Creating experiences in the new normal

The past couple of years made us realize how much we rely on getting together with friends and family — and on just getting out, period, and doing things that don’t involve a screen — to add meaning and fulfillment to our lives.

There’s another word for it: experiences. And it has quickly jumped to the top of the list of merchandising musts for bakers and manufacturers and people throughout the food industry. As 2021 comes to a close, it’s clear that experience-based marketing works and will be here to stay in 2022 and beyond.

Bakers have always known they have a built-in advantage when it comes to creating experiences. Few things compare with the multi-sensory experience of going to your local bakery.

Bakers, manufacturers, instore bakery managers and other purveyors can build on that foundation with new packaging, branding, dietary callouts and other tools to tap into that pent-up demand for meaningful experiences created during the pandemic.

Personalization, premium ingredients, nostalgia marketing, shelf-life extension and “Instagram-ability” are among some of the many other possibilities that can go into making a memorable experience.

Healthy outlook

Going forward, more and more consumers will look to include health and wellness under the experience umbrella. The pandemic drove home how important feeling good holistically — physically and mentally — is to enjoying life to the fullest.

Foods that promote better sleep, reduced stress and improved focus are in demand and driving product innovation. This concept of food as medicine went mainstream during COVID, and that’s not going to change once the pandemic is in the rearview for good. Consumers are demanding foods that help them build immunity, prevent inflammation, aid their digestive health, relieve stress and anxiety and promote other healthy behavior.

In baked goods, 2021 saw the growth of products incorporating more whole grains or low-carb, keto, gluten-free or plant-based options into breads and other products. Expect that trend to continue to gain momentum in 2022.

As they did this year, in the New Year, people will continue to search for experiences that make up for lost time, and food is central to much of that. One surefire way to guarantee a memorable consumer experience is to give them something one-of-a-kind, a taste or texture that’s not easy to replicate.

Fermentation’s role

Increasingly, bakers and manufacturers are using fermentation to create just those kinds of effects, and it’s a trend that should be on tastemakers’ radars for some years to come.

In the fermentation process, because the cultures and micro-organisms used are different in each substrate, each fermented food has its own particular taste. What they have in common is just as important: through control and monitoring, the fermentation process makes foods more flavorful. That translates into unique characteristics for sourdough and other types of bread.

Corbion’s PuraQ® Arome brand enhances the qualities that fermentation nationally provides in baked goods, including the development of desirable flavors.

By bringing back some of the natural organic acids that are missed when bakery processes are expedited, PuraQ® Arome  — a full portfolio of functional solutions — amplifies the delicious, fresh, natural bakery flavor that develops in the fermentation process — a big improvement on the sharp, bitter, sour or off flavors that traditional solutions often yield.

Whatever “normal” means in 2022 and beyond, consumers will be returning to the experiences that add meaning and joy to their lives, and baked goods and other foods will continue to play a central role in them.