Millennials are the new ‘bread and butter’


Times change and tastes change with them.

Wrapped bread, once the must-have addition to almost every shopping basket and trolley, is not the force it once was, with sales down nearly 4% in the last year alone.

However, other breads and bread products are on the rise thanks, in no small part, to the more adventurous Millennials’, helped by their 65+ baby-boomer counterparts and their greater access to disposable income.

So, with low-carb diets, concerns about gluten and a slowdown in sandwich alternatives all impacting on the UK bread market, which are the areas now generating their own valuable slice of the action?

Perhaps the biggest influence on new growth is the continuing shift in our eating habits and patterns. A booming vegetarian and flexitarian trend, coupled with a desire to eat more healthily, has spawned a generation looking for alternatives to anything from breakfast toast to the traditional lunchtime butty.

And the ‘blurring of the day parts’ has added further to the effect, replacing the conventional three square meals a day with all-day breakfasts, brunches, snacking and a whole new food-to-go explosion.

Satisfying this demand is everything from beetroot flatbread squares to savoury mini-Danish, from paninis on menus everywhere to panettones wherever you look.

We’re travelling more too, exploring distant destinations, discovering new cuisines, and bringing back with us a taste for something different and more exotic. All of which explains the current rush of interest in foods from the Far East, from the Pacific Rim and from North and South America.

Mexican-style corn flatbread opens up a whole new range of possibilities when packed with hickory smoked Cheddar or with spicy fajita veggie mixes, while Its North African flatbread cousin is a winner too, topped with hummus, spinach, olives and crumbled feta. And closer to home, ciabattas, focaccias and Greek olive breads are now an everyday choice…throughout the day!

Flavour trends are also creating added demand. Spicy is the new norm. Smokey BBQ is an ever-present. And cheese is enjoying a genuine renaissance with traditional favourites joined by the introduction of a whole world of new and exciting international varieties.

And all these flavours find their way into our bread with offerings featuring everything from a delicate hint of popular herbs and spices, to loaves stuffed with melt-in the mouth cheese, like Pão de Queijo, the famous Brazilian dough balls filled with a moreish cheese sauce.

But it’s not all about the ‘new’. One or two old favourites are now high on the agenda too. The so called ‘ancient grains’ are feeding our appetite for healthier bread and bakery products. They also tick all the right boxes for those on the provenance trail. And our old friend sourdough is showing no signs of losing its popularity with the use of ‘sourdough’ as a descriptor almost doubling in the three years to 2016.

Conclusion? Wrapped bread might not be quite the force it once was but – low carb diets or not – bread in general is absolutely on course to retain its status as our staple food thanks to a vast new range of freshly baked choices from far and wide.

The only problem…which one to choose?

Extracts from this article first appeared in B&I Catering Magazine, Nov 2017

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