Health & Wellness Meets Indulgence – What consumers expect from bakeries today

Clean labels, plant-based alternatives, and sustainability are dominant trends in the food industry today. They were top headlines out of the recent IBIE Show and Winter Fancy Food Show and should continue for the near future. So how does a bakery business known for indulgence fit with the modern consumer?

Fortunately, today’s consumer also loves dessert, indulgence, and acknowledges having a mindful balance in their diet. But that’s not to say their expectations for bakery haven’t changed – they certainly have. Gone are the days of not reading the label because you KNEW that you didn’t want to KNOW. Now, along with eye-catching and delicious baked goods, ingredients labels are a differentiator in the bakery.

Incorporating these top trends into your bakery can have a range of challenges, from niche new product introductions to complicated reformulations, and more expensive sourcing. Fortunately, the rising demand for better-for-you bakery claims has resulted in an influx of solutions to help you meet the new expectations.

Clean Labels

More than ever, consumers are seeking clean labels in all their food choices. They desire the perception of fresh, artisan-style quality with familiar, identifiable ingredients and the exclusion of artificial ones. Consumers now view unpronounceable ingredients to be processed or harmful.

26% of consumers are interested in “free form” descriptors


Since the notion of “clean label” has yet to be defined by the FDA, it is open to interpretation. Many bakers are defining it by “free from” terms that best resonate with consumers. Some large commercial bakeries are leaning into this trend with specific declarations and helping to set industry expectations for a “clean label”.

The challenge of updating formulations for “free from” is with achieving the same taste, quality, product performance, and shelf life expectations. The ingredient companies are stepping up with innovations in this area to help bakers meet consumer expectations for both clean labels and indulgence.

Plant-Based Ingredients

Interest in plant-based foods has penetrated the mainstream. Consumers are seeking new tastes, healthier choices, and yes, vegan options. And those expectations extend to indulgent items like pastries and desserts, where the dairy ingredients are what makes them so delicious.

Culinary creativity and technology again prevail with helping bakers enter the vegan pastry arena. With coconut milk and apple sauce to replace dairy milk and eggs and increasing uses of soy ingredients, bakeries can now introduce more vegan options that meet their high-quality standards.


Younger consumers are actively seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint, and they support those brands and companies that share in these efforts. The portion of all consumers prioritizing sustainable food choices has risen 23% in just one year, indicating a strong movement towards not only greater awareness, but also more significant benefits for those businesses taking a sustainability stance.

For bakeries, sustainability can take many different shapes. Fair-trade ingredient sourcing, compostable, or recyclable packaging made from renewable sources, and reducing food waste are all top ways for a bakery to integrate this trend into their business.

Share the Journey

Consumers today seek transparency and authenticity from companies and products. As you integrate more of these trends into your products, be sure to tell the story. Don’t just do it, shout it! Share your plans, progress, and successes with your consumers on packaging, in-store, and online. Bring your customers into your journey, ask for feedback, make them feel involved in the process. Remember, consumers today share everything. Encourage their engagement and make them an active part of your progress so they can use their online influence to generate even more fans for your business.

Catherine Porter is a marketing consultant specializing in the food industry. Known for her comprehensive understanding of foodservice trends, consumer insights, and industry dynamics with the ability and vision to synthesize the information into new products, strategies, and solutions for operators and manufacturers. You can find Catherine on Twitter at @cpmktservices or on LinkedIn.

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