Several factors drive consumers to their favorite products, including freshness, sustainability, healthfulness and transparency.

“If any of your products are being made with local ingredients — maybe local wheat, certain ingredients that can be brought in from local producers — that really resonates with people,” Eric Richard, industry relations coordinator for International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA), advised in-store bakeries. “If there’s a way to incorporate these local products and ingredients within cakes and baked goods, that’s something you want to publicize and let consumers know because people have an affinity for local. Certainly, there’s that feeling that it’s not only fresher, but you’re helping the local economy as well.”

Although in-store bakeries may have an upper hand on freshness claims, Mintel’s “Prepared Cakes, Pies and Pastries” 2021 Executive Summary stressed that all formats can evoke freshness by emphasizing any premium ingredients and better-for-you (BFY) attributes, such as all-natural and non-GMO ingredients.

“Improving associations with freshness and quality will be imperative to compete with homemade and bakery offerings and remain relevant with consumers in the long term,” Mintel reported. “Those that eat refrigerated and frozen sweet baked goods are more likely to prioritize BFY and high-quality attributes, and Mintel Purchase Intelligence shows that frozen and chilled desserts are perceived as higher quality and more natural than shelf-stable offerings, indicating refrigerated and frozen formats have the potential to be more permissible.”

Mr. Richard also stressed the need for bakeries to include consumers looking for items that are gluten-free and free from common allergens. It can be a tall order for in-store bakeries that would still need to avoid cross-contamination.

“There’s still going to be that demand for gluten-free options, and free from artificial flavors, artificial ingredients. That’s all going to play a part,” he said. “We keep talking about indulgence, and yes, that is a driving factor. But you have shoppers of in-store bakery that have food allergens, or there are certain ingredients they’re trying to avoid. So it’s important to keep those people in mind, too, when you’re looking at a cake program.”

He also urged in-store bakeries to continue embracing e-commerce and making sure that their products are among the items that online shoppers can choose.

Offering a customized experience will go a long way toward keeping grocery shoppers happy and encouraging loyalty.

“For some retailers, if you go to their site and type in ‘bread,’ you might not have any in-store bakery options,” Mr. Richard explained. “It’s just commercial bread options. Same thing for cake. It’s ensuring you have the right mechanisms in place that offer an enjoyable, efficient and seamless way to order these cakes and customize them however they like. That’s important. I think retailers are still coming up to speed when it comes to e-commerce.”

Looking down the road a few years, Mintel’s report predicted that prepared pastries will continue to serve consumers working remotely and will be used for social occasions.

“Dollar sales are anticipated to continue growing, although at a slower pace, as consumers settle into pre-pandemic routines,” the report predicted about 2022-25. “Brands will be challenged to compete with foodservice offerings and homemade baked goods via a focus on premium ingredients that improve perceived quality and by targeting under-utilized occasions such as social gatherings.”

Households that are consuming pre-packaged snack cakes often are serving multiple people throughout the day and evening, said Sally Lyons Wyatt, IRI executive vice president and practice leader, client insights. And she urged companies to remain agile and provide a fun eating experience.

“It is going to be incumbent on those manufacturers to continue to remind consumers about the versatility of snack cakes,” she said, “and where and how they can be consumed on different occasions, different times of day, in and out of the home.”

Cakes and snack cakes are available in a wide variety of sizes and flavors, which allow consumers to enjoy these treats on their own or with a crowd. Whether bakers are offering up tried-and-true favorites or are breaking new ground, consumers are always ready to indulge.

This article is an excerpt from the October 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Cake & Snack Cakes, click here.