As a nation, there’s no doubt we love bread. The UK bakery market is worth a staggering £3.6bn and is one of the largest markets in the food industry.Not only is bread an important source of fibre and carbohydrates, it’s also highly versatile, which explains why it has been an integral part of our diets for thousands of years.
Although our love for bread dates back centuries, little is known about its origins. Bread-makers from the Stone Age took flour made from wild wheat and barley, mixed it with the pulverised roots of plants and added water, before baking. This is a far cry from the bread we find in our local supermarkets today.
Now considered a cheap household staple, a loaf of bread can be considered a mass-produced commodity, often made using cheaper lower quality ingredients, resulting in a loss of taste, nutrition and health benefits previously associated with the dietary staple.
Here at Vegbred, we’re on a mission to educate the nation that bread can be veg-packed, nutritious and delicious. As a result, we’ve explored industry trends and what the future holds for the much-loved family staple.
Current market state
The present reality is that shoppers do not associate commodified mass-produced bread with health and vitality anymore, it is too often considered a throw away item. For many consumers, bread is a cheap carrier for other foods with few considering the value of the bread itself as a key ingredient within a meal.
In addition, the commodified bread market has reduced by 12% in the last five years while 31% of infrequent bread consumers have switched to low carb alternatives, suggesting there is a changing appetite in the food that consumers source.
Largely fuelled by the popularity of plant-based and gluten free diets, in addition to the UK childhood obesity crisis (which is the highest in Europe), health-conscious shoppers are consistently seeking alternatives, generating demand for new sectors of the market to grow.
The return of artisan bread
An emerging trend and one we think will continue to grow over the coming years in the bakery scene is the reversion back to craft and artisan bread, reformulating the traditional with a modern approach. These techniques reflect the origins of how bread was made by our ancestors, using quality ingredients and processes that create amazing flavours, nutrition and aromas.
This reversion is driven by three key bakery trends; Health Value, Premium Quality and Flavour. Subverting from the more traditional wheat loaf, the ‘Free From’ bread category is growing by 17% year-on-year, powered by a more health conscious generation of consumers who can easily access nutritional advice online and understand the relationship between nutrition and its effects on the body. High quality ingredients are essential in providing the nutritional benefits and flavours sought by the modern-day bread consumer.
So, what does the future hold?
Vegbred sees that change is certain. Innovation and staying up to date with key trends are vital in remaining competitive in the bread market, and the challenge producers will face is in finding ways to do this on a mass scale.
As the market for bread is reverting to one based on artisan craft principles, it can be compared to the emergence of the craft beer brewing movement. In the brewing industry, the micro and craft revolution changed the landscape and created a whole new sector where beer became innovative and interesting again. We believe the bread industry is set to head in the same direction, paving the way for the popularity of a healthier alternative to mass-produced brands.
Jon Barfoot is co-founder of Vegbred, a 100% natural bread made with fresh sweet potato.