Modern Baking explores 10 consumer trends that could make a difference in your bakery in the months to come.
As the editors began compiling the list for this year’s Trendy 10, it was difficult to ignore the staggering impact of digital communication–particularly smartphones–on our national identity. Not only has it affected the way we communicate with one another (and how often), but it also has opened doors for business owners looking to differentiate themselves and connect directly with their target market. Marketing bakery products has never been easier, with the help of photo-sharing sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr; payment and ordering have gone mobile; and talking to customers is as easy as typing 140 characters. In this more-connected, faster-moving world, global flavors are melding as consumers stretch outside the cocoon of comfort food via ethnically diverse, inexpensive eats; men and women are sharing shopping duties more than ever; and the days are growing longer in the bakery as busy consumers shop later in the day. And nutrition is never out of the spotlight, as consumers seek the next great superfood and voice their growing concerns over added sugar. Read on to find out why Modern Baking believes these 10 trends could have a powerful impact on the bakery industry in 2013.
The lengthening day
The days may be getting shorter outside as winter approaches, but inside the bakery they’re growing longer as operators grasp for market share.
In the in-store bakery, dollars and volume sales top out at different times on the weekend and weekday, with weekday sales within the bakery department peaking later in the day, according to Neilsen Perishables Group. Nearly half (45 percent) of weekday dollars from the bakery department are generated after 4 p.m. This is fairly significant, especially given that the in-store bakery reaches a vast majority of shoppers who enter the store, with a penetration level of 94 percent in a year. What does this mean for both in-store and retail bakers? That the latter dayparts shouldn’t be ignored.
Ninety-year-old Dinkel’s Bakery in Chicago, well-known for its breakfast pastries, recently completed a long-planned expansion, adding a 46-seat café area and new menu with eight sandwiches and four children’s sandwiches to appeal to the weekday lunch crowd.
“It seemed like a good idea to push sales during the week and during the day when people are buying lunch instead of sweets or breakfast pastries,” says Luke Karl, general manager. “We’re not a café, we’re not a restaurant, and we don’t want to be. But this is something that will help diversify our business.”
Ken Downey, bakery director, Kings Supermarkets, Parsippany, N.Y., says freshness is key when appealing to consumers at all times of day. “No bread in my department is ever more than 24 hours old,” Downey says. “I don’t pre-pack and keep it for three days–it’s either baked or delivered fresh daily. We also have Kings’ baguette program where we time stamp packages, and no baguette is more than six hours old. That is extremely successful for us. I sell 10,000 a week.”
Never eat alone
The explosion of visually driven social media sites like Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook have fueled a culture of constant sharing, especially when it comes to food. Whether it’s a bejeweled Swarovski cupcake (the social media sensation Magnolia Bakery designed for 2012 New York Fashion Week), a show-stopping wedding cake or even a really great sandwich, consumers want to share their food experiences with the digital world.
Kari Haskell, co-owner of Retro Bakery in Las Vegas, says consumers on Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram do a lot of free advertising for her business. “I physically don’t have time anymore to keep up with all of it. But we’ve seen an increase in business just because people are doing it for us.” Haskell is very active on Twitter, with more than 9,000 followers. She tweets photos of freshly baked cupcakes and cookies; talks to fans and friends; and muses about life, family and business. She also spends her Sundays–when the bakery is closed–blogging and posting images of cakes and cupcakes on Facebook. (Above, left: Retro Bakery cupcakes, photo by James Tanksley.)
“I’ve talked to a lot of small businesses in many fields who don’t use any social media sites,” she says. “It isn’t just push enter and done–it’s a commitment. If you believe in a product, the marketing comes on its own.”
Haskell says that while social media sites essentially promote the business for her, they require her to hold her product to an even higher standard. “We do have meetings with staff and say ‘We don’t know who’s tweeting or Facebooking pictures of our product, so it has to be perfect.’”
The digital bulletin board
One of the fastest-growing social media sites in this digital age is Pinterest. The site allows users to organize and share content from around the web by “pinning” photos and images onto online bulletin boards that are organized by category and theme. According to Pew researchers, 12 percent of adults online use Pinterest, though this is dominated by women. Of the 18.7 million people who visited Pinterest in March 2012, 80 percent were women, according to RJMetrics. The site is quickly becoming a boon for businesses that have visually appealing products. Each “pin,” which includes a caption, links back to the site from which it originated, making the conversion to purchase quick and easy. Food is the fourth most popular category, RJMetrics notes, behind home, arts and crafts, and style/fashion.
Pinterest is a great venue for bakeries to connect with customers, though it’s important to cultivate a personality as opposed to simply promoting products. Creative Cakes in Tinley Park, Ill., has capitalized on the fact that Pinterest is a natural fit for wedding planning and built its boards as a one-stop shop for brides–for much more than just beautiful wedding cakes. Creative Cakes’ employees all have access to the login information for the bakery’s Pinterest account and are encouraged to spend time pinning their favorite wedding gowns, flower arrangements, wedding colors–and of course cakes–to make the page even more robust. (Above, right: Creative Cakes wedding cake on Pinterest.)
One note of caution: Images can be easily taken from Pinterest and reused without attribution, so it’s a good idea to add a watermark to your photos, which can be done with most photo editing software.
Barcodes go 2D
QR codes can be seen on almost everything, from delivery trucks to clothing tags to packs of gum. These two-dimensional “quick response” barcodes take a piece of information from a transitory media–like a web page, billboard or even a t-shirt–and put it into a mobile phone. By scanning the barcode, the user can access product or nutritional details, contact information or coupons for free product.
Kings Supermarkets, Parsippany, N.Y., began putting QR codes on packaging in the bakery six months ago with recipe ideas and serving suggestions. “It’s just a way of pairing things for the customer. We might put a QR code on a baguette with a recipe for lasagna or spaghetti,” says bakery director Ken Downey. The bakery has received only positive response from customers.
“People love them–they’re clicking on them all the time. It was never meant to drive or increase sales. It’s just a little something extra for the customer and something different that sets us apart.”
Kari Haskell, co-owner of Retro Bakery in Las Vegas, has yet to use this technology and is skeptical about whether it will stick with younger generations. “A lot of our customers are just getting their first smartphones,” Haskell says. “My daughter’s generation might catch on. But with QR codes, people don’t seem to like them because they usually just give you unnecessary information.”
This superfood has everyone chirping
Be it blueberries, fish oil capsules, pomegranate juice or quinoa, consumers are always looking for the next silver bullet when it comes to healthful ingredients–the one food that will lengthen life spans and fight disease. Could the next superfood be found in an even tinier package?
It has long been known that seeds are rich sources of nutrients. Sunflower, flax, pumpkin, sesame seeds and wheat germ (not technically a seed but part of the wheat berry) are all rich sources of antioxidants and nutrients that provide chemicals that help reduce the risks of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Chia seeds, although more expensive than the others, have a high concentration of omega-3 acids–even more than salmon. One serving size also includes 18 percent of recommended daily calcium and four grams of protein, and they are a great source of fiber and potassium.
“I’ve heard great things about chia seeds, and I have tried them. They’re nice and I’m sure very healthy, but super? I would say super like so many other foods are super if we allow them to be by not over-processing them and adding them to an already balanced diet,” says Dave Miller, owner of Miller’s Bake House, Yankee Hill, Calif. Miller has been baking with whole grains, nuts and seeds since he began baking in 1985. He prefers a more holistic approach to health by tracking consumption on a daily basis. “Following a consistent diet of whole foods and staying away from the more processed foods isn’t as appealing as finding a super food or fish oil supplement or whatever makes the headlines any particular month, but I think it has more to do with good health,” he says.
Move over, ladies
There’s a new shopper in the home. An increasing number of men are at least partly responsible for shopping because they stay at home or are part of two-income households where shopping duties are shared. And despite the numerous stereotypes labeling men as clueless and helpless when it comes to purchases for the home, recent data from SymphonyIRI indicate that men shop similarly to women in many regards.
More than half of men (54 percent) are eating out less often amid the current economic climate. Moreover, 35 percent of men purchase only items they need instead of stocking up, in an effort to stick to a budget. Nearly two-thirds of male shoppers make lists prior to entering the grocery store; 16 percent list specific brands to buy, whereas 12 percent list specific private labels to buy. While itemized lists are common for both women and men, they are slightly more prevalent among men.
So how can this growing market be tapped? The answer could be online, where men are quickly gaining significant purchasing power. Mashable recently reported that 70 percent of men research and buy online, with 67 percent buying at least once a month, according to an iProspect survey. Mashable found that among the reasons ecommerce is so appealing to men are: the less is more approach, rather than focusing on abundance and variety; convenience and access, by making online buying as simple as a few clicks; niche targeting based on interest; and loyalty through curated shopping or subscription commerce.
More than one third of American adults have a smartphone, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. As smartphone adoption grows at a rate of 30 percent per year, many are considering mobile payments and ordering to be the next frontier in quickservice and fast-casual dining.
The burgeoning “mobile wallet” marketplace, which includes tech giants such as Google Inc. and upstarts like Scvngr and Square, developed mobile apps allowing consumers to make purchases with their smartphones instead of using cash or c.redit cards. About half of smartphone users say they’re open to paying with their phones, though only a fraction have actually adopted the technology thus far.
Starbucks was an early adopter of the mobile wallet after launching its first mobile app in 2009 that contained a store locator and information about coffee and menu items’ nutritional value. In January 2011, the chain released a more powerful Starbucks Card Mobile App, which also lets customers pay at the register by waving a barcode on the phone’s screen in front of a scanner. Users can load Starbucks’ digital prepaid card with an existing credit card.
La Boulange Bakery, San Francisco, launched its own mobile app this fall that allows customers to order from their smartphone. They also can view the bakery’s full menu, repeat previous orders, pay with a credit card and confirm pickup times and dates. The app is free on iTunes and Google Play.
For a smaller retail bakery, like Retro Bakery in Las Vegas, owner Kari Haskell is still skittish about adopting the technology, as it’s a significant investment. “I would totally do mobile payment as long as it’s priced right for us. Right now I’m not ready to make that commitment,” she says. “Our customers are about half and half [smartphone users], so we’re still OK. I will probably invest more time into looking at that once we open a second location.”
When the Great Recession hit four years ago, battered consumers sought out familiar flavors and unchallenging comfort foods. And even though the effects of the recession are still being felt everywhere, one area where consumers are getting their adventurous streak back is flavor. Inexpensive eateries, such as food trucks and fast-casual concepts from high-end chefs, have paved the way for consumers to venture into uncharted flavor territory by offering a blend of multiple global flavors on single plates.
According to Mintel, the major drivers behind consumers’ growing appetite for exotic flavors are growing interest in cooking shows on TV, access to media that feature foods that are popular in other countries, cookbooks featuring recipes from other countries and travel.
More than one quarter (26 percent) of consumers eating ethnic foods not common to their background said they were inspired to try the new flavors after seeing them used on TV, in newspapers or in magazines. In addition, 25 percent of consumers who have developed a taste for ethnic food said they did so because they live in ethnically diverse neighborhoods where different cuisines are readily available.
How can bakeries capitalize on this? Incorporate some exotic spices and herbs into existing formulas or feature a “product of the month” from a different part of the world. Learning about and featuring products from different ethnic backgrounds not only expands your knowledge, it also has the potential to reach an untapped customer base.
Food trucks on a roll
Food trucks continue to intrigue consumers, as more than one-quarter (28 percent) of those who saw a food truck last summer made a mobile foodservice purchase, according to research from the National Restaurant Association.
The culture is booming, with hundreds of food trucks rolling across major U.S. cities. For many looking to get into the foodservice or bakery industry, food trucks and carts offer lower overhead costs and less risk and a smaller investment than a storefront operation. Still, in an effort to better compete, many brick-and-mortar shops are launching food trucks of their own.
“For us it was really helpful because we had already been in the business. We knew what production looked like and labor was built into it so there wasn’t as much overhead for us,” said Cake Crumbs bakery co-owner Denon Moore, who with her husband Sean Moore launched the Denver Cupcake Truck in 2010. “On the flip side, owning a retail shop and launching a truck that was extremely successful was like having a brand new business. It was very stressful and became a little overwhelming.”
Food trucks allow operators with storefronts to focus on one or two product lines, like cupcakes, macarons and bars, or try something a little different, like ethnic sandwiches or artisan ice cream. Still, many storefront businesses are pushing back, calling for tougher restrictions on where food trucks can park and when.
Rich Reinwald, owner of Reinwald’s Bakery in Long Island, N.Y., says that competition is always good for retail, as long as the same rules apply to everyone. “I don’t mind lowering the bar of entry, to tell you the truth–as long as they have to have the same standards we do. In my town, every time a small bakery comes, it has been good for us. It makes people more aware of bakery goods, and it’s a little cold water thrown on your face. I welcome more people because the more retail we have, the stronger the retail community will be.”
The war on added sugars
In an effort to lower obesity rates, the New York City Board of Health this summer approved an unprecedented ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, street carts and movie theaters.
Last year, the latest update on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans focused more on the role of solid fats and added sugars in the American diet instead of discretionary, or “freebie,” calories. For most people, solid fats and added sugars make up 35 percent of their total calories, leading to excessive amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol and insufficient amounts of dietary fiber and other nutrients.
When Modern Baking posed a question on Twitter asking bakers’ reactions to the New York City soda ban, one replied: “This is astounding to me, and I hate it. What’s next? Size, height and weight restrictions on cupcakes?”
Rich Reinwald, owner of Reinwald’s Bakery, Long Island, N.Y., says that the attack on added sugar could be detrimental to retail bakeries in the longer term. “Society is creating a specter of fear about sugar. On our website, health is defined as being of sound mind and body. Where does it say that you can’t eat sugar? That little bit of sugar you eat may be of more benefit to your mind than those few calories going into your body.”
The key is moderation, he says. “But it appears in New York City, they want to legislate moderation. And long term, I think the attack is on for our industry.”