Cakes are often associated with birthdays, weddings, and other celebrations, but manufacturers say consumers no longer need an excuse to enjoy their favorite snack or layer cakes—especially during tumultuous times.
“Our research shows that today’s parents are stressed, and that’s why they look for moments of joy with their family, whether those moments are together or on the go,” says Tina Lambert, VP, insights, innovation, & activation, Hostess Brands Inc., Lenexa, KS. “And Hostess has a variety of tasty treats that help bring everyday moments of joy to consumers and their families.”
Sales data from IRI appear to confirm the need for everyday indulgence. In the year-long period ending March 20, dollar sales of center-store snack cakes grew 10.3% to $1.9 billion. Bar and finger snack cakes make up roughly 60% of those sales, and that category rose 12.6% to $1.16 billion.
The Top 5 center-store bar and finger cake manufacturers include:
- McKee Foods Corp., $393.9 million, up 0.8%
- Hostess Brands LLC, $299.4 million, up 7.6%
- Grupo Bimbo, $120.8 million, up 10.5%
- Bon Appetit Danish, $90.1 million, up 18.3%
- Flowers Foods, $78.8 million, up 12%
The Hershey Company, maker of Reese’s Snack Cakes, is ninth out of the Top 10 center-store bar and finger manufacturers IRI tracks, generating $23.4 million over the year ending March 20. That’s up 367.6% from a year ago.
Jing Sapala, senior manager, strategic growth platforms, The Hershey Company, says it aimed to hit the mid-morning snacking period with Reese’s Snack Cakes, first introduced in 2020. The original offering features soft chocolate cake topped with peanut butter cream and milk chocolate. The company has since launched a crunchy variety.
“Snack cakes are an indulgent category in the morning occasion, and we thought Reese’s was a great fit, considering its brand equity and the limited presence of peanut butter offerings in the category,” Sapala says.
Meanwhile, the center-store snack cupcakes category pulled in $458.2 million, up 9.7% from a year ago. Hostess is the leader in the category, with just under 60% of the sales.
Lambert notes consumers—in addition to looking for opportunities to indulge—seek convenience in snack cakes.
“Our research indicates young families are looking for portable, portioned, and poppable snacks that are easy for their kids to serve themselves and don’t make a mess,” she says. “Handheld options like cupcakes are a great treat to meet these needs.”
This year, Hostess is set to introduce Hostess Bouncers, which are bite-sized versions of its most popular products. Available varieties include Glazed Twinkies, Glazed Chocolate Ding Dongs, and Cinnamon Donettes.
“These mini treats are a perfect lunch box snack, and we are excited to roll them out across retail store locations in late September,” Lambert says.
Following the trend of diminutive favorites, Hostess has also launched Baby Bundts, which are individually wrapped miniature bundt cakes. They’re available in Lemon Drizzle, Cinnamon Swirl, and Strawberry Cheesecake.
“These light, fluffy, and moist cakes have just the right amount of sweetness with a drizzle of icing, making them a mouthwatering snack,” Lambert says.
The Top 5 center-store snack cupcake manufacturers include:
- Hostess Brands, LLC, $270 million, up 10.3%
- Flowers Foods, LLC, $96.9 million, up 9.6%
- McKee Foods Corp., $33.8 million, down 6.7%
- Grupo Bimbo, $31.7 million, up 18.8%
- Private label, $24.5 million, 22%
Meanwhile, the center-store roll cake category has declined over the same period, dropping 2.5 percent to $177.7 million. The top manufacturers include:
- McKee Foods Corp., $158.4 million, down 1.4%
- Grupo Bimbo, $10.8 million, up 7.2%
- Private label, $4.5 million, up 5.4%
- Flowers Foods, LLC, $3.9 million, down 46.1%
- Daisy Bakery, Inc., $41,489, up 9.3%
Similar to snack cakes, sales of layer cakes continue to grow. IRI reports that perimeter cake sales are up 16.8% to just over $5 billion in the year-long period ending March 20. Layer cakes represent about 30 percent of those sales, generating $1.59 billion over the same period. That category is up 13.3% from a year ago.
The Top 5 perimeter layer cake manufacturers include:
- Private label, $1.41 billion, up 13.8%
- Rich Products Corp, $30.81 million, down 9.5%
- The Original Cakerie Ltd., $21.94 million, up 24.2%
- CSM Bakery Products North America, $12.11 million, up 23.1%
- Fiera Foods, $10.66 million, down 16%
Perimeter sheet cakes, which pulled in just over $600 million in sales, are up 12.6% from a year ago. Private label makes up the majority of this category, with nearly $572 million in sales. Rounding out the Top 5 are Twinstar Bakery with $11 million, Dutch Made Bakery Inc. with $3 million, Fiera Foods with $2.6 million and The Original Cakerie with $2.6 million.
Turning to center store, cake sales in this category totaled $536.9 million in the year ending March 20, up 13.1% from a year ago. Loaf and pound cakes make up about 45% of these sales, increasing by 8.3% to reach $246.06 million in the same period.
The Top 5 center-store loaf and pound cake manufacturers include:
- Grupo Bimbo, $133.8 million, up 4.2%
- McKee Foods Corp., $61.2 million, up 24.8%
- Starbucks Coffee Co., $20.06 million, up 48.5%
- Bon Appetit Danish Inc., $16.43 million, up 31.6%
- American Classic Bakery Inc., $3.81 million, down 15.7%
Meanwhile, center-store angel food, bundt, and sponge cakes generated $233.74 million in the year ending March 20. That’s up 23.8% from a year ago.
The Top 5 center-store angel food, bundt, and sponge cake manufacturers include:
- Hostess Brands LLC, $191.81 million, up 31.3%
- Flowers Foods LLC, $38.6 million, down 1.3%
- Horizon Food Group, $1.21 million, up 18.5%
- Private label, $644,916, up 9.7%
- Balconi Srl, $628,696, down 12.8%
Krista Corigliano, director, cakes, Rich Products, Buffalo, NY, also points to consumers’ desire to indulge in premium products, whether or not they’re marking a specific occasion.
“Over the past few years, we have seen an evolution with cakes being purchased beyond ‘celebrations,’” she says. “Customers are looking for everyday treats and cakes that deliver on snacking occasions, with indulgence portion pack cake options as well. It’s become more important to focus on premium offerings, as consumers are willing to spend more for the ‘wow factor’—or a really delicious-tasting cake. We are looking at ways to innovate beyond the typical cake.”
One of Rich Products’ recent innovations is Our Specialty Treat Shop Cake Parfaits. Featuring cake and icing layered together, this line includes Chocolate and Strawberry flavors.
“We’ve launched the product with classic flavors that consumers recognize and prefer,” Corigliano says. “The grab-and-go packaging is conducive for handling and travel, helping maintain the product integrity, and ambient and refrigerated shelf life offers versatile display and merchandising options. No labor is needed as they are fully finished, and they are shipped in retail-ready packaging with pre-printed branded labels.”
Cake manufacturers know every day is an opportunity to celebrate, and they’ll offer the premium, convenient, and indulgent products needed to get the party started.