Many consumers bake at home because they enjoy baking, like the smell of fresh baked foods in their home, and like to eat food fresh from the oven. Comfort and nostalgia are also important to home baking trends.
Similar to the clean label movement, distrust of “industrial food” has led some consumers to seek alternative food products and venues. More consumers are baking at home because they:
- think food baked at home is healthier or more nutritious
- believe that home baked food tastes better
- want to know where their food comes from
- are able to fully customize the food they eat since they can choose the ingredients used in home baked goods and can decide what to leave out or include in a recipe
Packaged Facts’ December 2022 National Online Consumer Survey indicates that 31% of consumers report baking at home frequently (at least once a week). Another 24% report baking often (once or twice a month), revealing that most consumers bake at home on a regular basis.
Home Baking Sales Trends and Forecast
According to Packaged Facts’ new report Home Baking: US Trends and Opportunities, 2nd Edition, in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic had a significant effect on home baking activity. Many
consumers began baking at home more as they spent more time at home for work or school and were looking to find new hobbies. Baking could provide some consumers with personal enjoyment or a more productive way to spend their time when they were stuck at home. Thus, 2020 saw fast increases in sales of home baking products.
However, in 2021, most categories of baking products including baking mixes and kits; dough, shells, and crusts; frozen pizzas; and baking staples such as dairy milk, eggs, butter, sugar, and flour saw declining sales. Home baking activity waned for some consumers who tired of baking or resumed more of their activities outside of the home, particularly as vaccines became widely available.
Retail dollar sales of home baking products grew again in 2022, largely as a function of rising prices. High inflation increased the prices of most food and beverage items, including baking supplies, so dollar sales rose significantly despite volume sales losses.
Though home baking activity has decreased compared to 2020 levels, home baking activity remains more popular now compared to 2019. Many consumers who began working from home in 2020 continue to work from home at least some of the time, giving them more time to engage in home-based activities such as baking.
Analysis from Packaged Facts indicates that sales of home baking products will rise modestly through 2027, though at a slower rate than historical gains. After high sales levels seen in 2020 and 2022, further increases are expected to decelerate as home baking activity levels off and inflation cools.
Gluten and Lactose Intolerance, Food Allergies, and Dietary Restrictions Are a Concern to Many Consumers
Intolerances, sensitivities, and allergies to certain ingredients that are commonly found in baked goods affect a number of consumers and their food choices. Some people also restrict certain ingredients from their diets for a number of reasons including a perception of unhealthiness, religious motivations, ethical concerns, and dislike of such ingredients.
Approximately 1% of US consumers (about 3 million) have celiac disease
, while gluten sensitivity may affect even more. Some people also avoid gluten due to thinking that gluten is unhealthy or believing that gluten is the source of unpleasant digestive symptoms.
Lactose intolerance also affects many consumers. After infancy, most people (approximately 65%) have a reduced ability to digest lactose
, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Lactose intolerance affects a much smaller portion of the population, though many more consumers may think that milk makes them sick. Increased awareness of lactose intolerance has led many people to reduce dairy consumption, avoid dairy altogether, consume plant-based dairy alternatives, and look for dairy products without lactose. Additionally, vegans and consumers following other plant-forward diets may avoid milk due to concerns about healthfulness, animal welfare, or the environment.
Additionally, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), 32 million Americans have food allergies
. FARE estimates that about 11% of US adults have a food allergy and that nearly 8% of children under age 18 have a food allergy. Common food allergens that may be found in many baking products include eggs, milk, peanuts, sesame, soybeans, tree nuts, and wheat.
In the market for baking staples, allergy friendly products that are “free from” certain ingredients are primarily important to those with diagnosed food allergies that cause reactions such as anaphylaxis, tingling or itching in the mouth, hives, itching, eczema, or swelling. However, they are also important for the much larger number of people who have food intolerances or sensitivities, as well as those who think they have a food allergy or intolerance when they do not or avoid certain allergens for other reasons.
Cross-contamination is also a major concern for consumers with allergies or intolerances, as many products are made in factories alongside those that contain common allergen ingredients like milk, soy, or tree nuts. Therefore, even products that don’t contain allergens can be contaminated with them (a food label will say that the product “may contain” the allergens in question if it is processed in a facility that handles relevant ingredients).
Because allergies to milk, eggs, and wheat are relatively common, many consumers with allergies to these ingredients are unable to consume a number of baked goods without modifications.
Consumers who bake and have certain dietary restrictions may turn to alternative ingredients or recipes. For instance, consumers with a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance may use a plant-based milk product (e.g., almond milk, oat milk, and soy milk) in lieu of dairy milk for a baking recipe. Additionally, when these consumers use chocolate in baking, they may seek out dairy-free chocolate options, including cacao nibs, instead of conventional chocolate chips since standard chocolate chips contain milk ingredients, whether they are milk chocolate, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate flavor.
The same goes for eggs – people with egg allergies often use egg substitutes in recipes. This can include plant-based egg alternatives or a number of ingredients that mimic the texture and baking function of eggs, such as bananas, aquafaba, or applesauce.
Similarly, traditional wheat-based flour, which is used in most baking projects, cannot be consumed by those with a wheat allergy, celiac disease, or gluten sensitivity. Consumers who cannot or do not want to eat gluten may use alternative flour products, such as rice, tapioca, or nut flours. Gluten-free baking has become common because some people perceive that gluten is unhealthy or the source of their digestive discomfort. Many consumers without known reactions to gluten avoid it for these reasons.
Compared to flour, eggs and milk make up a much smaller portion of an individual serving of baked goods. This means that baked products that contain milk or eggs may be more readily eaten by some consumers who normally avoid these ingredients for reasons other than an allergy or disease. For instance, a recipe for muffins may call for about one teaspoon of milk per muffin, so consumers with lactose intolerance but not a milk allergy may be able to use the standard recipe with dairy milk. Nonetheless, alternative products may still be used by those who can tolerate milk or egg ingredients in moderation for fear of any unpleasant symptoms, such as gas, stomach cramps, or bloating associated with an intolerance.
Alternative Flour Use Is Growing
The most common types of flour used by consumers are wheat-based. All-purpose flour is the most sold type of wheat flour, as it can be used for most baking recipes. Other varieties of wheat flour include bread flour, cake flour, pastry flour, self-rising flour, semolina flour, instant flour, and whole wheat flour.
As consumers have sought out products that are perceived to be healthier or better tasting, interest in alternative flours has soared in recent years and throughout the pandemic as overall home baking activity has increased. Some alternative flours may be used on their own, while many of these products work best when mixed with standard wheat flours (typically all-purpose) or with other alternative flours.
Some alternative flours include:
- almond flour – a gluten-free flour that adds moisture, binding, density, and a light almond flavor to baked goods
- chickpea flour – a gluten-free flour made from chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) that is a staple in cuisines of India and Pakistan, used as an egg substitute or in conjunction with all-purpose flour
- oat flour – a gluten-free flour made from ground oats that imparts more moisture to baked goods
- quinoa flour – a gluten-free flour made from the quinoa seed that packs powerful nutrients such as fiber and complete protein (providing all essential amino acids)
- rice flour – a gluten-free flour made from milled rice that tends to be more gritty and is best used as a thickening agent
- tapioca flour – a gluten-free flour (also known as tapioca starch) with a slightly sweet flavor made from starch extracted from cassava, helping to bind and thicken gluten-free baked goods
Standard recipes that call for wheat flour are easy to adapt for use with alternative flour blends that are used in a one-to-one ratio as a wheat flour substitute. However, it can otherwise be difficult to swap out alternative flours for wheat flour (e.g., trying to adapt a wheat flour recipe for use with chickpea flour). Instead, more recipes are being formulated for use with alternative flours. Some recipes that exclusively use one alternative flour are available (e.g., almond flour cookies). There are also many baking recipes for use with multiple alternative flours (e.g., bread made with potato starch, rice flour, and buckwheat flour), or alternative flours mixed with wheat flour (e.g., cake made with wheat flour and almond flour).
Additional analysis of the US home baking market be found in the Packaged Facts report Home Baking: US Trends and Opportunities, 2nd Edition
About the blogger:
Cara Rasch is a food and beverage analyst for Packaged Facts. She studies consumer and industry trends in this space and has a B.A. in economics from Allegheny College.