Mrs Freshley's icers
Flowers Foods' branded products saw a 6.4% uptick in sales growth during the year.

KANSAS CITY — Consumers continue to crave sweets.

For the second straight year, data from Chicago-based market research firm Information Resources, Inc. show strong sales performance for several sweet goods categories.

In the 52 weeks ended Nov. 27, dollar sales in the pastry/donuts category totaled $4,902,202,718, up 4.8% from the same period a year ago, according to I.R.I. The pastry/Danish/coffee cakes sub-category delivered $1,986,341,337 in sales during the period, up 4.5% from a year ago. The biggest boost came from private label products, which experienced an 11.4% uptick in sales growth during the period. But branded products also performed well, with McKee Foods up 2.4%, Grupo Bimbo up 5.4% and Flowers Foods up 6.4% during the year.

Grain-based foods
Flowers Foods' Mrs. Freshley’s brand received a “refresh” this past summer.

After 20-plus years, the Mrs. Freshley’s brand of Thomasville, Ga.-based Flowers Foods, Inc. received a “refresh” this past summer, including the roll-out of new packaging and a new slogan: “Make life sweeter!”

The packaging highlights Mrs. Freshley’s sweet goods through vivid colors and easy-to-read product descriptions. Each multipack box features product images that Flowers said “come alive on pack,” while the cellophane-wrapped, single-serve packages showcase products through a clear view window.

Mrs. Freshley’s new logo boasts a bright, bold color scheme of red, white and gold tones to complement the large font. The logo also features the brand’s new tagline.

Hostess Mini Muffins
This year, Hostess launches new Mini Muffins with no high-fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils.

Flowers said consumer research showed people prefer Mrs. Freshley’s new packaging due to the increased size of the logo and product images, which make it easier to spot on shelves.

“The updated packaging conveys the message that this is the snack of today’s on-the-go lifestyle or anytime,” said Meredith Butler, brand manager for Mrs. Freshley’s.

Meanwhile, the donuts sub-category increased 3.4% to $1,971,202,966, led by an increase of 11.3% for Hostess Brands, Inc., and the muffins sub-category increased 8.5% to $944,658,414, led by a 13.6% gain at Grupo Bimbo and a 13.2% increase at Hostess Brands, according to I.R.I.

Kansas City-based Hostess Brands is expanding its product portfolio to include more nutrition-oriented products and earlier this year introduced a new Mini Muffins formulation that has the nutritional benefit of 8 grams of whole grain per serving.

Aryzta Otis Spunkmeyer retail products
Otis Spunkmeyer sweet goods rolled out to retail in late spring.

“In addition to being a good source of whole grain, Hostess’ new Mini Muffins contain no high-fructose corn syrup, no partially hydrogenated oil and 0 g trans fat,” said Burke Raine, chief marketing officer of Hostess.

The muffins category also received a boost from the retail roll-out of Otis Spunkmeyer sweet goods, which took place in late spring. As part of the roll-out from Aryzta AG, Otis Spunkmeyer introduced a new line of 20 pre-packaged products. The new consumer-focused retail line, which features a “No Funky Stuff” tagline, includes snack cakes, loaf cakes, mini muffins, mini cupcakes, and cookies in a variety of classic flavors.

The bakery snacks category totaled $3,296,592,494 in sales during the 52 weeks ended Nov. 27, according to I.R.I., up 3% from the same period a year ago. Within the category, dollar sales at McKee Foods rose 2% to $813,016,413, private label sales increased 10.2% to $677,594,063, and sales at Hostess Brands gained 6.1% to $631,188,181.

Hostess Fall items
This fall, Hostess launched Caramel Apple CupCakes and Caramel Crunch Donettes.

This fall, Hostess Brands launched an array of autumn offerings, including three new products.

Sporting the sought-after seasonal spice, the brand’s new Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Twinkies feature white fudge-covered sponge cakes with pumpkin spice cheesecake filling. Hostess’ new Caramel Apple CupCakes feature frosted caramel apple-flavored cake with a creamy caramel filling. The caramel continues in new Hostess Caramel Crunch Donettes, which are mini cake donuts with a crunchy caramel coating.

“A change in seasons calls for a shift in snacking, with this year’s autumn portfolio building on past seasons’ favorites,” Mr. Raine said. “Different occasions call for different flavors, and we are looking to provide more innovative and unexpected items to satisfy those cravings.”

Grain-based foods
McKee Foods Corp. added three new items to its Little Debbie Zebra snack cakes line.

Collegedale, Tenn.-based McKee Foods Corp. looked toward its existing product lines for innovation inspiration this past year. The company added to its Little Debbie Zebra snack cakes line with the debut of three new items: Zebra Cake Rolls, Zebra Brownies and Zebra Plus Nutty Bars.

“We want to provide an unmatched experience to the category by combining the exciting visual identity of our Zebra brand with the classic tastes of Little Debbie Brownies, Cake Rolls and Nutty Bars,” Thomas Mossbeck, product manager for Little Debbie, said when the products were introduced earlier this year.

McKee Foods said Little Debbie Zebra Cake Rolls are inspired by the taste experience of the classic Zebra Cakes but in a roll format — yellow cake, vanilla creme, white icing and a fudge stripe, while Little Debbie Zebra Brownies combine the brand’s rich, chocolatey brownie with white icing and the familiar Zebra fudge stripe pattern. Little Debbie Zebra Plus Nutty Bars feature the classic peanut butter crispy wafer taste of Nutty Bars, which are enrobed in white vanilla icing and given fudge Zebra stripes.