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Bye Bye, Frozen Pies

New research from Mintel finds that while total retail sales of prepared cakes and pies grew an impressive 24 percent from 2009-14 to reach $11.2 billion, the frozen and refrigerated cake and pie segment declined 2.4 percent.

Consumers appear to be focusing on fresh flavors, with a shift toward viewing pies and cakes as an indulgent snack, according to the Chicago-based market research firm. In fact, some 41 percent of consumers surveyed claim to eat prepared cakes and pies as a snack between meals, a higher percentage than many other occasions, including for a special-occasion dessert (18 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. 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 gourmet or premium products are worth paying more for, including 72 percent of those aged 25-34.

"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. "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. 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.”

Private label represents the largest category market share at 38 percent — a larger share than the market share of all five brand leaders combined. The majority of sales within the prepared cake and pie category are in supermarkets, which make up 65.8 percent of the market.

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, and 25 percent eat them as part of lunch, while 13 percent use them as a meal replacement altogether. Women are significantly more likely than men to eat them as a dessert (75 percent, compared with 66 percent of men).

"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," noted Topper. "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."

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