A healthful shift for cheesecake
Regardless if it’s fresh baked, frozen or refrigerated, cheesecake is undergoing a change. Whether for health reasons, to save money, or just because people want to sample more variety for their dollar, smaller size is the rule today rather than the exception. This is giving cheesecake a new market, as it’s no longer just a dessert, but also a snack.
Matt Samii, co-owner of the Ultimate Cheesecake Bakery, San Antonio, agrees that cheesecakes in smaller sizes are the trend today. “More people are buying our mini cheesecakes and buying in variety. Samplers are very popular,” he says.
The Ultimate Cheesecake operates seven retail locations and supplies foodservice distributors throughout Texas, Kansas, Arizona, Utah and Oklahoma. To meet the requests for healthful alternatives to traditional cheesecakes, the company came up with a sugar-free, carbohydrate-free cheesecake. Samii says that it maintains the creamy cheesecake texture but has no crust on the sides or bottom.
“Some restaurants we cater to also want a standard cheesecake, but gluten free. So instead of using traditional graham cracker crust, we crush pecans and walnuts and use them for an alternative crust,” Samii says.
With decades of continuing focus on consumer trends, Kavita Vermani, sweet goods assistant brand manager, Sara Lee Corp., Downers Grove, Ill., notes that consumers are asking for more options, more varieties and smaller portions when it comes to cheesecake. “Sara Lee understands people’s desire to eat better and live more nutritious lifestyles. We also understand their desire to indulge within moderation. With the introduction of our miniature version of cheesecake, Sara Lee Bites, we are satisfying consumer dessert cravings with just 20-calories per individual bite,” Vermani says.
Sara Lee Corp. and Rich Products Corp., Buffalo, N.Y., both produce cheesecakes and cheesecake products that are commonly seen in supermarket in-store refrigerated cases.
To meet the challenges of price, size and taste, Rich Products also has introduced a new “Just Right Tonight” line of 6-in. cheesecakes at 16 ozs. These are baked New York-style cheesecakes, made with high quality ingredients and offered at an affordable price. “These new cakes are on-trend as a dessert that is perfect for the small impromptu gathering or as an everyday dessert for two- to four-person households. We're excited to offer consumers an affordable way to indulge their sweet tooth without squeezing their budgets,” says Ken Haas, Rich Products’ marketing manager, in-store bakery-cheesecakes.
Adding flavor choices
While variety may be the spice of life, old favorites often come out on top. Sara Lee’s Cheesecake Bites, for instance, are available in five varieties: strawberry, original, chocolate, cookies n’ cream and caramel. “As for flavors, strawberry is always popular and is currently the number one selling SKU in the line of Sara Lee Bites,” Vermani says.
The Ultimate Cheesecake Bakery is big on variety. “We have 36 flavors of cheesecake; everything from New York style to the swirls varieties with blueberry, strawberry and cherry. We get into candy toppings. We do cookies and cream, peanut butter, toffee crunch and turtle, of course,” Samii says. “Even our sugar-free cheesecake comes in four of the most popular flavors: key lime, coffee, the old fashioned, and a pumpkin spice for the holidays.”
The Cheesecake Factory, Calabasas Hills, Calif., operates 146 full-service restaurants nationwide, but is best known for its cheesecakes, which come in more than 30 different flavors. To update their product line earlier this year, they took a unique approach. They held a cheesecake contest called "What's Your Flavor?” that invited people to submit cheesecake formulas. The winning flavor, Stefanie's Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake, was chosen from nearly 10,000 submissions.
This cheesecake will be a featured flavor on the menu for one year. And to further its commitment to supporting local communities, the company plans to donate $0.25 from the sale of every slice of the winning cheesecake to Feeding America–the nation’s food bank network.
Lending bakers a helping hand
While going to the consumer for ideas is a valuable marketing tool, companies such as Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), Rosemont, Ill. and Edlong Dairy Flavors, Elk Grove Village, Ill. are continually meeting the daily needs of bakers.
DMI is a free resource to all bakers: www.innovatewithdairy.com. Nothing says “dairy” like cheesecake. Also, nothing says indulgent like cheesecake. DMI has been focusing on fitting this rich product into their “permissible indulgence” program.
“One way to create permissible indulgence in a food like cheesecake is with portion control. DMI developed a formula for ‘No-Bake Cheesecake Fillings’ for a recent IFT [Institute of Food Technologists’ Food Expo]. Since that time, several companies have introduced new smaller portion products. Sara Lee introduced Cookies and Cream Cheesecake Bites in 2009. Casino Chef introduced Gourmet Mini Cheesecakes in March of 2009. These products are full flavor,” says Sharon Gerdes, senior account manager at DMI.
Retail products have a bit of a challenge because the FDA Standard Serving Size for cheesecake is 125g, but that doesn’t mean that a 30 or 40g serving might not be a satisfying dessert. For example 3 pieces (98g), might contain 300 calories, but for many consumers one piece could be a tasty indulgent 100-calorie dessert.
Cream cheese itself has always been a traditional favorite because of flavor and texture, but people must remember that as a dairy product, cheesecake itself does provide protein, vitamin A and calcium. “For bakers looking to add even healthier ingredients, the DMI website includes new formulas and information. These would include lower-fat cream cheeses, bakers cheese, milk protein concentrate and whey protein concentrate,” Gerdes says.
The newest product formula on DMI’s website is their no-bake individual cheesecake in a chocolate cup. “It fits right in with the concept of ‘permissible indulgence,’” Gerdes says. “We show our new concepts to consumers and get their opinions. This one came back as the one with the highest purchase intent.”
Edlong Dairy Flavors produces flavors and ingredients that are featured in frozen, refrigerated retail foods, foodservice and baked and packaged items of many brand name and private label manufacturers. “Because of consumer health concerns, many manufacturers want to reformulate their products with non-dairy flavors that simulate the profile of dairy,” says Laura Vega, Vice President of technical solutions. “For these applications, Edlong offers its kosher pareve Vision™ line with profiles like cheese, butter, cream and milk, cultured and sweet dairy.”
Some of Edlong’s recently introduced flavors include cream cheese Danish, almond vanilla, chocolate cherry cordial, salted caramel, graham cracker pie crust and smoked applewood cheddar.
Edlong works with bakers to develop special formulations aimed at consumers who want to indulge in the full flavor and texture of a good cheesecake without any guilt at all. By using their flavors, bakers can tap into the healthful and indulgent market segment.
The future of cheesecake
Smaller sizes are expanding cheesecake from the traditional dessert market into the snack market. The growth of new healthful and yet indulgent products, is potentially opening up profitable niche markets. Plus, there will always be a place for traditional, decadent New York cheesecake, even if they are consumed in smaller portions. The cheesecake market is evolving to fit into a variety of markets that address different consumer demands.
Websites of those mentioned in this feature:
The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated
Dairy Management Inc.
Edlong Dairy Flavors
Rich Products Corporation
Sara Lee Brands and Foodservice
The Ultimate Cheesecake Bakery