At some point, everyone breaks down and decides to indulge in a sweet treat. And when they do, baked goods often find themselves in salivating consumers’ sights.
But, like many consumer product categories, consumer tastes in the sweet baked goods segment are being influenced by larger, more wide-reaching trends – from increased concerns about healthiness and the environment to, of course, the global pandemic.
Let’s take a look at a few of these trends and the opportunities they represent.
The impact of COVID-19
Even before the pandemic, consumers were changing how they satisfy their sweet tooth. In-store impulse buys were shrinking, and planned indulgence was increasing, necessitating longer shelf life. Increasingly, consumers were valuing the experience of eating those baked products at home.
Now, in light of COVID-19, market intelligence firm Mintel found that consumers are interested in better-for-you sweet baked goods that still taste great. Consider that:
32% of consumers in the U.S. say they would be interested in cookies with low sugar.
74% of cake consumers in Spain think sugar should be reduced in cakes.
40% of consumers in India say they would pay more for biscuits that contain healthy ingredients.
And, if you can use functional ingredients or claim to provide an immunity boost, that’s even better. In fact, companies are considering incorporating everything from vegetables, such as pumpkin, zucchini and carrot, as well as seeds and nuts, such as pistachio, poppy seed and morning glory, to other healthy ingredients, such as raisins and ancient grains.
Concerns about sustainability
Consumers are also on the lookout for packaging that reflects an increased awareness of the product’s environmental impact. By using plastic alternatives or reducing the amount of packaging, producers could find themselves in good graces with eco-friendly shoppers.
For cookie producers, this could be something as simple as using cardboard dividers instead of the typical plastic. Others might find inspiration in the Carrefour Bio Organic Rhubarb Tart, which uses a 100% recyclable package and can be found in Belgium.
But this is a particular challenge for the cake and sweet bakery category, especially since virtually all recently launched products are packaged in plastics or metallized films. This, however, also makes eco-friendly packaging an opportunity to differentiate from competitors.
For producers who are not able to significantly change their packaging, using sustainable, natural ingredients is all the more important. In fact, a recent study found that the pandemic has made them more environmentally conscious, with 11% saying they have shifted their purchases based on environmental claims within the past year.
Make the indulgence memorable
As consumers move away from “food as functional” and toward “food as experience,” Mintel reports that it’s more important than ever to experiment with products that have luxurious flavors, contrasting textures and distinctive packaging.
Oreo, for instance, released limited edition Trolls cookies that make use of glitter and popping candy, while Milk Bar’s Compost Cookies include pretzels, potato chips, graham crackers, coffee, oats, and butterscotch. Many bakeries are also still experimenting with hybrid pastries – from the brookie (a brownie-cookie hybrid) to the donnoli (a donut with cannoli filling) and the now-famous Cronut (a croissant-donut hybrid).
But if glitter isn’t your brand’s style and those wild ingredient combinations seem like a bit much for your target audience, feel free to keep innovating with chocolate – it remains a crowd pleaser in Asia, the U.S., and Europe.
 Euromonitor 2019. Sweets and Snacks: Upcoming Trends and Opportunities.