Cupcakes no longer a media darling

by Dan Malovany
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It didn’t surprise many industry observers when Crumbs Bake Shop filed for Chapter 11. Founded more than a decade ago, the company rode the cupcake phenomena hard until the fad seemingly ran out of gas and began to coast of late.

In many ways, Crumbs Bake Shop is yet another example of what happens to high-flying, single-product concept chains that soar to extreme heights only to melt down to more realistic levels — just like Mrs. Field’s did years ago when cookie chains were the rage. In fact, Harry Balzer of the NPD Group recently labeled cupcakes as one of the products of the decade. That prompted the audience at the IDDBA show in June to burst out into laughter because he was actually being sarcastic. Cupcakes, he noted, were never a trend.

While a media darling for a period of time, cupcakes were merely a reflection about how Americans love good ol’ cake. According to NPD consumption data, about 40% of Americans eat cake on a regular basis.

“It’s all about cake, not cupcakes,” Mr. Balzer noted. Fads are offshoots of trends. Want to invest in a hot concept? How about sandwiches? According to the NPD Group, sub shops now make up 3 of the 10 fastest growing food service chains. As far as cupcakes, well, good luck to the new investors.

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