The baked goods category covers a large spectrum of products, ranging from breads to cakes to cookies. For the most part, these markets are saturated, keeping the competitive landscape exciting. With this said, quite a few common trends reigned during 2004--health and wellness, convenience, positioning toward children, and the ongoing emergence of premium flavoring and indulgent choices.

“Low in ___”

Throughout 2004, the number-one trend seen across all spectrums was health and wellness. This covers all areas, including “low in ___” claims, fortification, functionality, etc. Within baked goods, heavy activity was seen in products touted as low-carb. This much-publicized trend, however, is beginning to morph into something more substantial, a trend that can benefit more than just those consumers participating in fad diets. Product claims such as low-sugar, low-glycemic index, and “suitable for diabetics” are making their way into bakery items, although this is not particularly surprising, considering 18.2 million Americans currently suffer from diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (Alexandria, Va.). Most of these products were seen in cookies and crackers, and introduced by smaller companies such as Fifty50 Foods (Florham Park, N.J.), which launched Low Glycemic Hearty Oatmeal Cookies. These cookies are formulated for use in a low-glycemic diet and are sweetened with fructose. Outside of cookies and crackers, Bimbo Bakeries U.S.A. (Fort Worth, Texas) introduced Oroweat Sugar Free Bread--bread free from hydrogenated oils and trans fat, and aimed at diabetics and consumers who value health benefits, but still desire good taste.

The most frequently seen “low in ___” claim, apart from low-carb, was low-fat. Applied to both bread and bakery items, this positioning has increased substantially since 2003. In August, General Mills (Minneapolis) extended its Pillsbury Grands! biscuit line to include Reduced Fat Original Flaky Layers Biscuits and Reduced Fat Homestyle Buttermilk Biscuits, which contain 25% less fat than the original. Additionally, Recommended Foods (Oklahoma City, Okla.) launched Luscious & Light Cream Cheese Brownies. The brownies contain 50% less fat than regular fudge brownies.

Raising the bar this year for not only health and wellness, but also convenience, was Kraft Foods (Northfield, Ill.). The release of its 100 Calorie Packs provided consumers with mini versions of their favorite indulgences, such as Oreos, Wheat Thins, Cheese Nips and Chips Ahoy! The products contain no cholesterol, are low in fat and contain only 100 calories. The convenience factor is high here, as consumers can grab a bag while on the go, as well as easily locate the calorie content.

Functionality and Fortification

Functionality and fortification were two additional positioning claims used by companies in 2004, taking the healthy aspect of baked goods to a new level. A good example of functionality is Kashi's (La Jolla, Calif.) release of its Heart to Heart Waffles, which are said to reduce cholesterol and support healthy arteries. The waffles contain oats, whole grains and sesame.

In regards to fortification, Nana's Cookie's (San Diego) Cookie Bars fit this positioning, as they contain 12 vitamins and minerals. The introduction of 2 Sweet Kidz (Greenburg, Pa.) SnackWize Cookies also provide a good example, as they contain natural and organic ingredients, added protein, calcium, iron, niacin, and vitamins A, B1 and B2.

Convenience Factor

Activity in products touted as convenient remained strong throughout 2004. The presence of single-serve, on-the-go packaging and quick preparation were definite highlights. General Mills led the way, releasing Pillsbury Perfect Portions. The place-and-bake biscuits were designed to fit consumer lifestyle needs of convenience, portion flexibility and simplicity. They are packaged in peel-open pouches, so consumers can bake just two biscuits and refrigerate the rest for later. Sara Lee Bakery (St. Louis) also introduced Quick Cups--individually wrapped, single-serving cups of chocolate cake topped with fudge icing. The cups can be heated in the microwave for 25 seconds. Lastly, Pepperidge Farm (Norwalk, Conn.) launched On the Go! Milano Cookies, an extension of its On the Go! line, which historically has included only snacking items, such as crackers.

For the Kiddies

Grabbing a child's attention with baked goods is not a difficult task, particularly when it comes to cakes and cookies--just picture a child in the cookie aisle of a supermarket! Companies, however, constantly are devising innovative ways to do so through packaging, flavors and fun shapes. Promotional marketing in 2004 for newly released movies and television shows seemed like the way to go, as evidenced by Kellogg (American Idol, Spider-Man 2, etc.) and General Mills (Shark Tale, Shrek 2, etc). Flavor-wise, Keebler (Kellogg, Battle Creek, Mich.) introduced S'mores with Sargento Dip, which features a milk chocolate bar and a marshmallow dip with honey graham crackers, while Kellogg launched Pop-Tarts Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Toaster Pastries. Additional interesting kid-centric products included Color-A-Cookie Tic Tac Dough Cookie Game and General Mills' Pillsbury Dunkables French Toast Sticks with Syrup Cups.

A few products this year were created specifically for children's health, carrying no fancy packaging or flavoring. A perfect example of this is Bimbo Bakeries U.S.A, which launched Bimbo Kids Recipe Bread--bread made with real milk and touted as a good source of calcium and nine essential vitamins and minerals.

Flavoring and Indulgence

Recent activity shows flavors are becoming more distinguished, adding a premium edge to tried-and-true products. For example, Kraft Foods extended its Triscuit Whole Grain Wheat Crackers line to include a Rosemary & Olive Oil flavor. Looking at breads, flavored and artisan-inspired varieties continue to emerge. Power-Selles Imports (Seattle) introduced Matiz Apricot and Date Breads from Extremadura, Spain. The apricot bread is made with Spanish apricots and Marcona almonds, while the date bread is made with a combination of sweet dates and walnuts. MJ's Fine Foods (Concord, Ontario) also released Margaret's Artisan Jalapeño Cheese Flat Bread--a bread made with all-natural ingredients and 100% olive oil.

Furthermore, there has been an increase in products positioned as indulgent--what some would consider a move from the traditional corner bakery to supermarket aisles. This was seen in Schwan's Consumer Brands' (Marshall, Minn.) introduction of its Sweet Impressions Punkin Cream Dessert--a cinnamon ice cream with a pumpkin ice cream center covered with white coating and sprinkled with leaf confetti. Likewise, Nancy's Specialty Foods (Newark, Calif.) launched Belgian Chocolate Petite Souffle in a Belgian Chocolate variety with a Velvety Chocolate Filling.

The Future

With products becoming increasingly more convenient and healthier, consumers will have their favorite indulgences at the palm of their hands. Low-carb introductions should dwindle slightly, leaving room for products to be positioned as low-sugar, low-glycemic and “suitable for diabetics.” Look for flavors in breads and crackers to diversify even further (possibly crossing more into ethnic-inspired flavors). Also, products should become increasingly more convenient via packaging (particularly portion sizes--similar to Pillsbury's Perfect Portions line). Regarding products for children, there will be more-creative flavors, as well as an increase in items claiming to aid health.

The information in this article was derived from Mintel International's Global New Products Database,, 312-932-0400.

Sidebar: Going Global

The global market for baked goods is slightly different than that of the U.S., in two main ways. Firstly, low-carb claims are rarely seen (with the exception of a few introductions in the U.K. this year). Instead, other “low in___” claims are dominating, most commonly that of low-fat, -calorie and -sugar (often combined in some way). For example, in Portugal, Panrico (Mem Martin, Portugal) introduced Bollycao Balance--a bun filled with cocoa and hazelnut paste, reported to have 40% less fat, 30% less sugar and 20% less calories.

Secondly, flavors outside the U.S. tend to be more diversified. Many more artisan-inspired and flavored breads can be found, such as the U.K. launch of Allied Bakeries' (Maidenhead, U.K.) Allinson Bread to Savour gourmet loaf range, which features cheese & pickle, rosemary & sea salt, and honey & oatmeal varieties. Seafood flavors also are more common in crackers, particularly in the Asia Pacific region. This was seen in HPG's (Batu Caves, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia) release of its Satay Ikan crispy fish crackers.