Sugar bread is Nigeria’s No. 1 bakery product. All Nigerians love this sweet sandwich bread, whatever their social class or ethnic origin. Consumers expect top quality at rock-bottom prices — a major challenge to both artisan and industrial bakeries.
No other food in Nigeria enjoys such wide popularity as sugar bread. The white pan loaf made from wheat flour finds its way onto the table at every meal. Filled as a succulent club sandwich, crisp out of the sandwich toaster, or fried as sweet French toast, the silky-soft slices have a multitude of uses and have long since overtaken traditional staple foods like “Garri,” a cooked cassava porridge.
A special feature of Nigerian sandwich bread is its sweetish taste, the origin of its name. Besides flour, salt (1.5% to 2%), fresh yeast (3% to 6%) and baking enzymes, the sugar bread recipe contains 7% to 12% sugar.
The Nigerian market is still dominated by artisan bakeries. According to the business consultants KPMG, the market share of the small and medium-sized companies was around 72% in 2016.
To ensure that fresh bread is available daily even in the most remote corners of the country, armies of middlemen and re-sellers provide distribution services. In many cases, the bakery products are sold by itinerant traders from small delivery vehicles.
In view of galloping urbanization, however, this trend is likely to shift in favor of industrial bakeries within the next few years, the market research institute Euromonitor International predicts.
Industrially produced, sliced sandwich loaves from the supermarket have the advantage of higher, standardized quality, a hygienic wrapper and a longer shelf life.
Price and appearance
The range of recipes for sugar bread is comparatively small. There is very little demand for variants with wholemeal flour, grains or seeds. The choice is largely restricted to different labels and portion sizes.
For Nigeria’s consumers there are two main buying criteria: an affordable price and a high volume.
In the case of industrially produced bread, the shelf life is a further important aspect. Whereas the baker around the corner supplies consumers with their bread every day, wrapped supermarket bread is stored in households longer and expected to keep its softness for at least two weeks.
Fine crumb structure
Since sandwich bread is eaten with all manner of different spreads and fillings, the consistency of the crumb is especially important. It serves as a base for dressings like mayonnaise, and should be homogeneous and elastic.
To achieve an extremely fine, even texture it is essential to ensure adequate mixing and kneading, a long dough rest and suitable dough preparation in the production process.
Many bakeries use a special roll system (dough breaker) in which the doughs undergo intensive kneading. In this process the gas bubbles are finely dispersed, which results in a particularly even crumb structure.
Enzymes and additives are indispensable
Flour treatment agents are widely used in Nigeria in order to achieve a uniformly high standard of quality. Ascorbic acid is essential, as are carefully adjusted enzyme systems, hydrocolloids and emulsifiers that give the crumb the necessary elasticity and long shelf life. Commonly used emulsifying additives include diacetyl tartaric esters of mono- and diglycerides (DATEM) and sodium or calcium stearoyl lactylate.
Through their daily commitment, thousands of bakers in Nigeria make a vital contribution to ensuring a basic food supply to over 190 million people. Nevertheless, the production conditions in the industry differ vastly. Since not all bakeries have access to optimum flour qualities, trained personnel or suitable equipment, faults in products often occur that could easily be avoided by adjusting the recipe or method of preparation.
The following is an overview of the problems most often encountered in the production of sugar bread, and ways of solving them
Problem: Poor shape. The slices are not square, the corners are round. The dough does not fill the pan.
Solution: More intensive kneading. With strong flour the dough may be too firm, the pressure too high. Adjust the flour treatment with hemicellulases (e.G. Alphamalt HC 14111 or cysteine e.g. Porit L), so that the dough relaxes properly and fills the corners of the pan.
Problem: Rapid staling, inadequate shelf life.
Solution: Optimize pasting of the starch; improve water binding in the dough. Prolong the softness and elasticity of the crumb (e.g. with Alphamalt Fresh / Alphamalt EFX or Mulgaprime SSL).
Problem: Large pores and uneven texture of the crumb.
Solution: More intensive kneading and longer proofing; adjust the fat content of the recipe. Add emulsifiers (e.g. Mulgaprime SSL/ Mulgaprime 90) and enzymes (e.g. Alphamalt EFX Mega).
Problem: Collapse of the side walls of the loaves.
Solution: Change the mixing/kneading time; reduce the proof time; reduce amylases; increase the ascorbic acid content (e.g. ELCO C-100 K); improve the structure of the dough with EMCEgluten Enhancer. Shape the dough by the four pieces or twist method.
Baking performance lasts longer with Alphamalt Gloxy
Whether in artisan or industrial bakeries – there is one problem every baker in Nigeria must contend with: the country’s hot, humid tropical climate that causes the flour to age quickly.
To ensure optimum baking properties, wheat flour must have the right degree of maturity. Both freshly ground flours and flours that have been stored for several weeks are prone to deficits in baking performance.
Under temperate climatic conditions, wheat flour retains its specific product attributes for about six weeks. But the higher the temperature at which it is stored, the greater is its loss of quality. In Nigeria, the critical limit is generally around three weeks; after that, the flour has poorer fermentation stability and reduced baked volume. A prolonged period of high performance of the flour is an important marketing argument.
To solve this problem, Mühlenchemie offers a highly functional enzyme system that greatly prolongs the shelf life of wheat flour. Alphamalt Gloxy is an enzyme system bases of glucose oxidase that has the effect of strengthening and stabilizing on gluten strands (gliadin/glutenin) and thus a beneficial effect on the entire baking process. Thanks to this “on top” flour treatment, the doughs have a drier, silkier surface and are easier to work either by hand or mechanically. Moreover, they have much better fermentation stability and are less sensitive to long proof times and mechanical stress. Alphamalt Gloxy also improves oven spring by stabilizing the volume of the dough in the initial phase of baking.
By upgrading their flours with Alphamalt Gloxy, mills can achieve a unique selling proposition compared to their competitors and greatly enhance the quality and degree of standardization of their own product range.