Five Ingredients to Watch in Bakery, Snacks & Cereals

Seeds, probiotics and more deliver on taste and address key sustainability issues.

CHICAGO — Consumers are increasingly looking to improve both their personal health and planetary health and are seeking out food and beverages that deliver on taste and address key sustainability issues.

These are the five ingredients that are making an impact on bakery, snacks and cereals in 2021 and beyond, according to Mintel Global Food and Drink Analyst Katya Witham.


Seeds and kernels are expanding across bakery, cereals and snacks.

The health halo of seeds and kernels in snacks can inspire other categories to use these nutrient-dense ingredients. A high majority of nut and seed consumers in China agree nuts and seeds are high in protein and dietary fiber and are a good source of vitamins (75 percent).

Beyond bakery, in the United States, more than two in five plant-based meat substitute consumers are interested in seeds as a source of protein in those products, according to Mintel research on plant-based proteins.

Texture can also be improved by formulating with seeds.

Seeds that are underutilized, or unknown to consumers, can be added to a mix containing more common ingredients, such as ancient grains and nuts, to bring taste and texture. Especially in sweet goods, such as flapjacks, crackers, cookies and biscuits, seeds can be used to enhance health credentials while also striking a chord with those consumers looking for a sweet, yet more health-oriented treat without compromising on taste.


Good for consumers, good for the environment.

Oats are an ideal low-input crop that encourages diversity to reduce soil erosion and control plant diseases, insects and weeds. Recognized as an eco-friendly ingredient, oats can grow their presence in new product development across food and drink, providing a nutritious option for companies that are looking to create stronger sustainability practices, as discussed in Mintel’s 2030 Food and Drink Trend, "Change, Incorporated."


The right probiotics can boost the body’s defense system.

Probiotics offer several functional properties beyond gut health, including stimulation of the immune system. Probiotics that are proven to support immune health will appeal to consumers who are taking a proactive approach to health.

The COVID-19 crisis is leaving consumers to grapple with uncertainty, so food and drink products that offer immune system support will appeal to consumers who are looking to protect themselves, a concept explored in Mintel Trend, “Prepare for the Worst.”


Pulses and pulse flour have the potential to grow, especially in vegan and gluten-free products that could benefit from a nutritional boost.

Pulses are widely recognized and accepted by consumers globally as a plant-based source of protein and other nutrients. They can be grown sustainably and are generally cost-effective. Despite this, just under one in 10 bakery, snacks and cereal launches have contained pulses/pulse flour between May 2020 and April 2021, according to Mintel.

Additionally, healthy pulses — such as chickpeas, lentils and fava beans — are staples in many ethnic cuisines, offering manufacturers a pathway for product innovation for convenience-seeking ethnic food explorers.

Coconut Palm Sugar

Coconut palm sugar has potential to capitalize on the current trend for "raw," less-processed foods, as well as consumers' desire for the organic and natural.

Coconut sugar, also called coconut palm sugar, is a natural unrefined sugar made from the sap of coconut tree flower blossoms and is often promoted as being more nutritious and lower on the glycemic index than regular sugar. With an ever-increasing coconut health craze, coconut sugar benefits from the health halo established by other coconut products, such as coconut water, coconut milk and coconut oil.

Although coconut sugar can’t be hailed as a nutritional superfood, the product still has an opportunity to satisfy consumer interest in natural and unprocessed ingredients. Moreover, coconut sugar is often marketed as more eco-friendly than regular cane sugar, appealing to the growing ranks of green consumers.

Growing demand for natural sweeteners.

As consumers are becoming more determined to make healthier diet and lifestyle choices, the level of public scrutiny over ingredients in food and drink products has never been higher. Sugar, in particular, has fallen under the public, political and media spotlight, overtaking fat and salt as the primary consumer concern. High sugar consumption is increasingly blamed for rising rates of obesity and diabetes, putting the food and drink industry under pressure to satisfy consumer demand for healthy yet tasty products.

Since health is often equated with naturalness, consumers will be increasingly opting for natural sugar substitutes, such as honey, coconut palm sugar, agave nectar or stevia.