Flavors of Love
By Jeanette Hurt

“I love you.” The words come easily, but when it comes to sweet snacks and energy bars, American consumers can be all too fickle about where they place their affections.
They’re not unlike a certain ‘80s rap star who sought love on a reality television show. As Flavor Flav interviewed potential soul mates, each vied for his attention and endearment, sometimes duking it out over who was the most beautiful, entertaining or just plain worthy.
The same battle for love happens amidst the shelves and aisles of grocery stores. Every day, consumers seek fulfillment, expecting sweets and snack bars to dazzle them with new flavors and make them feel good about what they’re eating — all while satisfying their ever-hungry sweet teeth.
There might be no magic formula for love, but the right ingredients can help set the stage for romance. In this category, 2007’s winning flavor of love is a combination of health and indulgence.
“People want healthier-for-you alternatives, but they’re always looking for something that really tastes good,” says Kent Spaulding, marketing director at Barbara’s Bakery in Petaluma, Calif. “Our mantra is great taste without compromise. In the natural industry, when it was first developing, there were a lot of products that didn’t taste very good. There were the hard-core natural, organics folks who would eat it anyway, but when more mainstream consumers became interested, manufacturers began trying to make great-tasting products healthier.”
To that end, Barbara’s Bakery recently came out with a crunchy, organic peanut butter granola bar, and a fruit and yogurt bar.
“We’re very excited about those,” Spaulding says. “Consumers are looking to improve their diets and their lifestyle, and organic is a great place for consumers to go. We’re regulated, and it’s a very consistent message to consumers, and that’s where we’re focused.”
Indulge Yourself a Little
When it comes to sweets, consumers might be looking for love in all the good-for-you places, but they still want to feel that indulgence.
“One of the unique things in the bakery industry is being able to play both sides of a trend,” explains Jon Silvon, director of marketing for Tasty Baking Co. of Philadelphia. “Our experience with the trend of wellness is that it often and frequently is a counter-trend to indulgence. In our world, we have the luxury of creating products that meet health or meet indulgences.”
One of the ways to magically satisfy both yearnings is with 100-calorie portions. Tasty Baking Co. not only has a Sensables product line (which has grown by 35% since the company launched a number of new products in January), but it also offers 100-calorie cookie bars.
“Our 100-calorie products are not little wafers — it’s not a dinky little bag that has very little in it,” Silvon says. “It’s a very nice, very filling portion, and we’ve done it in such a way that our customers can get the product and the flavors they love in a slightly more portion-controlled option.”
In yet another effort to promote portion control, Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga., plans to introduce 100-calorie snack packs. It also will modify packaging on several existing items under its Mrs. Freshley’s and Bluebird brands to note that they are 100 calories per serving.
Interstate Bakeries Corp., headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., also has launched Hostess 100 Calorie Packs.
Doughnuts — Top 5 Brands
(For 52 weeks ending May 20, 2007)
Rank Brand Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change Dollar Share
1 Krispy Kreme $139.7 -22.4 +21.2
2 Entenmann’s $90.6 -4.2 +13.8
3 Private Label $85.7 +5.2 +13.0
4 Hostess Donettes $72.0 +12.9 +10.9
5 Entenmann’s Softees $32.9 +15.9 +5.0
Total, including brands not shown $658.6 -7.3 100.0
Source: Information Resources, Inc.
Total U.S. – Supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart)
“It’s impossible to ignore the portion control and sensible snacking trends that currently are at the forefront of the industry,” says David Leavitt, IBC’s vice president of snack. “We have featured the tag line ‘3 Cakes, 100 Calories, Real Satisfaction,’ throughout our advertising to reinforce the unique benefits of great taste and real cake that our portion-controlled product delivers. We believe portion control and sensible snacking trends are here to stay.”
The cakes come in chocolate with chocolate icing, carrot with cream cheese icing and golden with chocolate icing. Visit Hostess’ Web site, www.HostessCakes.com , to see and hear the 100 Calorie Crooner sing you a love ballad about your favorite variety.
But back to reality: Consumers aren’t only counting their calories. They also want the calories they eat to count more, so they’re looking for improved ingredients. That’s why a little nutrition goes a long way.
To win their favor, for instance, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts of Winston-Salem, N.C., introduced a whole wheat doughnut earlier this year.
“Our whole wheat doughnut has been well received,” says Brian Little, director of corporate communications for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. “Our goal is to provide our customers with variety and choices that meet their needs.”
Speaking of variety, Krispy Kreme also rolled out new doughnut shapes, including stars, shamrocks, snowmen, footballs and jack-o’-lanterns. And it’s planning to test Krispy Kreme Ice Kreme in a few stores this summer.
The whole notion of healthy snacking has cookies, snack cakes and even doughnuts taking on snack bars. At the same time, many varieties of snack bars have become competition for candy bars. When it comes to the sweet goods category, every product fights for share of stomach.
Take Clif Bar & Co., which also sees variety as a way to spice up its relationship with customers. At the Natural Products Expo in March, the Berkeley, Calif.-based company unveiled 23 new items, including CLIF Bar Maple Nut and Pear Apple Strudel, CLIF MOJO Peanut Butter Pretzel Bar and an extension of its CLIF Nectar line called Clif Nectar Cacao.
“Our goal is to make sure we continually surprise and delight people with organic, nutritious foods that are full of flavor and variety,” says Michelle Ferguson, Clif Bar’s senior vice president of brand. “We hope our new items give active healthy people of all ages food solutions that nourish them.”
Top 3 Brands
(For 52 weeks ending May 20, 2007)
Rank Brand Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change Dollar Share
1 Private Label $165.2 +8.3 25.7
2 Entenmann’s $125.7 -5.9 19.6
3 Little Debbie $70.9 -6.9 11.0
Total, including brands not shown $642.9 +0.4 100.0
Source: Information Resources, Inc.
Total U.S. – Supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart)
Meanwhile, the winning solution for Caffe D’Amore was to develop a healthy brownie under the company’s Ivy Cottage line.
“We really are leaning toward trying to use as healthful ingredients as we can for products that are fundamentally dessert items,” says Paul Comi, president of the Monrovia, Calif.-based company. “People have really been responding to it.”
Ivy Cottage’s brownie is made with unrefined wheat flour and no oils or shortening. The next step, Comi says, is to combine the brownie with other Ivy Cottage coffee and tea products in gift packages. Call it a beverage in a bar, just like Gatorade Energy Bars, produced by Chicago-based Quaker Oats, a division of PepsiCo.
“You have that lovely texture of a brownie that’s not hard or dense, but it is substantive enough so you get the mouthfeel, as well as an incredible flavor,” Comi describes. “People want taste. They are really reticent to sacrifice that if they can avoid it, and if they can get a great-tasting product that is healthy, they are absolutely elated.”
Consumers are excited when their beloved products not only taste great, but are convenient. And sweet snacks are one of the most convenient products on the market.
“Convenience remains for everyone, and it will become a hotter and hotter trend,” Silvon says.
Companies such as McKee Foods, Collegedale, Tenn., use multiple brands to play in the traditional and healthy snacking arenas. For the conventional segment, McKee features its low-priced Little Debbie brand, while its snack bars and other perceived better-for-you snacks are sold under the Sunbelt name. Recently, McKee unveiled Little Debbie Family Pack Glazed Mini Donuts, which combine convenience, value and portion control for consumers seeking a portable breakfast snack. The family packs retail for $1.79 and contain six packages with four doughnuts each. McKee also offers 100-calorie snacks. Talk about having your cake and eating it, too.
Years ago, individual snack cakes accounted for the bulk of sales for many companies in this category. Over the last few years, however, sales of family and multi-packs have blossomed as more snack cakes and sweet goods are sold in supermarkets, instead of traditional venues such convenience stores and vending machines, notes George E. Deese, chairman, CEO and president of Flowers Foods.
Even so, he adds, individual snack sales are still strong.
 “One reason for this across-the-board growth is the pace of the American lifestyle,” Deese says. “Everyone is on the go and snacking throughout the day rather than eating traditional sit-down meals. Because they are convenient, portable and taste great, snack cakes fit well with a busy lifestyle.”
Although the snack category is relatively flat, the sheer size of this multibillion dollar snacking occasion provides room for growth.
“Despite the growth in better-for-you snacks, there is still demand for our core, indulgent items,” Deese adds. “We plan to keep looking for opportunities in this area as well.”
Remember Me, Love
Staying relevant in the relationship with the consumer is one of the challenges companies face. Love isn’t as easy as it used to be. With today’s competitive environment, many brands simply are forgotten.
“In the old days, if you talked demographics, you could talk age, gender, race, income levels and how these variables affect consumers,” says Kent Spalding, marketing director for San Francisco-based Barbara’s Bakery. “Now, it’s very different than that. You can have consumers of the same age, same gender, same race and income levels, but who have completely different taste profiles. It’s like how television used to be — you used to have three stations, and now you’ve got more than 100 cable stations.”
To stay relevant, it’s really about innovation — in both product lines and in methods of reaching the customers. For Tasty Baking Co., it’s about winning new Tastykake fans in new markets.
“We have a very unique brand, and we are always expanding into new markets,” Silvon says.
Expansion will become easier in the future for Tasty Baking Co. After operating in the same plant for more than 80 years, Tasty Baking Co. is moving into a new home. The baker’s new $75 million plant will replace the six-story factory that has been in operation since 1922. Construction for the new plant in The Navy Yard in Philadelphia will be completed by 2010.
“We really have responded quickly to what is happening in the market, but within the limits of this bakery,” says Mary Borneman, manager of investor and public relations. “We were, for example, able to develop the whole Sensables sugar-free line here, but the new plant will be nicer because we will have greater flexibility and greater options.”
Meanwhile, for Interstate Bakeries, new design was a key change.
Bar Category Totals
(For 52 Weeks Ending March 25, 2007)
Category Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change
Granola Bars $745.9 +17.4
Breakfast/Cereal Bars $565.3 -1.7
Nutritional/Health Bars $514.2 -1.4
Rice Snack Squares $118.6 -6.7
All Other Bars $33.9 +619.5
Total Bars $1,977.9 +6.1
Source: Information Resources, Inc.
Total U.S.–Supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers(excluding Wal-Mart)
“In 2006, we rolled out redesigned packaging for the entire Hostess snack line,” Leavitt says. “The design fused Hostess’s traditional colors with updated product photography and contemporary graphics. It represented the first major packaging change in 25 years.”
Another trend looming on the horizon is that consumers not only want to feel good about what they’re eating, but also are looking to feel better about how things are packaged, and whether the packaging is sustainable.
“Consumers are becoming more and more aware,” Spalding says. “I just read about a retailer in the Northeast who was abandoning plastic bags, equating it to savings in the landfill. I think that sustainability is going to be another positive trend.”
And, hopefully, it will be another way for customers to fall in love all over again. SOI
Editor’s Note: Dan Malovany contributed to this article.
Forget calling the love of your life “Sweetie Pie,” “Honey” or “Cupcake.” If you really love them, you’ll call them something else — especially if they’re part of the legion of fans who adore Tastykake sweet goods.
In fact, the brand’s fans are so fanatic that they express their love on the Internet. At MySpace.com, there now are more than 18,000 people who sport “Tastykake” as part of their nicknames on personal pages.
“They’re so loyal to the product that this is a kind of hommage,” says Jon Silvon, director of marketing for Tasty Baking Co., Philadelphia. “Very few brands inspire such loyalty.”
So take that, Sugar.
Reality Radio Cupcakes
Radio personality Artie Lange of “The Howard Stern Show” has teamed up with CRUMBS bakeshops in New York City to make a new treat. Lange is lending his name and likeness to promote the vanilla sponge cupcake, which is filled with chocolate buttercream, smothered with vanilla cream cheese frosting and topped with chocolate fondant icing. A portion of the proceeds from the “Artie Lange” menu item will go to LIFEbeat, “the music industry’s charitable organization dedicated to reaching America’s youth with the message of HIV/AIDS prevention.” For more information, visit www.CrumbsBakeshop.com and www.LifeBeat.org
Can’t decide which one you like better? Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., has rolled out Pop-Tarts Splits, with each toaster pastry containing two different icings and fillings, side-by-side.
Pop-Tarts Splitz come in chocolate-vanilla and strawberry-blueberry flavors.
Michael Sargeant, associate brand manager, calls the bi-flavored pastries a “Crazy Good” idea. He’s even trademarked the phrase.