Research meets craft: Breads with a plus on health

Commercialisation Case Study

European industry group kicks off "bread of the future"

A collaborative venture of Europe’s leading bakery groups and grain experts, lead by Dutch research organisation TNO, aims to give bread in Europe a health turbo-boost, with a focus on the natural nutritional benefits of grains, with higher antioxidant activity, more fibre, better taste and an appealing emotional story for the consumer. Products are already coming to market in Germany, Italy and elsewhere.

The final conference of the EU-funded HealthBread project this September was an opportunity to draw together the insights and technologies developed over the two years of the project – and during the HealthGrain project which preceded it – and present results in the form of added-value, commercialised wholegrain breads. These are products that contain key nutrients in sufficiently well-defined proportions to permit specific health claims, highlight the importance of fermentation and bioavailability, and are already attracting new groups of consumers to healthier baked goods.

A LESSON IN TECHNICAL “TRICKLE DOWN”

HealthBread was coordinated by Dutch research organisation TNO. As consultant Jan Willem van der Kamp explains, it has led to the development of a network of technical experts, flour mills, bakeries and ingredient businesses in each of the national markets involved. In Italy and Germany/Austria, some of those businesses have acted as mentoring partners for the various bakers taking part.

Arguably, the project has as much as anything been an object lesson in how to structure and manage technical ‘trickle down’ from third party R&D via ingredient experts and suppliers to small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The premise underlying the newly-launched products is that up to now, European consumers wanting to eat more healthily have been put off by the dark colour and sometimes bitter flavour notes of wholegrain breads. At the same time, they might well have been unsure what the precise nutritional benefits were. They are likely to have been unconvinced by those white breads on offer with added non-grain fibre.

“The most authoritative agencies say we should eat naturally available fibre,” says van der Kamp. “They’re not sure about the benefits of added, purified fibres. For example, there are fibre-related health claims approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for grain products, but not for fibre such as inulin.”

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Text by Paul Gander