Sweet news for the bakery snacks category — consumers are showing a craving for cupcakes, brownies, donuts, muffins and other pastries.
In the 52 weeks ended Nov. 29, dollar sales in the bakery snacks category totaled $3,204,039,168, up 7% from the same period a year ago, while unit sales increased 6% to 1,683,601,792, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm.
Data from I.R.I. also show upticks in sales for packaged donuts (up 5% to $1,904,208,768), muffins (up 14% to $867,157,440) and pastry/Danish/coffee cakes (up 5% to $1,889,572,864).
Hostess is hot
Fall and winter flavors featured prominently in sweet goods innovation at Hostess Brands, Inc., Kansas City. Joining the brand’s cupcake line were Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes – cream cheese-frosted pumpkin spice cakes with crème filling and sprinkles shaped like fall leaves. Joining the Donettes family were Pumpkin Spice and Maple Glazed Donettes. Then, in November, Hostess debuted a new peppermint flavor for its Ho Hos. Peppermint Ho Hos are the first alternate flavor for the rolled chocolate snack cakes, featuring a peppermint-flavored creme filling rather than a vanilla-flavored one. Hostess also introduced Holiday Cupcakes, which are creme-filled yellow cupcakes with a white frosting topped with red and green sprinkles.
Donettes were especially hot for Hostess during the past year. Dollar sales of Hostess Donettes totaled $322,544,032 in the 52 weeks ended Nov. 29, up 31% from the same period a year ago, according to I.R.I. The company also managed strong movement in muffins. Dollar sales of Hostess muffins in the 52-week period increased 21%, according to I.R.I.
New products were only part of the story at Hostess, though. In December, media reports surfaced suggesting Hostess was in talks to acquire Give and Go Prepared Foods Corp., an Etobicoke, Ont.-based maker of thaw-and-serve baked goods.
Founded in 1989, Give and Go Prepared Foods Corp. is a wholesale bakery. Its products include Two-Bite Brownies, Cinnamon Crunchies, Butter Tarts and Two-Bite Coffee Cakes. The company markets its products throughout Canada, the United States, Mexico, Europe, Australia and Japan.
Makeover at McKee
In mid-October, McKee Foods Corp., Collegedale, Tenn., unveiled plans to invest $102 million on an expansion project expected to add about 50 jobs over the next five years. Included in the project will be new manufacturing equipment as well as an office building and conference center.
“We’re thrilled to be increasing our production capacity and supporting the community we love through new jobs and investment in the local economy,” said Mike McKee, president and chief executive officer of McKee Foods.
With annual sales of $1.4 billion, privately-held McKee is one of the largest snack cake companies in the United States. The company’s brands include Little Debbie, Drake’s, Sunbelt, Heartland and Fieldstone.
Also in October, McKee announced that Funny Bones, a snack cake that was part of the Drake’s Cakes line for many years, was returning to store shelves. Funny Bones are made with devil’s food cake, peanut butter crème filling and chocolate-flavored icing. The product was first introduced in 1961.
McKee acquired the Drake’s brand from Hostess Brands, Inc. after that company declared bankruptcy in 2012. When Drake’s returned to supermarket shelves in September 2013, Funny Bones were not part of the roster. Since then, customers have “flocked to social media sites asking for” their return, McKee said.
“Loyal fans of Funny Bones told us how much they missed their favorite Drake’s variety, and we wanted to bring it back the way they remember,” said Chip Stenberg, Drake’s associate brand manager. “After a significant investment in state-of-the-art bakery equipment, we’re now ready to return Funny Bones to the market.”
L.T.O.s, whole grains in mix at Flowers
While McKee is bringing back the classics, Flowers Foods, Inc., Thomasville, Ga., has focused its efforts on bringing new flavors to market under the Mrs. Freshley’s brand. Over the past year the company has introduced Mrs. Freshley’s limited-edition strawberry shortcake cupcakes, red velvet cupcakes, limited-edition blueberry donut sticks, strawberry Mini Donuts and three new Kandy Kakes varieties: lemon, cherry and strawberry.
Flowers is counting on the new products providing a boost to its Mrs. Freshley’s bakery snacks business, which saw sales slide 3% over the past year to $48,472,888, according to I.R.I.
The company also is taking on a new challenge with the launch of whole grain cookies. The 7 Grain Cookies and 7 Grain Crème Cookies are for sale at supermarkets, convenience stores and vending machines nationwide.
The 7 Grain Cookies, with 12 grams of whole grains per snack, feature rough cut whole grains for a home-style texture. They are topped with a chocolate drizzle and are available in 2-oz, 2-count single-serve packs.
The 7 Grain Crème Cookies are two cookies sandwiched together with a sweet, creamy filling. Each crème cookie has 5 grams of whole grains per serving. They are available in 8.5-oz, 8-count, multi-pack boxes.