Editor Dan Malovany interviewed Janice Anderson, vice president of marketing, Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga., for our State of the Industry issue.

It was part of our annual process where we contact dozens of industry experts to discuss new product trends and find out where the snack and baking industries are heading into the future.

Here is Dan’s Q&A with Janice Anderson.
 
SF&WB: What are the emerging consumer trends in the snack category and how are they driving sales?

Janice Anderson: The snack cake category continues to be influenced by two primary trends --consumers craving for indulgent snacks and their desire for portion-controlled, better-for-you snacks.  While we are still seeing some growth in the better-for-you segment of the category, it is not quite as strong as it has been, perhaps because people want to indulge more during times of economic stress.

Still, whether we’re talking about indulgent or better-for-you snacks, there’s no doubt that sales are driven by innovation, taste and quality. You can have great new snacks that catch people’s attention but they won’t come back for more if you don’t deliver on taste and quality.

SF&WB: How are you meeting these trends with new products? Here we can talk about your banana pudding cakes.

Anderson: Our marketing and R&D teams have been busy working on a number of new snack cake items in both the indulgent and better-for-you categories. Since late 2008, we have introduced the following items under our national (warehouse) Mrs. Freshley’s brand and our regional (direct-store-delivery) Blue Bird brand in two-packs and multipacks. The 100-Calorie Mini Lemon Cupcakes are also available under our SnackAway brand.

Banana Pudding Cupcakes combine three sweet favorites -- cake, bananas, and vanilla wafers. As far as we know, no one else has a snack on the market quite like this and we’re pleased with consumer reception so far.

Frosted Creme Cakes/Frosted Bingles take a popular snack and give it a twist. We took our golden, crème-filled cakes and drenched them in chocolate.

Carrot Cake Bingles is another example of an innovative twist on a popular favorite. We took our moist carrot cake, which we’ve sold for years as a bar cake, and baked it in a crème-finger shape.

100-Calorie Mini Lemon Cupcakes are golden mini cupcakes with natural lemon-flavored creme and icing. As our newest better-for-you snack, it offers more than just portion control. A serving offers an excellent source of fiber and a good source of vitamins A, D and E. Like our banana pudding cupcakes, these lemon mini cupcakes are unique in the market.

SF&WB: Are there specific categories that are performing unusually well in today’s environment and why? For example, how are donuts, snack cakes, honey buns, bars, Danish or cookies performing?

Anderson: When you look at units, most segments of the sweet good category are flat to down. The one bright spot are muffins, which are enjoying some growth due to new product launches.

We have tapped into this with the rollout of Mrs. Freshley’s 100-Calorie Mini Blueberry Muffins and two-pack blueberry muffins and three-pack, 100-calorie single serve muffins under both the Mrs. Freshley’s and Blue Bird brands. We introduced these muffin items about a year ago.
 
SF&WB: How are your SnackAway or healthier products performing? Who is the target consumer? How strong is the market for better-for-you snacks in today’s environment?

Anderson: The better-for-you segment continues to grow, but it’s at a slower rate than we’ve seen in the past. Our Mrs. Freshley’s SnackAway line of better-for-you snacks is holding its own.

We think it’s important to offer consumers a choice when it comes to snacks and we plan to continue to develop new options in the better-for-you segment.

SF&WB: What factors are driving sales for C-store packs? Family packs?

Anderson: New varieties and new flavors drive snack cake sales -- along with strong packaging and point-of-sale materials. We find that C-store consumers prefer single-serve, indulgent snacks, rather than multipacks or better-for-you snacks.

SF&WB: Have you redesigned your packaging? If so, how and why?

Anderson: We redesigned most of our branded snack packaging a couple years ago and have not made any recent updates or changes.

SF&WB: How are you merchandising/promoting your products?

Anderson: Snack cakes are driven by impulse sales and for that reason, eye-catching in-store displays with great graphics are very important. Recently, we introduced a new, taller shipper display that has a striking, vertical graphic that really pops in the store aisle. We tested the new display in two C-store chains and had a great response. We’re now offering them to all our customers who want a new merchandising tool.

SF&WB: Where are the greatest opportunities for growth? Are there specific distribution channels, geographic growth, product varieties, packaging sizes, etc.?

Anderson: We look for snack cake sales opportunities in all distribution channels -- retail, mass merchandise, C-store, vending -- and there is growth potential out there. Geographically, we have growth opportunities for both our regional Blue Bird brand, as Flowers expands the geographic reach of its DSD territory, and for our national Mrs. Freshley’s brand, which is distributed through warehouse channels.

Of course, we remain committed to developing and introducing new and exciting snack cake items that will not only grow our sales, but help grow the category as well.

Editor’s Note: To obtain a copy of our 2009 State of the Industry report, contact Gisele Manelli at manellig@bnpmedia.com.