2021 Spotlight: Bakery Flavors in the News

by | Jan 18, 2021

The year 2020 saw sales of baked goods on the rise across several segments as consumers adjusted to an eat-at-home lifestyle. As 2021 unfolds, foodservice operators and manufacturers face some new expectations from consumers whose shifts in behaviors and attitudes seem to have staying power. Fortunately, a range of flavors, known and new, can take the heat and deliver delicious taste experiences.

Success for Sweet Baked Goods

Although in-home baking increased significantly in 2020, ready-to-eat sweet treats also gained momentum across the multi-channel retail landscape.

  • 52-week sales data ending April from IRI showed cookies generated more than $9 billion U.S. dollars and growing at +5.1%. Cookies are the country’s second-favorite baked product (after bread).
  • And American consumers purchased over 2 billion pastries and donuts, generating $5.3 billion, up +3.3% vs. a year ago.
    People bought a similar number of snack bars and granola bars, but this segment’s higher price points led to sales surpassing $6.4 billion, representing +1.4%.
  • Interest in snack cakes also remained strong, with U.S. sales of $3.5 billion (+1.6%) for 1.8 billion bite-sized indulgences.

Some of the growth in baked goods sold through food, drug, mass, convenience, club, and dollar stores reflects lack of access to bakeries, cafeterias, and other foodservice outlets. With re-openings occurring inconsistently across the U.S., gains in food stores may continue for several months.

Changing Consumer Expectations Create Innovation Opportunities

Ready-to-eat baked goods have become a comforting, at-home indulgence for many consumers. For others, bakery items are another avenue for accessing immune-boosting ingredients, clean-eating, or keto-aligned treats. And according to Mintel Insights, globally-inspired flavors help bakery products deliver a taste-travel adventure.

  • Action: Create flavor excitement by offering options with a bit of spicy heat from anise or chai to contrast baked goods’ sweetness.
  • Action: Offer nostalgic flavors that are forecast to remain compelling in 2021.
  • Action: Include flavors with healthier halos like ginger that link to functional benefits (even in sweet treats) or balance off-notes in low-sugar items.

For foodservice operators interested jumpstarting sales, fastest-selling baked goods often represent special treats too complicated for consumers to make at home or contain value-added ingredients.

  • Action: Explore more elaborate cakes and pastries (through texture and flavor) or seasonal limited-time items to intrigue consumers and pass the value for money test.
  • Action: When possible, feature “local” and “made from scratch” claims which resonate with customers.

Flavors Generating Buzz in 2021

Transformation is a consistent theme emerging for baked goods flavors in 2021.

  • Retro bakery flavors get modern makeovers across sweet baked goods segments. We’ve seen:
    • Chocolate paired with butterscotch or whiskey flavor
    • Brown sugar matched with coffee flavor
    • Peanut switched out for pistachio or almond flavor
    • Chocolate ‘mint’ with a spearmint call-out
    • Apple linked with ginger or salted caramel
    • Cheesecake featuring espresso or hazelnut flavors
  • The ‘usual’ elevates with global inspirations in traditional baked goods forms. Look for:
    • Mango in cookies, cakes, and pie
    • Passion Fruit in cookies, cakes, and frostings
    • Coconut Lime in cupcakes and cookies
    • Papaya in bars and cakes
    • Blood Orange in cookies, cakes, and cheesecake
  • Flavor favorites continue to connect in new forms. Noteworthy news includes:
    • Chocolate and peanut butter in croissants, cookies, and brownies
    • S’mores in pie, cookies, cupcakes, and donuts
    • Birthday cake in bars, cookies, and waffles
    • Lemon flavor alone or paired with blueberry, coconut, or marshmallow
    • Banana and toffee (banoffee) in cakes or tarts
    • Almond in shortbread, sponge cake, and muffins

Finding the Right Flavor for Your Baked Good

Since flavor compounds interact with protein, acid, fats, and carb components, finding a solution that performs well for your product and your budget is essential to delivering a delicious taste experience. 

  • A skilled flavor scientist will help you pair your product with a flavor that delivers positive aroma, balance, release, and sensation with no unpleasant notes.
    • Oil-soluble bakery flavors have proven performance at high heat with less flash off during the baking process but are the most expensive solution.
    • Bakery emulsions, which suspend a flavor in water, can deliver the same flavor impact more cost-effectively. 
    • Additional options from your flavor provider are available to customize for your bakery product. 

To discover your next flavor inspiration, contact the National Flavors team.

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