Bakery Innovations: Exploring Format & Functionality to Satisfy Snack Cravings

by | Mar 31, 2022

The bakery snack category is expanding to include new formats and added functionality. Maybe you’ve seen “brookie” recipes on TikTok or Pinterest or decided to try a “muffin bar” instead of your usual breakfast option. Even as we’re captivated by the next new thing (“mookie,” anyone?), bakery innovations that drive repeat purchases will be ones that align with consumer needs. 

Let’s explore how producers can create snacks that meet desires for functionality, convenience, and fun, building market share and loyalty in the process. Our team reviewed recent launches from Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) to illustrate opportunity areas.

Health & Functionality

Consumers continue to look for ways to take control of their health. According to Mintel, 50% of U.S. consumers planned to make health one of their top three life priorities in 2021. They ranked health above other priorities like “family life,” “finances,” and “career.” This focus on wellness and nutrition has prompted consumers to look for snack and bakery options to fit their health goals.

Get Specific with Label Claims

Developers can leverage packaging and label claims to call out benefits or ingredients like grams of protein, reduced sugar, whole grains, probiotics, and immunity support. Mintel also reports that products that are suitable for specific diets like gluten-free, vegan, or kosher continue to grow. 

For a limited time, Dunkin offered a Protein Muffin with 16 grams of protein and featuring blueberries, cranberries, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.  Social media chatter shows consumers are missing the variety and hoping it returns.

“Did Dunkin’ discontinue their protein muffins?” “Yes, they’re gone for now :^(“


Dunkin’s LTO Protein Muffin

Highlight Functional Ingredients

A recent survey found that 78% of consumers snack regularly to “take care of their body” or serve “nutritional needs.” Whether it’s a protein bar that delivers an extra energy boost or a donut with CBD for stress relief, consumers are looking for snacks with added functionality. And some of these functional ingredients provide taste and formulation benefits too. Ancient grains like quinoa or amaranth can add nuances to visual appeal and texture, while flax seeds or chia seeds can help with binding and emulsifications in snack and bakery formulations.

In the U.K., Raw Press offers a “Pronut”—a donut with 15 grams of plant protein and 5 milligrams of CBD and matcha.

raw press donut

Raw Press’s CBD and Matcha “Pronut”

Offer Indulgence in Smaller Bites

Even as 93% of U.S. adults are making an effort to eat healthier, indulgence is still one of the top reasons for eating (especially during the evening and late-night hours). Snacks delivered in smaller bites can help with portion control while still satisfying the munchies. Smaller formats like cake pops are a fun way to add a bit of sweetness to your day. Light, airy treats like macaroons are a delicious way to indulge without feeling guilty. Other offerings like baked “doughnut muffins” provide an alternative to a larger, fried pastry.

doughnut muffins

Bisousweet’s Lemon Poppy Seed Doughnut Muffins

Innovate with Formats 

Snack “bars” now come in all shapes and sizes like clusters, mixes, and barks. Snack bars are migrating to refrigerated and frozen aisles. Kind launched a line of frozen snack bars and refrigerated “nut butter” bars.

kind nut butter

Kinds’ Honey Almond Nut Butter Snack Bar

Options for Busy Lifestyles

Quick, convenient food options have become a necessity for busy lifestyles. In the snack bar category, 44% of US buyers eat snack/nutrition/performance bars on the go. A generation ago, most days centered around established mealtimes. But for most North American consumers, eating has become just one more thing to fit into an already busy day. We value efficiency, even when it comes to snacking.

Convenient Snacking

The pandemic has given “on-the-go” snacking a slightly new meaning. Even though people spent more time at home, the desire for convenience and efficiency remained strong. No longer regulated to out-of-home occasions like the morning commute, on-the-go shifted to include a quick bite between Zoom meetings in the home office or a pick-me-up while helping the kids with at-home learning. 

As consumers move to a more hybrid working model, convenient snacks (for in-home and out-of-home) will continue to be important. Bars can easily fit into a busy day since they offer an easy, portable option while aligning with specific functionalities like protein, energy, or mood-boosting.

muffin bar

Target’s Good & Gather Organic Blueberry Muffin Bars feature 10g of whole grains and a “good source of fiber” claim.

Create Moments for Indulgence

Consumers are busy, but most still look for quiet moments to take a breath or indulge in a sweet treat. Brands can help create these sweet moments with quick and easy single-serve treats. DIY mug cakes became a viral trend on TikTok during the pandemic, and almost 22 million people viewed a recipe for a two-ingredient Oreo mug cake. Single-serve treats are ideal for those who don’t have time to bake something more elaborate and want to take a few moments out of a busy schedule to savor some “me time.”

mug cake

Duncan Hines’ Cinnamon Coffee Cake Mug Cake is ready in five minutes.

Snacks for Specific Day Parts

Foods targeted to specific dayparts can align with consumers’ snacking goals. Consumers report different reasons for snacking throughout the day, with energy and healthfulness as common breakfast goals and indulgence prioritized during the evening and late night. Flavor can play a role here too. Innova reports that consumers have different flavor preferences for dayparts or occasions, such as fruit flavors for morning snacks and more decadent tastes like dark chocolate for evening.

breakfast ovals

Maple Fig Breakfast Ovals from Enjoy Life features free-from and whole-grain nutrition content labeling.

Novelty & Adventure with Bakery Crossovers 

New flavors and formats can help capture interest and create excitement. According to Innova, half of consumers say they want to be more adventurous with their food and beverage choices post COVID-19. Bakery crossovers are gaining popularity on social media, and major manufacturers are starting to incorporate imaginative creations like the “brookie” into their snacking line-ups. Crossovers include:

  • Brookie – a brownie baked with a cookie on top
  • Mookie – muffin top cookie
  • Muffin bars – snack bars with a muffin-like texture
  • Cronut – croissant and donut hybrid
  • Craffles – croissant and waffle 
  • Coffee cake cupcakes

Nabisco chose a more conventional path by leveraging flavor pairings and additional add-ins rather than changing the format of the famous sandwich cookie.


Oreo’s LTO “Brookie-O” features a triple-layered creme compared to the brand’s usual single layer.

What’s Your Next Snack Innovation?

Looking for support on your innovation journey to success? Leverage our extensive applications expertise by partnering with us on your next project! A partnership with our flavor experts can help you navigate development hurdles and speed time to market. Connect with our team to learn more!

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