From a marketing perspective, consumers eat with their eyes. But for pastries, discerning consumers require a return on their investment for a pricey item. And that return is a great eating experience.

“The consumer really does read the ingredient legend and understands quality,” said Yianny Caparos, president, The Bakery Cos., Nashville.  “So, it’s not really a price-driven product; it’s a quality-first product.”

Americans are globally connected now more than ever. Before lockdowns swept the nation, many Americans were well traveled, and those who didn’t get on a plane relied on technology like social media to bring the world to their kitchen table. This has led to mature palates and higher standards.

“The baseline trend is that the American palate is evolutionary rather revolutionary,” said Haq Chaudary, chief commercial officer and general manager, Gold Standard. “It’s been a slow transition that has developed into consumer acceptance.”

So, what are the expectations in flavor innovation? If pastries are a comfort food, are people willing to branch out and try new things, or are they bound by what’s familiar?

For Gold Standard, it’s a little bit of both.

“Our path for the past year has been creating food that has a familiarity but also provides an extra bit of adventure or excitement,” Mr. Chaudary said. “Fusion foods have been successful because it’s having something familiar and something adventurous at the exact same time.”

This goes beyond adding chocolate to a blueberry Danish, he said. True fusion innovation creates something all its own.

“We’re looking at flavor combinations of fruit with a spicy component such as habanero or jalapeño with the sweet Danish dough,” said Tami Kulak, director of marketing and sales, Gold Standard. 

And the company is experimenting with product crossover by incorporating elements of its Everything bagel into certain laminated pastry products.

Flavor innovation is also crossing platforms — and enjoying a bit of throwback — in the center store as items like Pop Tarts from the Kellogg Company, Battle Creek, Mich., introduce a Fruit Loops variety.

There’s also much to be said for the tried-and-true. Tom Vierhile, vice president, strategic insights, North America, Innova Market Insights, noted that one of the most successful varieties emerging in the center store is cheese.

“Looking at 2017 to the end of 2019, a couple of the top flavors are cream cheese and cheese,” he said, noting that in the pastry and sweet goods categories, product innovation with cream cheese varieties saw a 36% CAGR during that time frame.

This article is an excerpt from the July 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on pastries, click here.