Nothing tantalizes the senses quite as much as a freshly baked treat just out of the oven. In-store bakeries on the retail level rely on aroma to draw customers into the department. But whether fresh or packaged, the product’s taste and texture is what brings customers back for more. And eggs supply a critical functional building block that baked goods need to ensure success on multiple sensory and practical levels.
Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) has tracked new product introductions since 2008 that included egg ingredients. The top product categories consistently, year after year, include cakes, pastries and sweet goods followed by cookies—all popular bakery items. In the time period of 2008 through 2013 close to 1,000 new products were introduced in those top two categories alone, and this doesn’t account for the many thousands of bakery products already enjoyed by consumers on a daily basis.
In 2013, the category of Cakes, Pastries & Sweet Goods saw 65 percent more new product introductions using eggs as ingredients compared to 2012, while cookies were bit more conservative, although still a respectable 27 percent increase in new products for that same one year time period.
Multiple reasons account for egg ingredient popularity in these categories. First, eggs aerate baked goods naturally due to their ability to form foam and produce a stable structure when heated. Egg whites can be whipped into foam six to eight times greater in volume than the original ingredient. When whole eggs are whipped and used to aerate baked items, this is generally called leavening.
During baking, egg proteins bond with each other and work with the gluten in the flour to create a protein matrix, which consists of air bubbles known as micelles. The proteins form the walls of these cellular structures, which contribute to product height, volume and stability.
As heat is applied, or as the product bakes, the proteins trap air and moisture within the bubbles and this contributes to the baked goods’ humectancy or moistness—a sign the product is fresh and not stale. This characteristic is useful from cakes to cookies and pastries to pan bread.
An egg wash might help brown bread crust or contribute flavor to specialty breads and rolls. In pastries, eggs help emulsify custards or fillings, to create a rich, smooth and creamy mouthfeel. And for baked goods the need to be frozen and shipped or are sold in the freezer case for consumers to prepare at home, eggs contribute all the functionality already mentioned, in addition to helping retard crystallization. Eggs ensure consumers can enjoy a fresh-baked sensory experience in almost any type of baked product.