Consumers are Back in the Kitchen
By Karen Barr
With the onset of COVID-19, Canadians stockpiled their pantries with baking ingredients. Consumers were buying in bulk to avoid frequent shopping trips. Lockdowns forced the country to stay home, which allowed for more time in the kitchen.
According to the FCC Food and Beverage Report 2021, Canadian grocery sales were up 12.3 per cent overall. In comparison, sugar sales were up 20.8 per cent, whipping cream 20 per cent and nuts and snacking fruit 17.1 per cent. Baking mixes and ingredient sales combined increased by 24.7 per cent last year according to Mintel.
“What will everyone do with their newfound baking skills?” asks Blake Isaac, senior category manager at Bob’s Red Mill, headquartered in Milwaukie, Oregon. “Our consumer research shows that 54 per cent expect to bake as much as they did during the height of the pandemic, and 26 per cent are looking to bake even more.”
“At Bob’s Red Mill, we certainly see gluten free as a leading claim at retail. Demand for our gluten free flours (such as Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Baking Flour), cereals and baking mixes remains strong,” says Isaac.
“While we expect demand for organic products to increase overall, we find that people are looking for whole, natural ingredients they can feel good about, whether that’s organic or conventional,” Isaac explains. “At Bob’s, that means we’ve seen growth across the board for our products, with ingredients like whole grains, oatmeal ( such as Bob’s Red Extra Thick Rolled Oats), traditional and alternative flours.”
Baking at home allows consumers to control the ingredients in the goods they eat. For vegan and dairy free products bakers can replace cream in recipes with equal parts coconut milk, and milk with almond milk.
A vegan and dairy free butter replacement can be mashed avocados or butter substitutes like Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, available through Conagra Brands, headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. The product is made with expeller pressed soybean, palm fruit, canola, and olive oil. “Vegan Buttery Sticks should be brought to room temperature, up to five hours before baking,” says a spokesperson for the company.
The Flour Story
A variety of flours are used in home baking. All purpose flour generally contains between eight to 12 per cent protein, allowing it to hold its structure. Bread flour with 12- 14 per cent protein, helps to form more gluten in bread. Cake flour has only five to nine per cent protein, providing a light crumb.
Today, flour goes way beyond wheat. Think buckwheat, chickpea, coconut, oat, rice or spelt, to name a few.
Some products contain mixes of various flours. In Ottawa, Ontario, registered holistic nutritionist Peter de Hoog created Peetz S.M.A.R.T Blend, a one-to-one cup healthy flour replacement, containing ancient grains like sorghum, millet, and brown rice. “You can bake almost anything with it,” says de Hoog.
Keeping it Sweet
According to the Canadian Sugar Institute, granulated sugar is the most common form of sugar used in households. Finely ground granulated sugar becomes icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar. Adding molasses to granulated sugar creates brown sugar, yellow sugar, and golden sugar.
Then, there are alternative sugars such as coconut or maple sugar. Sweeteners that have not been refined include products like maple syrup, or honey. Another way to replace refined sugar in baking includes eliminating half of the sugar in the recipe and incorporating pureed dates, bananas, and unsweetened apple sauce. Adding vanilla extract, cinnamon or nutmeg will help the flavour to pop.
Fleischmann’s has the world of yeast covered for all things bread related, from savoury to sweet. Active Dry Yeast can be used to develop a richer more artisanal yeast flavour. RapidRise Yeast, as the name suggests, cuts down on rise time. Bread Machine Yeast, is a time saving yeast for all bread machines.
Baking soda and baking powder give lift to many goods. “Magic Baking Powder is an essential ingredient in baking and is used for a variety of goods like cakes, quick breads, cookies, pastries, pies and so much more,” says Bindia Wijesekera, senior associate category business manager, desserts & infant, Kraft Heinz Canada.
All About Eggs
Amanda Brittain, director of communications and marketing at BC Egg, in Abbotsford, British Columbia, says when choosing eggs for baking customers should consider how dark the yolk is.
“The yolk colour changes based on what the hen eats. More corn in the diet makes a dark yellow yolk, while more wheat makes for a paler yolk. Also, if the hens go outside and eat grass and bugs, the yolks tend to be darker as well.”
While the color of a lemon curd will be enhanced with darker yolks from an organic or free-range chicken, a white angel food cake may not. “ Here, you might want to bake with eggs from a free run or enriched colony hen.”
Sales and Merchandising Tips
“We’ve started to see shoppers wanting natural products featured alongside conventional favorites,” says Isaac. “If there is a 12-foot flour set, many people prefer to have the first four feet be natural or alternative products, followed by 8 feet of conventional products. This allows for an easier shopping experience and drives great basket size for the retailer, as 85-90 per cent of natural flour shoppers also buy conventional flour.”
As for holiday displays Wijesekera adds, “Key seasonal timeframes for baking include the festive season in December, Thanksgiving, and Easter. Cross-merchandising in out-of-aisle destinations with complimentary baking items like flour or baking chips can help drive seasonal sales.”
The upswing of baking at home was a direct result of the pandemic. Yet, the trend continues. Savvy grocers will capitalize on opportunities, by stocking their shelves with ingredients home bakers crave, while spreading the joy of baking.
Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Baking Flour is a unique blend of almond flour, arrowroot starch, coconut flour and tapioca flour, combined in the perfect proportions for easy grain free baking. Think grain free pizza, flatbread, crackers, cookies, muffins, and cakes.
Good for You Fibre
Oats are a great source of fibre. Just a half cup of Bob’s Red Extra Thick Rolled Oats contains five grams of the nutrient. Oats are a good source of both soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. A bonus for the digestive system! Add oats to muffins, cookies, and homemade baked granolas.
A Pinch of Nostalgia
“Most bakers have a nostalgic and loyal relationship with Magic Baking Powder, only substituting it when they absolutely must,” says Bindia Wijesekera, senior associate category business manager, desserts & infant, Kraft Heinz Canada. “Whether it’s for the perfect rise, airy-ness, or fluffy-ness for their baked goods, bakers rely on Magic Baking Powder to get crowd-pleasing results.”
Free of What You Do Not Want
Peetz S.M.A.R.T Blend, a healthy alternative flour can be used as a cup per cup replacement flour in favourite recipes. It is free from wheat, gluten, corn, dairy, soy, potato, white rice, and modified starches. What it contains instead are healthy ancient grains like sorghum, millet, and brown rice.
In Canada, there are five types of eggs that correspond to the five housing types for hens: conventional caged, enriched, free run, free range, and organic. There is no nutritional difference between these eggs, only how the hens are housed. “ Organic eggs continue to be popular in BC,” says Amanda Brittain, director of communications and marketing at BC Egg.