Cupcakes gain versatility from new colors and flavors to more healthful options.
The cupcake trend sweeping retail and in-store bakeries has extended its reach to supermarket shelves. Cupcakes' popularity grew with help from the show Sex and the City where the lead characters ate cupcakes at Manhattan's upscale Magnolia Bakery. Before long, cupcake towers began replacing traditional wedding cakes. But it was the desire for portion control and on-the-go snacks that helped solidify cupcakes' spot in the limelight. Surprisingly, cupcakes' popularity has not been stymied by schools banning cupcakes for birthday celebrations in an effort to combat childhood obesity and to protect children with food allergies.
“Schools have been mandated to create their own wellness policies, so they have to abide by certain guidelines on the foods they're going to feed our children,” says Rina Brooke, president, Snack 'n Write, a div. of Uncle Wally's Muffin Co., Shirley, N.Y. “As a result of these wellness policies, many school districts, including mine, no longer allow cupcakes to be brought in for children's birthday celebrations.” Like many parents who were frustrated by the ban and the lack of suggestions received from schools, Brooke wanted her daughter to have the opportunity to celebrate her birthday with a cupcake, “an American tradition.” Brooke approached Wally Amos, of Uncle Wally's and partnered with him to create Snack 'n Write, a line of cupcakes and other baked products designed to meet most school wellness policies.
“They're healthier cupcakes. They contain 30 percent less fat, have 33 percent fewer calories from fat and 60 percent less saturated fat.” In addition, the cupcakes have 0 g of trans fats and come in a 1.7-oz. portion-controlled size.
For Brooke, approaching Uncle Wally's was an obvious choice. “One of [Wally Amos'] biggest causes has been literacy for children for over 30 years, so it felt like a perfect fit because Wally has always been about kids, and our market is kids and their parents.”
The cupcakes currently are marketed to schools, which keep the cupcakes in stock and send them directly to the child's classroom after a parent orders them. The solution offers convenience for working parents and fits within school nutrition guidelines. “As a parent, just saying ‘no more sweetgoods’ is not the answer. It's all about portion control, which is why a cupcake is such a good item because you can control the portion,” Brooke says. The cupcakes also are expected to appear in in-store supermarket bakeries this month.
But cupcakes aren't just for children. “Cupcakes enjoy strong popularity among people of all ages and offer the convenience of grab-and-go snacking-whether they're sold in single or multipacks,” says Brent Bradshaw, brand manager, Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga. “Cupcakes that offer quality and taste will always be popular because they combine three sweet favorites: cake, cream and icing, and because they are perceived as a comfort food or indulgent treat.”
Portion-controlled and 100-calorie cupcake lines are catering to health conscious consumers looking to indulge their sweet tooth. Mrs. Freshley's SnackAway brand, for example, offers fewer calories, less fat, less sugar and more fiber than regular varieties. Mrs. Freshley's and Blue Bird brands offer 100-calorie mini-cupcakes to cater to portion conscious consumers.
Interstate Bakeries Corp. (IBC) is seeing positive response to its reduced calorie offerings. “Given the excitement surrounding our 100 calorie pack cupcake and muffin products, we were excited to offer the [Hostess] Twinkie in a portion-controlled option,” says David Leavitt, vice president, snack marketing, IBC, Woodbridge, N.J. “Many of our consumers love the Twinkie, but wanted it in a more portion-controlled format.” New Twinkie Bites come in three cupcake-size portions.
Consumers also are open to new and different forms and flavors in their cupcakes. “Standard vanilla and chocolate are still popular, but I think you're starting to see a trend of thinking out of the box,” Brooke notes. Carrot and pumpkin flavors and cupcakes with different combinations of colorings and icings are appearing on supermaket shelves.
Fitting with these trends, Hostess is offering strawberry cupcakes, a favorite with families, as well as carrot cupcakes. Flowers Foods is introducing banana pudding cupcakes in the first half of 2009 under its Mrs. Freshley's and Blue Bird brands. The cupcakes include yellow cake and natural banana-flavored crème and icing and are topped with vanilla wafer crumbles.
“Cupcakes can be versatile,” Bradshaw says, “For example, you can change the color of the cake, icing and sprinkles to create exciting and fun seasonal-themed items.”
|Bakery Snacks Brand Names||Dollar Sales||% Change Year Ago|
|Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies||33.7||10.7|
|Hostess 100 Calorie Packs||33.5||16.7|
|Nabisco Oreo Cakesters||24.8||36.4|
|Entenmann's Little Bites||24.7||6.9|
|Bakery Snacks Brand Names||Unit Sales||% Change Year Ago|
|Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies||25.0||6.6|
|Little Debbie Zebra Cakes||14.0||6.2|
|Hostess 100 Calorie Packs||9.3||22.3|
|Fresh Bakery Products||52 weeks ended Nov. 12: $ Sales||% Change Prior Year||52 weeks ended Nov. 12: Unit Sales||% Change Prior Year|
|Cakes (excl snack/coffee)||689,839,000||1.2||132,918,500||1.6|
|Pies (excl Snack Pies)||205,336,000||3.3||43,838,630||10.1|
|Frozen Bakery Products||52 weeks ended Nov. 12: $ Sales||% Change Prior Year||52 weeks ended Nov. 12: Unit Sales||% Change Prior Year|
|Sweetgoods (excl Cheesecakes)||212,531,400||3.1||57,516,380||1.8|
|Refrigerated Bakery Products||52 weeks ended Nov. 12: $ Sales||% Change Prior Year||52 weeks ended Nov. 12: Unit Sales||% Change Prior Year|
|Cakes (excl Snack/Coffee)||71,996,740||1.6||9,126,749||5.9|
|Pies (excl Snack Pies)||22,101,400||17.5||4,123,905||20.5|