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.

Bakery products are a grocery staple in India, with bread and biscuits being consumed daily. This makes the bakery category ideally placed to respond to growing concerns across the market around the need to live healthier lifestyles.

A rise in lifestyle diseases and growing environmental hazards have prompted Indian consumers to push health up the priority list and has been accelerated to do the spread of COVID-19. According to Mintel research, almost three out of four Indians have put healthy eating as a higher priority compared to before the outbreak.

Go beyond additive-free

In 2016, reports surrounding the link between processed breads and cancer caused widespread panic. Researchers found residues of potassium bromate and potassium iodate in 84% of samples collected. These additives are banned in many countries, but India continued to allow their use.

Public outcry led to the government banning potassium bromate across all foods, while calls are ongoing to ban potassium iodate as well. This, in turn, spurred a rise in additive-free claims, as Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) highlights that in the 12 months to November 2019, a quarter of bakery launches in India claimed to be free of any additives and preservatives, many explicitly citing the chemicals in question.

While additive-free claims are now common in Indian bakery, the sector could make far more broader claims around naturalness and functionality. These remain a tiny subsection of the market, which means manufacturers are missing an opportunity to offer Indian consumers an everyday boost to health.

Moreover, a rise in lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, and growing environmental hazards have made Indian consumers far more aware of seeking out healthy foods, and bakery is well placed to respond. Brands in India have an opportunity to go further by innovating with functional benefits, low sugar and healthy grains. Moreover, the use of multigrain in bakery creates opportunities for brands to layer together multiple health claims in the same product, optimising convenience for consumers.

ITC Aashirvaad Sugar Release Control Atta
This multigrain flour with low glycemic index claims to slowly release sugar in the body, thus helping in sustained and steady blood sugar levels. It is also said to keep hunger satisfied for longer and to help maintain an active lifestyle.

Earthspired Coffee Crunch Multigrain Cookies
These cookies are said to be free from gluten, added colours and flavours and rich in iron and calcium. This 100% natural product is made with millet, which is said to provide all essential nutrients to nourish the mind and body and keep hunger at bay.

Offering guilt-free indulgences

A greater awareness around health has also led to increased guilt among Indian consumers around impulse purchases, such as bakery. Brands thus have an opportunity to allay this by pairing indulgence with health benefits and creating baked goods that fit effortlessly into healthy lifestyles.

Consumers today are interested in positive/functional health benefits to counteract some of the guilt around indulging in this category, especially sweet bakery brands. Brands that can offer products that satisfy their appetite for indulgence but allay any guilt with functional health benefits. For example, the launch by Karachi Bakery manages to do just that. It pairs a focus on taste and enjoyment with added vitamins, minerals and protein to provide what it describes as a “guilt-free binge”.

Karachi Bakery Oats & Honey Biscuits
The product is said to be a deliciously healthy and features a combination of ingredients packed with important vitamins, minerals and protein for a guilt-free binge. This vegetarian product claims to be rich in antioxidants and nutrients and helps with weight loss.

What we think

Health scares have already thrust elements of the bread and bakery category into a negative spotlight in India. To support consumers’ quest for healthy lifestyles, brands have an opportunity to spotlight a wider range of healthy attributes, exploring added functionality, lower-sugar recipes and whole grain/multigrain credentials.