When thinking of a traditional snack cake, the classic Hostess CupCake may come to mind. However, while the classics endure, snack cakes have evolved a long way since the 1919 birth of the product. Modern-day snack cakes aren’t necessarily as indulgent as their predecessors, but at the same time, they manage to not sacrifice taste, either.

State of the Industry: Bakery Report
Overview | Bread | Tortillas | Sweet Goods | Snack Cakes | Pizza | Desserts | Cookies | Buns & Rolls | Bars | Breakfast Products


Market data

Looking at data from IRI, Chicago, for the past 52 weeks ending March 19, 2017, snack cakes are up 4.04 percent, accounting for $3.35 billion in sales. The top performer in the category is McKee Foods Corp., with sales of $825.1 million, an increase of 3.34 percent. Private label brands sit in the No. 2 slot, with combined sales of $692.5 million and a nice increase of 8.51 percent. Coming in third was Hostess Brands at $653.2 million and an increase of 10.18 percent. Flowers Foods came in at $296.9 million, but down 3.92 percent from the previous year, while Grupo Bimbo saw sales of $211.3 million, with a 1.89 percent increase.

Other notable activity in snack cakes includes:

  • Bon Appetit, which had sales of $107 million and an 8.01 percent increase
  • Give & Go Prepared Foods Corp., at $99.5 million and a 5.87 percent increase
  • JTM Foods, with sales of $41.0 million and 13.8 percent growth over the past year


Looking back

Consumers, and millennials in particular, are reading labels and keeping themselves aware of the ingredients that comprise the foods they eat, and this won’t be changing anytime soon.

“Now, more than ever, people are paying attention to the ingredients in their food, and we’re seeing that demand infiltrate the snacking industry,” says Charice Grace, brand director, Otis Spunkmeyer, Los Angeles. “Parents want to feel good about the snacks that they are giving to their children, and people want to make better choices, even when it comes to indulgences like snack cakes.”

This translates to an expectation when it comes to available selections at the grocery store.

“Indulgence and healthy are no longer exclusive. Recognition of the importance of providing healthy, indulgent choices drives the category different than it has in the past,” comments Denise Hollister, product marketing manager, IOI Loders Croklaan, Channahon, IL. “Clean label, non-GMO, indulgent snacks that taste delicious are the expectation.”

Grace comments that consumers are looking to buy more “pop-able,” on-the-go foods, as well. “Otis Spunkmeyer recently launched Brownie Bites, which we think will resonate with our customers who are looking for an easy, on-the-go snack. We also recently announced our new portfolio of Grab-N-Go foods.” She notes that the line also includes mini Loaf Cakes in flavors like Iced Lemon and Cinnamon Crumb.

“Consumers are seeking snacks that are convenient, portable and offer exciting or different flavor options,” says Meredith Butler, brand manager, Flowers Foods, Thomasville, GA. “They’re also still trending toward indulgent snacks.” Flowers Foods has been “tapping into these preferences,” she says, by creating “exciting seasonal programs for our sweet rolls and doughnuts.”

Tastykake, a Flowers Foods brand, released its Spring Lemon Kandy Kakes in March of this year, which are white confectionary coated cakes with lemon-flavored filling. In winter 2016, the company released seasonal flavors such as the Coconut Frosty Kakes and its Red Velvet Kandy Kakes, and in August 2016, the Fall Salted Caramel and Fall Karrot Kake flavors were released.

Otis Spunkmeyer, too, has released several seasonal foods, as well as limited-edition flavors. “We’re excited about our seasonal offerings, which include Iced Pumpkin Loaf Cakes, Iced Ginger Loaf Cakes and Hot Chocolate Frosted Crème Cakes,” says Grace.

Last year, to capitalize on the July 15th release of the new Ghostbusters movie, Hostess and Sony Pictures collaborated to release a Key Lime Slime limited edition flavor of Twinkies,  featuring a creamy key lime filling, with the “no ghost” symbol on the packaging.

Hostess also released a twist on its traditional Twinkie: Deep-fried Twinkies, which can be found in the freezer aisle. The pre-packaged Twinkies are dipped in funnel cake batter, and then fried before they are frozen.

Capabilities for more specialty bakery products are being requested, says Stewart MacPherson, vice president, sales and marketing, Unifiller Systems Inc., Delta, British Columbia. “We are seeing more ‘special diet’ bakery products being developed, such as organic bakery products, gluten-free snack cakes and, of course, trans-fat-free products,” MacPherson says.


Looking forward

Equipment on which to manufacture snack cakes is an important part of the category, and Unifiller Systems recently added a rotary piston batter depositor, as well as a high-speed multi-piston depositor called the Multi Station.

“The Multi Station is an ideal solution for mass-producing a wide range of smaller cakes and desserts,” says MacPherson. “The machine is PLC touchscreen-controlled and has a servo-driven portioning mechanism for greater accuracy and operator control.”

Smaller cakes, especially those that are individually packaged and positioned as on-the-go items, will continue trending this year.

“Consumers demand individually packaged items to meet the needs of their busy, day-to-day lives,” says Hollister. “In order to do this, ingredients need to provide the baker freshness and taste for on-the-go packaging options.”

At Flowers Foods, the company’s Tastykake and Mrs. Freshley’s brands both offer a line of mini cupcakes that provide “full-size flavor in a convenient, mini size that’s great for portion control,” notes Butler.

New snack cake trends take notes from overall food trends, says Grace. “The trends in the snack cake industry have been mimicking overall food trends lately, whether it’s colorful foods—like the unicorn or mermaid trend—or better-for-you ingredients,” she comments. “Snack companies want to stay current, so they are constantly announcing new flavors to keep up with on-trend foods.”

Clean label will continue to be important to both consumers and companies, and this won’t change going into 2018.

“Clean label and the demand for formulation to achieve it is pervasive in every ingredient category, and it continues to be an important growth driver,” comments Hollister.

Different ingredients can be used for an improved nutrition profile, too. “Fats and oils are now receiving credit for the nutritional value they provide,” Hollister continues. “Greater significance is being given to which types of fats and oils offer various benefits not previously acknowledged.”

However, many snack cake consumers still view taste as king. “Clean label is of interest to a growing number of consumers across the board, but in the sweet baked goods category, because most consumers are looking to indulge, they are more concerned with taste. A clean label is viewed as ‘nice to have,’” says Butler.

There is certainly no shortage of tasty treats in the snack cakes category, and whether consumers are searching for an indulgence or more of a calorie-conscious snack, they are sure to easily find whatever delicacies they desire.

State of the Industry: Bakery Report
Overview | Bread | Tortillas | Sweet Goods | Snack Cakes | Pizza | Desserts | Cookies | Buns & Rolls | Bars | Breakfast Products