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Back to the Roots: Natural and Traditional Ingredients in Biscuit Making

Back to the Roots: Natural and Traditional Ingredients in Biscuit Making

Among the top trends for the biscuit industry in 2022, the idea of using traditional among common ingredients in biscuits found its way in the industry. Under the topic name of Back to the Roots, the representatives of the industry are talking about the contemporary outlook on biscuit production, mainly the consumers' desire for natural, organic, and traditional ingredients in their biscuits. As time goes on, it seems we go back to our roots and favor the simple, but confirmed choices.

The Basics of Biscuit Making

When making biscuits, the first thing you obviously need to think about is the ingredients or what goes into making a specific biscuit. The main common ingredients for biscuit making are flours, sugars, and fats. To these ingredients, various other ingredients may be added for leavening, flavor, and texture, for an overall enrichment of the biscuit.

biscuits, cookies, ingredients

The base of biscuits is wheat flour. Wheat flour contains proteins including gliadin and glutenin which in the presence of water combine to form gluten. The formation of the gluten, its strength, and its elasticity are what give biscuits their firm form (at least in the beginning). Starch is the main component of wheat flour. It represents almost all of the carbohydrate content and around 80% of the total energy content of wheat flour.

Then we have sugar, which gives sweetness, but it is also important in developing the texture of the biscuit.

Fats are a vitally important ingredient in achieving the texture, mouthfeel, and bite of the biscuit. They are produced primarily from vegetable oils but may contain hydrogenated fish oils.

Ammonium bicarbonate is a volatile salt, which is an effective leavening agent. When heated, it liberates carbon dioxide, ammonia gas, and water. Sodium bicarbonate is the most important aerating agent. When heated, it reacts with acidic materials in the dough to release carbon dioxide and water.

All of the mentioned ingredients are really what most biscuits in the world contain. They are a firm ground that you can build upon with other ingredients. This is a process of biscuit making, which is either in a private home setting or in factories, bakeries, etc. where there is more manufacturing involved.

The Traditional in the Biscuit Manufacturing

Whichever the setting, it has become evident that consumers, especially nowadays, care a lot for what they are eating in biscuits, what they are made of. Consumer desire for more natural products has been a boon for ingredients manufacturers in recent years. As consumers look for cleaner labels, manufacturers are turning to ingredients companies for solutions to integrate into their products.

A L.E.K. survey found more than 60% of consumers look for products with labels reading "no artificial ingredients," "no preservatives" and "all-natural."

Because of this, a new trend in the biscuit industry is to think about and act upon the consumers’ requirements for organic, all-natural ingredients in their biscuits. Their main concerns are that:

  1. the production is eco-friendly
  2. the food is good for them.

healthy cookie, natural biscuit

The biscuit industry needs to thus work on creating biscuits that are a product of conscious work.

It is important to keep in mind that most consumers still believe that the taste of a pre-made biscuit is always lacking after a homemade biscuit. Preservatives and artificial flavors make the flavor more intriguing but cause distrust among consumers. This is why the biscuit industry strives nowadays to get closer to homemade-feel biscuits that incorporate traditional ingredients.

Delicious snacks that not only taste good but also impress with their natural ingredients and an optimized nutritional profile are something many consumers have been looking for. Savory and sweet snacks made from cereals, fruits, and especially vegetables are becoming a regular sweet of choice for people who dislike regular processed food. These ingredients can be added to biscuits in order to enrich the biscuit eating experience.

The natural ingredients can be used in a diverse range of products and they provide cereals, cereal bars, and baked goods with an especially crispy note and a unique, natural taste. A number of natural ingredients are nowadays commonly added to biscuits to make them taste and feel more natural. Thus, fat that is used in making biscuits is ideally natural animal fat, or more commonly, organically produced butter.

Organic, gluten-free, oatmeal is very popular in biscuits with energy to give and free of any gunk. It's no wonder oatmeal is a top pick for athletes - it's nourishing, easy on the stomach, and tastebud-friendly. Spelt flour is a superfood people love to see in their treats. It's a clean nutritious grain found in Michigan and unaltered by mankind. Spelt contains higher protein than any other grain used for baking and it's easier to absorb, even for people who are wheat-intolerant.

What is an obvious addition to many biscuits are fruits for that extra sweetness and health? Fruit is a staple of healthy food and why not have it in as many forms as you can. Bananas, cranberries, raisins, etc. are all a big deal in the biscuit world. Together with fruits, biscuit producers love mixing walnuts, almonds, and peanuts into biscuits for added texture, natural protein, and subtle flavor. Natural nuts provide a nutty flavor and an added crunch for a fun chewing experience.

Consumers seem to have a new interest in natural peanut butter. Consumerist brands often process their peanut butter by homogenizing them and adding sugar to keep them shelf-stable for longer. Natural peanut butter, on the other hand, is typically made with just two ingredients: peanuts and salt (though, there are plenty of salt-free varieties too). When stored, the peanuts naturally separate from their oil, leaving a thin layer of oil on top.

Chocolate is a common ingredient in biscuits, with vegan chocolate or one that is made with the purest cocoa being popular nowadays. Consumers take interest in chocolates that contain a very high concentration of real cocoa since the ingredient is rich in nutrients.

A common substitute for sugar is the much healthier honey or maple syrup.

Cook Smart with Natural Ingredients

natural ingredients

Baking often involves creating brand new, solid structures with ingredients that are completely different shapes and structures on their own. This means that baking is a process of putting together ingredients of a different consistency to form a new product. As a result, you really need a solid understanding of all the different chemical reactions that are causing baked goods to rise and set the way that they do. So it’s ok to use different, natural ingredients instead of artificial ones (like honey instead of sugar) but keep in mind that sometimes they change the texture and consistency of the cookie. Natural ingredients still need to be mixed in a way to create the wanted shape, consistency, and texture of a biscuit.

The trend to naturalness has also made its way to the confectionery industry. To meet the growing consumer demand, companies, such as Doehler, for example, has developed a wide range of fruit gums with valuable ingredients, such as proteins or botanical extracts and their hard-boiled candies also contain Acerola Fruit Powder and an increased amount of vitamin C. Natural ingredients are based on natural products, but it is important to know that many additives, such as preservatives, are artificial and thus not optimal for human health. This is why in the biscuit industry if there is a need for preservatives, they should be natural preservatives.

Attributes of the natural category typically include food choices that are minimally processed, sport clean labels, and have a supply chain that is ethical and environmentally friendly. 

Natural preservatives: The Endurance Power of Biscuits

Natural preservatives are additives that slow the growth of spoilage organisms like mold or bacteria in baked goods. They also function to limit changes in color, texture, and flavor. This means that they, as the name suggests, preserve the quality of a biscuit and don’t allow it to spoil for some time.

Natural preservatives, mainly spices and plant extracts, have been used for many centuries in baking. Today, the demand for natural products is constantly growing. As well as being effective, consumers actually expect them to be derived from natural sources, such as vinegar, vitamin C, cultured starches, spices, and plant extracts.

Natural preservatives are divided into two main categories:

  • Antimicrobials – keep food fresh and don’t allow microbes to form mold. Good sanitation practices and packaging control can help minimize contamination but there are also natural preservatives that help; these include vinegar, lactic acid bacteria, plant extracts, such as thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, clove, cultured products, and their metabolites which are produced from fermentation of whey, wheat or corn syrup products with a standard dairy culture, natamycin, fruit concentrates, tea extracts, chitosan.
  • Antioxidants - Oxidation causes undesirable flavor changes, rancid off-notes, changes in color, and oftentimes loss of nutritional value in foods. Antioxidants slow down the start of the fat oxidation process by donating hydrogen atoms. The most common antioxidants are rosemary extract, vitamin E, acerola cherry extract, green tea extract, vitamin C.

Organic food: The Modern Goal, but Is It Really Healthier?

Organic food is generally defined as crops that are produced on farms that have not used most synthetic pesticides herbicides or fertilizer for three years before harvesting the food.

organic food

The difference between organic and non-organic (conventional) food has to do with how food is produced. Organic foods are not healthier in terms of nutrients. You are still getting the same benefits in conventionally grown foods as you are in organic foods, meaning there’s no difference in that aspect. Organic diets we know lead to less pesticide and antibiotic exposure, but nutritionally, they are about the same. So, they have a larger impact on environmental safety than on your health.

What is known is that increased exposure to pesticides can lead to an increased risk of ADHD and autism. It is also linked to reduced cognitive skills, ability to learn, and memory. Exposure to pesticides may lead to the development of Parkinson’s disease, fertility issues, and cognitive decline later in life. There is also a potential link between cancer and pesticides.

Taking the mentioned benefits of organic food into consideration, many companies produce biscuits that are made out of organic ingredients. The label “Organic” gives consumers security in the production method of their beloved biscuits, that is, that it’s conscious in leading a sustainable production. Most of the time, organic food and biscuits are also vegan, which is a sign that companies really care about environmental issues. 

Organic Biscuits in Practice

Certain brands produce organic biscuits at this moment and experience great sell-outs on this delicious non-GMO food. Made Good’s produce their Soft Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies with real organic ingredients like oats, apples, bananas, spinach, carrots, broccoli, beets, tomatoes, and shitake mushrooms.

 Kookie Cat biscuits are another alternative to the conventional food industry because of their distribution of products with an organic origin. Both contain no artificial flavors, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, or bleached flour.

Artisanal Biscuit Factories: Making Big Changes

If the industrial biscuit factories are experiencing difficulties, particularly due to the "sugar bashing" of recent years and the desire of consumers to eat healthier and more local food, it is the artisanal biscuit factories that are doing well.

In France, for example, the consumption of biscuits has been stagnating or even slightly declining for several years. The biscuit market now represents more than 2.2 billion Euros and while sales volumes on the biscuit market are declining, artisanal organic biscuits seem to be the only development opportunity for this sector. In the first half of 2019, the French organic biscuit market grew by 22%. This growth is great for artisanal and regional biscuit manufacturers: they offer more authentic biscuits, meeting strong consumer demand for natural ingredients of local origin and with lovely taste.

Consumers are responding very well to the products offered by organic biscuit factories: healthy and natural biscuits, without artificial colorings or preservatives. The ingredients are carefully selected from local suppliers and the regional biscuit makers know how to make the most of their recipes. Organic and regional products are increasingly popular with consumers, who are attached to the authentic and natural character of the food they buy. Even if they have to pay more, it is quality that is above all sought after which goes in favor of artisanal biscuit makers who, with the organic niche, have great prospects ahead of them! 

The Problem Ingredient: Palm oil

palm oil

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees. Two types of oil can be produced from the fruit: crude palm oil which comes from squeezing the fleshy fruit, and palm kernel oil which comes from crushing the kernel, or the stone in the middle of the fruit. Oil palm trees are native to Africa but were brought to South-East Asia just over 100 years ago as an ornamental tree crop. Now, Indonesia and Malaysia make up over 85% of the global supply but there are 42 other countries that also produce palm oil.

Palm oil is an extremely versatile oil that has many different properties and functions that make it so useful and so widely used. It’s in nearly everything - from pizza, doughnuts, and chocolate, to deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, and lipstick. So, why is palm oil so bad?

Palm oil has been and continues to be a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the Orangutan, pygmy elephant, and Sumatran rhino. This forest loss coupled with the conversion of carbon-rich peat soils is throwing out millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. 

Does this mean that we should stop using palm oil in making biscuits and in general? No, because the oil is easily produced and contributes to the largest amount of oil, which is precious for humankind. It is important that the palm oil industry continues to invest in and grow support for and smallholder programs and sustainable landscape initiatives. 

What do you think of using natural and traditional ingredients in the food, and thus the biscuit industry? Let us know!

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