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by Eric Schroeder
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Picking up a snack cake, pack of donuts, muffin or other sweet baked food is becoming more commonplace for consumers, according to new data from SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm. In all cases, unit sales in the different sweet goods segments were up year over year, while in most cases dollar sales were higher.

Within the bakery snacks category, private label dollar sales totaled $140,640,000, equating to about 13% of total category sales of $1,085,142,000 during the 52 weeks ended Nov. 28, according to SymphonyIRI. Private label dollar and unit sales were up 10% and 3%, respectively, year over year, helping prop up an overall bakery snacks category that saw dollar sales down a shade less than 1% from the same period a year ago and unit sales up a little less than 1%. At an average price point of $2.90 per unit, though, private label was higher than the average price of the top five selling branded products in the category.

Category leading Hostess Brands, Inc., Irving, Texas, sustained a 0.25% drop in bakery snack dollar sales during the 52 weeks, primarily reflecting a 35% drop in dollar sales for the company’s 100 Calorie Packs brand. Hostess’ other top brands, though, performed well, with Hostess brand bakery snack dollar sales up 1% to $90,705,380 on a unit sales increase of 6%, and Hostess Twinkies dollar sales up 3% to $47,833,950 on a unit sales gain of 6%.

Since changing its name to Hostess Brands from Interstate Bakeries Corp. in November 2009, Hostess has been active in promoting its different sweet goods product lines through partnerships and limited-edition items. In September, Hostess launched a line of Justice League-limited edition snack cakes featuring DC Comics’ super heroes Green Lantern, The Flash, Superman and Batman. More recently, Hostess teamed with DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. to introduce limited-edition themed snack cakes and donuts in conjunction with the release of “Shrek Forever After” on DVD and Blu-ray.

The Shrek promotion — which includes gingerbread spice Hostess Donettes in special packaging featuring the character “Gingy” — is one way Hostess has drawn attention to its different donut products, the result of which has been a 5% increase in dollar sales and 12% gain in unit sales for Hostess Brands donuts, according to SymphonyIRI.

Hostess Donettes led the category with dollar sales of $123,482,700, and the company’s Hostess Sweet Sixteen donuts were among the sector’s biggest movers with a dollar sales gain of 101% during the 52 weeks ended Nov. 28, according to SymphonyIRI. It’s been a little over two years since

Hostess switched the product’s name from Merita Sweet Sixteen to Hostess Sweet Sixteen, and the transition appears to be paying off in higher sales.

Overall, the donuts category posted dollar sales of $720,539,300 on unit sales of 299,506,200, up 2% and 6%, respectively, in the period ended Nov. 28. In addition to the success scored by Hostess Brands, category leader Bimbo Bakeries USA, Horsham, Pa., posted an 8% gain in unit sales during the period, while Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Co., Winston-Salem, N.C., experienced a 5% gain in unit sales (9% gain in dollar sales) and Flowers Foods, Inc., Thomasville, Ga., moved up 4% (5% gain in

dollar sales). With sales of $121,456,300, private label was up 14% from the previous 52-week period tracked by SymphonyIRI.

Private label was also the runaway leader in the muffins category, with dollar sales of $120,119,600 (up 19%) on unit sales of 37,532,900 (up 17%), this despite a higher price point, $3.20, than the five largest branded products. Bimbo Bakeries and Hostess Brands muffin dollar sales also were strong, up 4% and 3%, respectively. The No. 3 and No. 4 players in the muffins category did not fare as well over the past 52 weeks, with dollar sales at Collegedale, Tenn.-based McKee Foods Corp. down 14% to $28,877,910 and dollar sales at Otis Spunkmeyer Inc., San Leandro, Calif., down 19% to $14,497,810.

With the exception of Bimbo Bakeries USA, most of the other leading pastry/Danish/coffee cakes makers posted year-over-year dollar sales gains in the 52 weeks ended Nov. 28, according to SymphonyIRI. Overall, the category sustained a loss of 1% in dollar sales, due in large part to an 11% decline at Bimbo Bakeries, but unit sales were up 1% year over year. Bimbo is looking to spark sweet goods sales by expanding distribution of its Mrs Baird’s Bakeries products. The company in early November said it is opening new distribution routes in the Fort Smith, Ark., area.

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