Katya Witham
Katya Witham is Senior Food & Drink Analyst, identifying and exploring the major trends across various FMCG categories, giving invaluable insights into global markets.

Ever heard of ‘muddy buns’? Also known as ‘dirty, dirty bread’, translated from Chinese ‘zang zang bao’, this messy-to-eat bakery creation is a croissant covered in cocoa powder and filled with layers of rich chocolate sauce. Inspired by Japanese chocolate croissants and first created by Beijing-based Bad Farmers & Our Bakery in early 2017, this indulgent pastry was named as one of China’s trendiest baked goods of 2017. The hype even spread to Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia within a year.

Credit: Bad Farmers & Our Bakery

Credit: John Lim

A major factor contributing to the soaring popularity of dirty bread in Asia is the social media frenzy around the fact that this pastry is simply impossible to eat without creating a mess. Muddy buns quickly became popular with celebrities and online influencers, who have taken to Chinese social media platforms such as Wechat and Weibo to share images of their ‘muddy bun face’ experience.

Dirty bread clearly taps into Mintel’s 2016 Food and Drink Trend ‘Eat With Your Eyes’, which highlights how visual and share-focused societies call for innovations that are boldly coloured, artfully constructed and fun to eat.

Young consumers are drawn more to new sensory experiences

The popularity of dirty bread in Asia offers an example of how food and drink designed with a new sensory and/or interactive dimension can help to engage younger iGeneration consumers who are hungry for new experiences. The childhood, teen and young adult years are often life stages when people are experimental and curious. Yet, the iGeneration is not only experimental because they are young, but also because they have grown up with technology that has given them access to inspiration from around the world, as well as the motivation to share their noteworthy experiences.

Bakery producers can benefit from a more experimental approach

Although the dirty bread craze could certainly turn out to be a fad, it represents a more experimental and interactive approach to bakery and highlights scope for bakery manufacturers to innovate with novel product formats to engage with younger consumer generations.