The number of UK consumers baking at home fell by 8% this year – a drop likely sparked by fears around sugar but one that could be remedied with stevia, says a Mintel analyst.
In 2013, 85% of UK adults baked at home but in 2014 the figure stands at just over 77%, according to Mintel data.
Retail sales were also trending downwards with a 2% year-on-year decline in value terms forecast for 2014. The retail value of baking mixes was set to drop from £59m ($99.5m) in 2012 to £52m ($87.7m) in 2014.
Emma Clifford, senior food analyst at Mintel and author of the annual research, said the downward trend was a shock.
“For years we’ve been talking about a boom in baking; it looks like it really has come to an end. It’s quite a sudden turnaround – it surprised me,” she told BakeryandSnacks.com.
One of the main factors that had contributed to this particular downfall in 2014, she said, was the “big sugar scare”.
“Sugar has really hit the headlines; it has had a lot of media attention and for that reason it has got onto consumers’ radars. Even though people love baking, when you start seeing messages about sugar being dangerous to your health, suddenly baking might not be as attractive as it was before,” she said.
One-third (35%) of Brits who had baked at home in the past year said they now limited how often they baked for health reasons, with a further 31% stating they often looked for ideas to make recipes healthier.
Stevia baking holds promise
To remedy this fear around sugar, manufacturers in the home baking category had to offer up alternatives, Clifford said.
Sweeteners like stevia, for example, held huge promise, she said, with 27% of home bakers stating they would be interested in trying baking mixes with natural sweeteners.
“That’s a quarter of all bakers – that’s fairly sizeable. Going down the stevia route offers quite a lot of opportunities for manufacturers because people are getting more au fait with sweeteners – it’s something that’s becoming more acceptable.”
However, for the time being, manufacturers in the EU are unable to use stevia and other high-intensity sweeteners as they have not been approved for use in bakery, baking mixes etc.
"While mixes using sweeteners such as stevia are not permitted in the EU, the interest in low-sugar mixes highlights the wider demand for healthier baking," Clifford said.
There were, she said, a number of "half-way" sugar alternatives on the market however - like Silver Spoon's half granulated sugar - made with a blend of sugar and sweeteners.
Education on baking with sweeteners would be critical
However, she said it would remain a challenge to convince consumers to use sweeteners or blends instead of regular sugar.
Just under one-third (29%) of home bakers said they would not feel as confident baking with sweeteners, compared to sugar.
“If manufacturers really wanted to push the idea of people baking with sweeteners, then education there would definitely be key because we found a large proportion of people wouldn’t feel as confident baking with sweeteners – they’re worried about the outcome, the texture, etc,” Clifford said.
The key to success would fall down to education, she added. “…Because it might take quite a lot to actually switch. Consumers might prefer to simply just bake less, rather than switch to stevia. Taste is absolutely key – people don’t want to compromise on taste when baking.”
Stevia is permitted in baked goods in other countries, including the US and South America.
* This article has been corrected as it previously stated stevia-sugar baking mixes were on the market, which is not the case as stevia is not approved in the EU baking category. Products that are available on the market are sugar alternatives, like sugar-sweetener blends that can be used in home baking.