Bakers are bolstering their positions in the better-for-you sweet goods market. Take Just Desserts, which just launched a line of vegan cupcakes. The San Francisco-based company also offers branded baked goods that are free of many major allergens.

“We recently became vegan-certified, further validating our program for the most discerning vegan consumer,” noted Michael Mendes, chief executive officer, Just Desserts. “In addition to being peanut-and tree nut-free, we are now eliminating soy from our bakery and have introduced oatmilk as a cream dairy alternative, and that change has already taken place for our vegan line of products.”

Phil DeWester, senior director of category marketing at Dawn Foods, noted that it recently rolled a vegan muffin mix as a part of the Jackson, Mich.-based company’s Balance line of better-for-you muffins. 

Overall, globally inspired flavors are influencing new product innovation.

“This is part of an ongoing trend where buyers have increased focus on having unique items,” observed Tim Lotesto, senior director, national retail key accounts for Alpha Baking, Chicago. “This and an increasingly adventurous American palate lead manufacturers to develop flavors that borrow from other cultures and explore off-the-wall flavor combinations. Though there’s no danger of these items replacing more traditional flavors at this point, these can mean nice seasonal business. In the long term, some of these currently ‘out there’ flavors could become new standards.”

Andy Jacobs, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Hostess Brands, Kansas City, Mo., pointed out the company is taking cues from other food and beverage categories, specifically the confection arena in terms of products, packaging and promotions.

“We watch the big confection players in terms of everyday trends and also seasonal ones,” he said. “In addition, we have licensed Hostess into a number of food categories, which provides a unique view of those categories like cereal, ice cream, pudding desserts and coffee pods. All of these licensed products help us keep our pulse on the consumer and the opportunity to leverage consumer learnings from other categories within snack cakes.”

Meanwhile, International Delights, Clinton, NJ, offers an array sweet goods, croissant, Danish, small pound cakes and muffins and is looking into expanding into scones and frozen pastries for the freezer case in development within the next 12 months.

“One of the biggest trends during the pandemic has been how popular home baking has become,” said Nicolas Sayegh, managing director. “Every person has been wanting to serve fresh bread, banana cake, cookies and muffins at home.

He added frozen baked goods make it easier on parents than doing it from scratch.

“We feel it’s a trend that could last for a real long time,” Mr. Sayegh said.

This article is an excerpt from the August 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature cake and muffin trends, click here.