While muffin sales have grown only a modest 8.7 percent since last year, bakers are attracting consumers with countless new varieties that cater to a wide spectrum of needs and wants. Muffins do appear prominently on supermarket shelves with new trends within the category. Consumers can find products that fit their preferences, from gluten-free to vegan to whole grain options.
Muffins and other sweetgoods are still recovering following the low-carb craze, while bakers market them to appeal to calorie-conscious consumers, says J. Bohn Popp, vice president of marketing, Aunt Millie’s Bakeries, Fort Wayne, Ind. “You see a lot of 100 calorie [products],” he says. “The thing I’ve seen the most in the marketplace is a limit on calories. That is what has seemed to work for a lot of companies in the sweetgoods business.”
Jumbo muffins are out. Smaller, individual-size muffins are in demand with health-conscious consumers looking for portion-controlled options and busy consumers looking for on-the-go snack or breakfast choices.
“Health conscious consumers often choose traditional flavors, such as blueberry, banana and cranberry apple with a whole grain base, that are lower in calories and fat,” says Jerry Ceccio, vice president, sales and marketing, Uncle Wally’s, Shirley, N.Y.
Uncle Wally’s offers Smart Portions, which are whole grain, low in calories and fat, a good source of fiber and target consumers interested in a healthful, portion-controlled product.
Consumers also look to muffins to satisfy their sweet tooth. “For consumers looking for an indulgent muffin, our traditional blueberry still holds its number one position,” Ceccio says. In addition, the company is generating great interest with unique toppings and flavors developed around ice cream, coffee and cheesecake flavor profiles. Seasonal flavors, such as pumpkin in fall and strawberry shortcake in summer, drive indulgent muffin sales, he adds.
Because many consumers consider muffins an indulgent treat, they might limit how frequently they consume them, which means producing high quality muffins is crucial to success, Popp says.
Still, consumers tend to view muffins as less indulgent than other baked products, such as donuts and fruit pies, he adds. “I think people do feel that muffins have a little more nutrition. There are raisin bran muffins and whole grain muffins. People see that for breakfast, and I think they have a [more healthful] connotation than other snack cakes.”
Lisa Coates, co-founder, Monkey Muffins Inc., Nyack, N.Y., has noticed a trend toward muffins with increased fiber, as well as more gluten-free muffins. Monkey Muffins recently launched a new apple-cinnamon flavor that is eggfree and dairy-free. Monkey Muffins are marketed toward children, many of whom have food allergies, Coates explains. “I think future flavors will include higher amounts of soluble fiber and lower fat content, but without compromising taste.”
Popp agrees muffin companies will continue to focus on making high quality muffins. In addition, bakers will continue to limit calories and market muffins in portion-controlled packages.