Bread is thought to have been part of the human diet for around 30,000 years. In
mediaeval Europe, breads were named after the class of people who ate them –
giving rise to the likes of “squires loaves”, knights loaves”, “common loaves,” or
even a “pope’s loaf”.
© Fotolia, 2012
Today, Europeans consume 25 million tonnes
of bread - and far from being tied by our
social class or our occupation to just one type,
we are becoming increasingly demanding,
both in terms of the variety and the quality of
bread we expect.
Total bread consumption in Europe is relatively
steady, growing at just 1% a year. But bread
produced by one particular technology is
growing very rapidly. So-called 'bake-off
technology' (BOT) bread is growing at about
10% a year.
Bake-off technology involves leaving the
bread in a semi-finished state, such as frozen
dough or part-baked, to be finished off either
at the point of sale – the supermarket or
petrol station, for example - or at home.
The advantages are clear: fresh bread can
be baked on demand, providing a greatly
enhanced experience for the consumer and
resulting in less waste.
Unfortunately, the problems are equally clear.
First, bake-off technology is more energyintensive
than conventional baking, requiring
as much as four times more energy. Second,
it is almost entirely focused on the production
of bread types which have limited nutritional
value, such as white flour plain rolls and
baguettes. Healthier breads are much more
difficult to make using BOT.
The difficulty for the bread industry is that
consumers are now showing clear signs of
demanding precisely these healthier bread
The EU-FRESHBAKE research project was
established towards the end of 2006 to
address these twin issues, thereby providing
an important boost to the European bakery
industry as well as delivering significant
benefits for the consumer.
Backed by € 2 million of funding under the EU's
6th Framework Programme, the 38-month
project brought together 12 partners from
eight different countries, including Russia.
They included seven research organisations
and five industrial partners – three baking
companies, one bakery equipment company
and one ingredients supplier.
One important success for the consortium
was the development of innovative baking
equipment, resulting in reduced energy
consumption of between 30% and 50%.
Improved refrigeration equipment was also
developed, cutting energy requirements by 5%
to 15%. When used in tandem with carefully
managed freezing and storage conditions,
this energy saving rose as high as 50%.
The project also investigated ways in which
bake-off technology could be used to enhance
the nutritional value of bread. Three types of
bread were studied – conventional, glutenfree
and organic. Aspects the scientists
examined included managing the glycaemic
index of bread – a higher glycaemic index
indicating greater risk of Type 2 diabetes –
together with ways in which the type of bread
and its method of production could affect
the way in which nutrients in the bread are
absorbed by the body.
The full findings of the research were collated
in a comprehensive Guide of Good Practice,
published to provide the bakery industry with
detailed recommendations to optimise both
nutritional quality and energy conservation
through all stages of the BOT process.
As a result of the EU-FRESHBAKE project,
producers and consumers have been brought
an important step closer together. The
industry is better placed to meet ever more
sophisticated customer demands, while at
the same time reducing the environmental
impact required to do so.
Even after 30,000 years, the story of bread
continues to develop.