effectively performs the function of 3 fats. CakeLite is a trans fat free margarine, ideally suited for making spongy and light tea time cakes.

Some other products are TastePuff (a Vanaspati for making flaky and tasty khari and puff products), K-Cookiez (aerated bakery shortening for making lighter and crunchy cookies), K-Puff (specialty fat of harder consistency with good plasticity used for khari /puff pastry), Kmeetha (a refined vegetable fat used for making cookies, nankhatai and biscuits) and Komplete (a refined interesterified vegetable fat used for making pej butter and cheese sticks).

In the opinion of Ernesto Hernandez, Director of Process Development at OmegaPure, Houston, Texas, USA, “Nutritionally better fats and oils hold great promise. It opens the baking industry’s products to a whole new market of informed consumers, who are willing to spend extra on healthier products. ”

Sugar Replacements

Besides low trans fat and whole grain spruced bakery products the health conscious consumers are also demanding sugar free bakery products. This is not the concern of only diabetics but of the public in general.

There are over a dozen reasons to swap refined white sugar for alternative sweeteners when baking. Low calorie and substitute sweeteners like sucralose, FOS, Asulfame K, Aspartame, Polyols, Trehalose are often used to reduce the sugar content and reduce the elevation of GI in baked products. In Canada, its main product maple syrup is also often used in baked products. However, it must be noted that sugar doesn’t just contribute sweetness to a recipe. It also leavens  or infuses air to baked goods, contributes to browning, and adds chewiness and crispness to the baked products. Additionally, sugar draws moisture from the air and into the baked goods, which helps keep them moist for days.

Baking is as much a science as it is an art. So one has to be careful while replacing sugar in baked products.

One of the substitutes for sugar is honey. Honey is a flavour powerhouse. Not only is it rich, intense, and syrupy-sweet, the honey comes in wide varieties. However, you can’t use honey in any recipe that requires creaming.

Pure honey is a healthy sweetener for drinks as well as desserts. Unprocessed raw honey is endowed with several beneficial attributes. It has vitamins and trace amounts of minerals, iron, calcium, and copper among others. Raw honey contains antibacterial and antiviral qualities, which help in internal cell repair and degenerative conditions, as well as heart disease. It is also great for those prone to allergies, and speeds up the process of healing eye infections and curing throat conditions. Honey is an anytime energy booster. But as with all sweet stuff, too much of it can make one pack on a little extra weight.

Jaggery is another natural sweetener. It is made by boiling concentrated sugarcane contents until it hardens. It is good for boosting one’s immunity and iron level, and preventing constipation, detoxifying the liver, curing cough and cold, warming the body in winters, as well as being a source of energy. As with honey, jaggery can be a little high on the calories, so consume it in moderation

Stevia is a South American herb. It is an effective sweetening substitute for those with Type 2 diabetes, and also for those with suppressed high blood pressure. This sugar substitute has no effect on your blood sugar, and it can actually improve insulin sensitivity, which helps your body effectively use glucose for energy.

If you are looking for a substitute which will give you a straight swap for sugar then Xylitol may be the answer. Despite its synthetic sounding name, Xylitol is extracted from hardwood trees and the fibres of some fruits and vegetables. With fewer calories than refined sugar and a low glycaemic index (GI) it has less of an impact on blood sugar levels, which means you can enjoy that sweet taste without the resulting ‘rush’ that regular sugar gives you. It has another benefit – it does not cause dental decay.

Pure organic maple syrup is another great natural option for sweetener. 100 percent maple syrup contains up to 54 antioxidant compounds and it can help fight cancer, improve your skin, and even fight bloating, among other benefits.

Coconut sugar, having a taste similar to that of brown sugar, contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It also has a lower glycemic index than refined sugar, thereby helping to keep your blood sugar and insulin levels steadier.

Fruits and vegetables too are natural sweeteners. Popular veggie choices in bakery operations are carrots, parsnips and beetroot – these all work exceedingly well in developing sweet treats. Fruit is amazingly versatile. There are fruits like pineapple and mango which can help sweeten several products – like cakes. One of the important things in mind while using fruit and vegetable in bakery products is to make sure they are as ripe as possible. Dried fruits like dates, sultanas, prunes and apricots are concentrated sources of sweetness; they are spruced with fibre and nutrients including iron and potassium. They make a great choice for boosting the sweetness of a recipe or as a puree for adding extra moisture and stickiness.

Yes, the latest trend in the Indian bakery industry is to prepare baked products that stress on the well-being and health of the consumers, without compromising on the taste factor. To sum up one can say that the Indian bakery products’ consumers are today extremely health conscious and the Indian bakery industry is prepared and by and large, equipped to serve their needs.

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