Making – and keeping – baked goods fresh

What makes baked goods “fresh”?

Consumers use more than just their taste buds to answer that question. Take sight. It’s a truism in the retail world that people buy with their eyes, and baked goods are no exception. Bread should have a nice golden color, and it shouldn’t look squished or smashed. Sweet baked goods should appear moist. They shouldn’t be oiling or look too wet. If they have icing, it shouldn’t be dry or cracked.

Smell, touch and even sound also play vital roles in determining freshness. A chemical or other off-putting smell can be a deal-breaker. If a baked good feels soft but not squishy, there’s a good chance it’s fresh.

And if a passing shopper hears the sounds of baked goods being made in an instore bakery, they might be inclined to steer their cart in that direction. Sound can also be an indicator of freshness during consumption. Take the crunch of artisan bread, a sound everyone loves to hear when they break off a piece or take a bite.

Taste, of course, is still the main factor. If a product tastes too dry, is gummy or has an off flavor, consumers will likely think twice before purchasing it again.

Shoppers know what “fresh” is via their taste buds. But beyond that, they’re willing to accept a more flexible definition than in the past, said Kathy Sargent, strategic innovation director for Lenexa, Kansas-based Corbion.

“Because par-baked or ready-to-bake items are thawed and baked in-house, most consumers perceive them to be ‘fresh,’” she said.

That’s great news for bakers, who often face restraints associated with time and skilled labor. “Scratch baking is labor-intensive and often involves high costs,” Sargent said. “Frozen bakery products do not involve scratch ingredients, so they require less time and labor, allowing bakers to work more efficiently.”

With baked goods that are thawed and baked instore, consumers still hear bakers working. They still smell the products being baked.

The result? They perceive them to be fresh.

No topping freshness

A lot has changed in the food industry over the past several years, Sargent said. Consumers can purchase and consume products from a number of different places, including grocery stores, online retailers like Amazon — even c-stores and delivery service apps.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the primacy of freshness. It’s still the number one factor that consumers consider when purchasing baked goods — and they’ll think twice about a repeat purchase if an item isn’t up to par.

“Our proprietary research shows that 28% of consumers check freshness and price before purchasing packaged sandwich bread, and 81% of consumers expect their bread to last one to two weeks after the purchase date,” Sargent said.

A growing number of consumers are also looking for products that are free from overly processed ingredients, but they aren’t willing to sacrifice freshness at the expense of cleaner labels. Fortunately for bakers, because these products are free from harmful ingredients or anything overly processed, consumers — especially millennials and Gen-Zers — also view them as fresher.

While freshness trumps all, other product attributes contribute to the perception of freshness, Sargent said.

For example, Corbion research shows that 62% of consumers check appearance, texture or softness when determining the freshness of baked goods, and these are the most important factors they consider when evaluating freshness and purchasing baked goods.

“Scratch baking is labor-intensive and often involves high costs. Frozen bakery products do not involve scratch ingredients, so they require less time and labor, allowing bakers to work more efficiently.”

Kathy Sargent, Corbion

Corbion offers its customers several solutions to help them make their products as fresh as they can be.

Corbion’s Ultra Fresh® and Ultra Fresh® Sweet enzyme solutions offer several days of extended freshness for instore bakery products and up to 45 days of extended freshness for packaged baked goods. Not only do they help industrial bakers meet consumer preferences, they also reduce waste caused by stales and offer additional selling opportunities from fuller shelves.

“We can also tailor our enzyme solutions to address specific aspects of freshness, including issues with softness, moistness, resilience, tenderness and shelf life,” Sargent said.

Corbion’s SweetPro™ solutions, meanwhile, keep fruit inclusions and other ingredients from sinking to the bottom or drying out end applications. That’s important for instore bakeries, Sargent said, because consumers expect a certain level of freshness from the products. Corbion also has the ability to customize its solutions based on the desired texture and tolerance to ensure quality throughout production.

Corbion also provides its customers with frozen dough solutions and easy-to-use baking blends that combine the company’s science, technology and innovation expertise to help bakers consistently and easily create longer-lasting, better tasting and on-trend baked goods with less hassle and waste.

With additional freshness and extended expiration dates, bakery manufacturers can reduce waste and save money. Using a combination of enzymes and emulsifiers also helps them control crumb toppings and icings, as well as reduce stickiness, which in turn contributes to creating the premium look that today’s consumers want.

“Working side by side with our customers allows us to identify and implement the most fitting solutions for their specific application and consumer needs,” Sargent said.