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The more dietary fibre we consume, for example, by eating wholemeal bread, the more we can prevent heart and vascular diseases, diabetes, obesity and similar disorders. But in most European countries, wholemeal bread is a consumer non-starter. TNO led the HealthBread EU project that aimed for a specific result: bread that feels and tastes like white bread but is as least as healthy as wholemeal bread.
The exceptional performance was acknowledged in mid January by bakeryandsnacks.com of the renowned online news service FoodNavigator.com. TNO’s Jan Willem van der Kamp, who coordinated HealthBread, was hailed as “Personality of the Year 2014”. ‘The real reward for me, however, is the broad European rollout of this concept,’ he says. ‘There are many EU projects that result in scientific publications that recommend how something should be done. In contrast, HealthBread has generated as series of tangible innovative products that are increasingly getting through to consumers and thereby making a considerable contribution to a healthier diet and, therefore, public health.’
TNO worked in a consortium with the VTT research centre of Finland, het Nederlands Bakkerij Centrum, two ingredients suppliers and thirteen SMEs, including eight bakeries that developed their own HealthBread loaves adjusted to local taste. The bread comprises exclusively components of the wheat grain, water and salt and is therefore 100% natural. Consumer research reveals that the vast majority of more than a thousand bakery customers thought the taste was excellent, wanted to buy the bread and were even willing to pay more for it. Six HealthBread bakeries are now selling this bread. This month a few of the consortium partners that operate internationally began to launch the HealthBread concept in Germany, Austria and Italy, among other countries. Later this year the Netherlands, France, Turkey and the United States will follow.
In the bakery sector it is known that adding healthy ingredients ‘from a jar’ is easy but that the natural way – using wholemeal flour exclusively – produces a bread that the European consumer does not value so much. The HealthBread study into smart milling technologies and fermentation and baking processes for dough and bread produced a solution to this problem. The result was special fibre-rich wheat flours and better absorption of key minerals like iron and zinc by the body. Bakeries can start using the recipe without much organisational or financial effort. A HealthBread Bakers Manual is available that gives information about the ingredients and processes needed and how they can inform their customers about nutrition and health benefits in line with European regulations.
So why are Dutch bakers waiting? ‘They’ve raised the bar a little higher and want to work with us to make their product even better. Innovation never stops,’ Van der Kamp says.