Bakers take many paths when it comes to new product innovation. Just Desserts, San Francisco, is bolstering its position in the better-for-you sweet goods market with a new line of vegan cupcakes.

“We recently became vegan-certified, further validating our program for the most discerning vegan consumer,” Michael Mendes, chief executive officer, told Baking & Snack recently. “In addition to being peanut- and tree nut-free, we are now eliminating soy from our bakery and have introduced oat milk as a cream dairy alternative.”

Overall, globally inspired flavors remain a dominate force.

“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, noted the Kansas City-based company is taking cues from other food and beverage categories.

“We watch the big confection players in terms of everyday trends and also seasonal ones,” he said. “In addition, we have licensed Hostess into several 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.”