Ahh, pastries, donuts, brownies, snack cakes, cupcakes, where do we stop? There’s nothing like having a sweet treat like these every so often. But consumers are cutting back, as sweet goods are losing market share, according to data from the Perishables GroupFreshFacts. Sales in the sweet goods category declined 0.4% for the 52 weeks ending Feb. 27, 2010. “Right now, a significant challenge [bakers face] is with the cost of commodities,” says Doon Wintz, president of Wholly Wholesome, Chester, N.J. “Retailers only accept so much of a price increase, no matter how justifiable it is. For manufacturers, this is a significant challenge. How do you wind up maintaining quality, having all the bells and whistles that consumers expect and yet provide value-driven retail products? That’s a huge challenge for everybody across all categories.”
Still, products have to taste good and bakers are combining great taste and development game plan, so that sweet goods can continue to capture consumer hearts and minds. Today, the buzzwords in sweet treats are comfort food, old-time favorites, value, cupcakes, portion control and weight management.
But the baseline is, products have to also provide real value and meet a true and enduring consumer need, says Wintz. “As far as branding characteristics, a product must stay true to its commitment to the consumer. If you change your standards, it’s not going to stand the test of time.”
Like Wintz, other marketers are also taking these factors into consideration. Even Kraft’s SnackWell’s non-fat and low-fat lines are being re-invented with new products to target weight-conscious women who want to live their lives to the fullest and enjoy portioned, indulgent snacks, according to the company. Portion-controlled packaging, which has also been revised with new, eye-catching graphics, and a new approach for the brand, with products set at 130 calories, the new SnackWell’s allow consumers to be “a little bit of bad so they can still be good,” according to the taglines. Says Steve Siegal, senior brand manager at Kraft, today’s women want “calorie control and are looking for an off-switch for their sweet tooth through portion control.”
SnackWell’s will continue to be available in two existing varieties—Devil’s Food Cookie Cakes and Crème Sandwich Cookies—in their conventional cartons. But Kraft, Northfield, Ill., is putting a new spin on premeasured portions by crossing the 100-calorie line with another popcorn snack with white chocolate, also packed in a 130-calorie portion, and two other varieties, Fudge Crème Brownie Bites and Rich Vanilla Crème Brownie Bites, in packs offering 150 calories to a portion.
Kraft finds that many women shoppers struggle with temptation and want sweet choices that allow them to really enjoy something, but with a limit that keeps them under control. It’s dealing with that by exceeding Nabisco’s own 100-calorie-per-pack format.
Weight Watchers coffee cakes are one of the latest introductions in the Weight Watchers lineup from Dawn Food Products, based in Jackson, Mich. The cakes continue the brand’s sweet baked goods tradition of offering calorie-conscious individuals a “better-for-you” baked treat with no compromise on taste. The moist cake, crumbly streusel topping and rich cinnamon filling gives each bite great flavor, but at only 120 calories per serving. Individually wrapped and portioned, the coffee cakes provide a great on-the-go bite for hectic mornings. Distribution is to grocery stores nationwide, including Walmart, Stop & Shop and Publix.
“The biggest trend in baked goods continues to be control of portion size and smaller indulgences,” adds Wintz. “This isn’t a new emerging trend; it’s a continued emerging trend in the industry and is driven by several different consumer factors, such as those driven by dietary needs and those driven by retail price points. Many [consumers] are facing high unemployment rates and therefore have to be careful with how they spend their dollars. Others are looking for individual sizes so there is less waste of money, leftover product and unnecessary consumption.”
Mini-sized desserts continue to do well in foodservice and are finding their way to the retail supermarket case, says Jeff Hankinson, of Coppenrath Europe’s Bakery Sales, Cumming, Ga. “Chocolate continues to be the leading flavor in the category, and we will continue to see more and more variations of chocolate desserts. We also see the emergence of nostalgic desserts like banana cream pie.”
Hankinson says the single biggest trend is the presence of more international desserts, such as those supplied by Coppenrath Europe’s Bakery. “We provide a truly authentic European dessert. The indulgent, lighter taste of these desserts will continue to grow in popularity.” Coppenrath Europe’s Bakery’s Mousse Cakes come in Chocolate and Coconut flavors, and are indulgent but light in texture.
The Mousse Duets capitalize on the trend of individual portion-control desserts, and come in two varieties—rich chocolate mousse and refreshing lemon chiffon. “Many in-store bakery executions have upscaled the business with signature and artisan-type offerings, continuing to seek differentiation and adding value to the selection,” says Hankinson, who notices that driving traffic to the frozen dessert section after the fall season remains a challenge, as many consumers aren’t aware of the high-quality desserts and baked goods available from some of the top brands in the section.
“The tendency by the industry to focus on the frozen dessert category as seasonal only is something we’d like to change,” he says. “Consumers enjoy desserts year-round, and the category should be relevant to them year-round.”