Bread has long served as an integral part of the Australian diet and a vehicle for a range of nutrients.
But in recent years it has become a target of negative press surrounding carbohydrates and grains, which has led to many nutritious grain foods - including bread - being avoided.
The 2017 Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC) Consumption Study shed light on the effects this consumer concern has had on consumption of grain foods, with data showing a 30 per cent drop between 2011 and 2014 in Australia, highlighting a change in consumer behaviour.
A recent GLNC audit, however, has demonstrated continuing positive shifts in the bread category, thanks to manufacturer innovation and changing demand by Australian consumers.
These changes have been supported by a more positive focus in the media's attitude to bread and other grain foods, moving towards a focus on the benefits of choosing quality carbohydrates as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Promoting quality carbohydrates
Encouragingly, the 2019 audit has highlighted the move that industry is making towards promotion of quality carbohydrates, with the number of wholegrain breads on supermarket shelves increasing by almost half (43 per cent) in just two years, reflecting consumer demand for better-quality carbohydrates.
In addition to more wholegrains in the market, manufacturers are increasingly communicating wholegrain content and their benefits to consumers via on-pack claims.
Since 2017, there's been an 87 per cent increase in the number of breads making wholegrain claims and, in line with the growth in focus on digestive health - the number-one trend for the fourth year running, according to the 'New Nutrition Business 2020 Trends Report' - fibre claims are up 40 per cent.
The audit data also demonstrated an increase in the size of the category, with a 73 per cent increase in the number of products - including:
- 323 new breads on-shelf (42 per cent more loaves);
- 370 per cent more flatbreads; and
- 85 per cent more rolls.
In the 2019 audit, in-store bakery breads were captured for the first time in the audit's history, accounting for 24 per cent of new products.
With so many new products on-shelf, there have also been positive shifts in the nutrition profile of breads in 2019, with a five-milligram reduction in sodium across the board, as well as minor decreases in saturated fat and sugar.
In line with the sodium reformulation targets, 53 per cent of breads now meet the current target of less than 380mg of sodium per 100 grams, compared to 48 per cent meeting the 2017 target of less than 400mg/100g, demonstrating the push from manufacturers to reformulate breads.
Innovative products creating demand
Other changes in the category have been driven by major trends pushing innovation in bread, with a number of new products using legumes in various formats (up 21 per cent) and a 260 per cent increase in breads including vegetables as a key ingredient.
These changes, along with the shift in wholegrain products, tie in with consumer focus on 'better' carbohydrates, a desire for new products with innovative ingredients and demand for functional products - which provide added nutritional benefits.
In addition, the increase in on-pack claims highlights industry understanding for clear communication of the nutritional benefits of everyday foods such as bread, with current figures also demonstrating that more can be done to increase wholegrain availability for all Australians.
GLNC is playing its part in encouraging bread consumption in line with changing trends by communicating consumer messaging on bread as an everyday staple, in the form of its third 'Bring Back the Sandwich' campaign scheduled for early 2020.
More information: www.glnc.org.au