Sweet baked goods
Many of today's sweet goods not only offer simple indulgences but also clearer, simpler-to-understand labels.

KANSAS CITY — In a food culture where everyone is trying to eat healthier, the sweet goods market is holding its own. Americans continue to love everything from snack cakes and muffins to donuts and other baked treats, and most prefer the regular versions over low- or fat-free types, according to a 2015 Packaged Facts report, Sweet Baked Goods: U.S. Market Trends.

The indulgence factor still drives the demand for sweet goods, even among those who place a high emphasis on health and wellness. Packaged Facts reported that U.S. consumers spent $20 billion on these products in 2014, and dollar sales grew by a compound annual growth rate of more than 4% since 2010.

“Eating healthy is important to a growing number of consumers, but so is treating yourself to indulgences, albeit in moderation,” said Eric Richard, education coordinator, International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA).

Sweet baked goods
 Nearly 60% of consumers say they eat foods they like regardless of calories. 

“People of all generations still want to have and enjoy a ‘treat’ throughout the day or week,” said Kim D. Bickford, CEO, Clyde’s Donuts, Addison, Ill. “They may look at sweets as something they ‘deserve’ or have earned in exchange for a good workout. Others may simply be saving room for one of their favorite indulgences.”

Fifty-four percent of adults said they always try to eat healthy foods and maintain a balanced diet, according to Packaged Facts. However, nearly 60% said they eat foods they like regardless of calories. Snacking has become the new way to eat for many, with two-thirds of adults admitting to between-meal snacks and more than 40% frequently eating sweets.

“This is a very exciting time for the rapidly expanding snacks category, which is ripe with opportunity for innovation,” said Burke Raine, senior vice-president, chief marketing officer, Hostess Brands, L.L.C., Kansas City, MO.

Sweet baked goods
Smaller sweets are gaining popularity, as they seem to be a healthier alternative to full-size sweets.

Despite consumers’ ongoing love affair with sweets, the market is challenged by those searching for better-for-you treats that still taste good. Snacking is considered healthier based on the belief that eating small amounts of food every few hours rather than three big meals per day is better. Consumers perceive that having small treat moments, rotating indulgent and non-­indulgent foods, helps achieve overall balance, according to snacking articles from The Hartman Group, Inc.

That’s a trend that many bakers are trying to leverage. “Consumers seek high-quality, fresh products that provide that ultimate eating experience,” said Gary Kyle, chief sales and marketing officer, J. Skinner Baking Co., Omaha, Neb. “Our mantra at J. Skinner is to provide tempting, tantalizing artisan baked goods that create a sensational taste experience.”