CHICAGO -- Who says you have to wait until dessert to indulge in cake and pie. According to new research from Mintel, ready-to-eat (RTE) cakes and pies are increasingly being viewed by consumers as appropriate for snack time.
In fact, some 41 percent of consumers surveyed by Mintel claim to eat prepared cakes and pies as a snack between meals, a higher percentage than many other occasions, including as a special-occasion dessert (18 percent).
"The snacking mindset has permeated the dessert segment, as people are mindful of what they eat, but at the same time, want to indulge and treat themselves as well," said Mintel food analyst Amanda Topper.
Along with the shift in when they consume cakes and pies, more consumers also are gravitating to fresh goods vs. frozen. The Chicago-based market research firm found that while total retail sales of prepared cakes and pies grew an impressive 24 percent from 2009 to 2014 to reach $11.2 billion, the frozen and refrigerated cake and pie segment declined 2.4 percent.
In-store baked cakes and pies are driving the category, with sales representing more than half of the overall segment (52 percent), followed by shelf-stable cupcakes and brownies at 23 percent. The majority of sales within the prepared cake and pie category come from supermarkets, which hold 65.8 percent of the market.
Nearly half of consumers who eat prepared cakes and pies (46 percent) view them as an indulgence, and 42 percent indicate they are open to trying new flavors of these items. Some 61 percent agree that gourmet or premium products are worth paying more for, including 72 percent of those aged 25 to 34.
"Much as we've seen with the high-end cupcake and doughnut trends, consumers are willing to pay a little bit extra for a small indulgence made with quality ingredients," noted Topper. "Since almost two-thirds value taste over nutrition and more than two-thirds would like to see more flavor variety, this presents an opportunity to offer more unique, high-quality offerings, especially to younger consumers who are more brand-loyal and willing to pay the price premium.”
Men are significantly more likely than women to eat prepared cakes and pies as part of, or in place of, a meal. Some 24 percent eat them as part of breakfast, 25 percent eat them as part of lunch, and 13 percent use them as a meal replacement altogether. Women are significantly more likely than men to eat them as a dessert (75 percent vs. 66 percent).
"Over two-third of consumers have eaten some type of RTE cake or pie within the past six months, and the majority are open to experimenting with flavors," Topper said. "To that end, they can stay interested with hybrid flavors, such as sweet and salty options, or seasonal and limited-edition varieties. Natural ingredients, without additives or preservatives, are also important to consumers who buy prepared cakes and pies, so manufacturers should focus on promoting the quality of their ingredients, and promote them via easy-to-read ingredient lists. At the end of the day, people are willing to indulge, but they just want to make sure the calories are worth it."