Gearing up for the big game

The Chicken Wing Cupcake from Coccadotts Cake Shop in Albany, NY.

On the evening of February 7, 2016, two of the National Football League’s (NFL’s) elite teams will face off, on football’s biggest stage. And fans across the country will spend the day celebrating the pinnacle of one of America’s most beloved sports.

Not only do the regular-season and playoff games prepare the players for this main event, they also give the fans plenty of tailgating practice. Approximately 80 percent of the US population tailgates at least once a year, according to  data released in 2014 from Sports Business Daily. That means that every year, roughly 240 million people participate in what has become a great American tradition of food, fun, and games.

All of those regular-season tailgates peak on this festivity-filled day in February. Parties start early in the morning and run until well after midnight. This scheduling, coupled with the massive consumer participation in tailgating, creates a high demand for game-day foods to fit every hour of the day—morning, noon, and night.

Morning

For early morning parties, consumers will appreciate premade, bite-sized options so they can avoid lengthy prep work. Items such as mini muffins, doughnut holes, and scones will fly off the shelves, especially if they’re somehow related to football. Nonpareil candy sprinkles in the team colors, football-shaped chocolates, and field-shaped and/or decorated items are easy ways to do this.

Bacon is another traditional breakfast food that will surely appeal to those who get the party started early. According to data from Alltech, the average American eats about 18 pounds of bacon every year; that means Americans consume more than 5 billion pounds of bacon annually. This popular item can be easily incorporated into bakery products, including bacon-apple pastries, bacon butter, cornbread muffins with bacon, bacon-cheddar croissants, bacon banana bread, and more.

Noon

Snacks are a must at every football party, especially during the midday hours leading up to the game. Even if you don’t sell dips, you can still capitalize on the always popular chip-and-dip snack by selling bakery-made chips or pita bread dippers. Cinnamon pita chips would pair well with a warm toffee apple dip, for example, as would sweet potato chips with an avocado lime dip, and jalapeno chips with a creamy black bean dip.

Consumers will also be on the hunt for the perfect desserts. According to Technomic’s 2013 Dessert Consumer Trend Report, compared to two years ago, more of today’s consumers say they’re eating dessert items during midmorning and midafternoon hours as snacks and after meals. In addition, consumer responses reveal demands for healthier desserts, and 36 percent of consumers say they are more likely to order dessert if a mini portion is available. With those statistics in mind, consider offering items such as caramel apple bites (using apple wedges instead of an entire apple) and chocolate-covered strawberries. The fruit keeps these options healthier, while the caramel and chocolate add the dessert element that consumers crave. For an added touch for the big game, consider using white icing to pipe on laces, making each of these desserts look like footballs.

Night

After all-day celebrations, fans will be looking for sustenance just before and during the big game. Soup is a crowd-pleasing favorite, so get your bakery in on the action by offering fresh baked bread bowls. Savory pastries are another great option, as they’re conveniently handheld and great sandwich replacements.

You can also get a bit more creative and take a cue from Coccadotts Cake Shop in Albany, NY. They created a chicken wing cupcake that went viral a couple of years ago. And they’ve since added a beer cupcake, a chili cupcake, and other unique options to their menu. The owner Rachel Dott call it “dinner in a cupcake.”

Lastly, you can’t go wrong by seeking inspiration from popular game-day drinks to create boozy desserts: chocolate Guinness donuts, champagne cupcakes, beer-flavored truffles, bourbon butterscotch pudding, and more are almost guaranteed touchdowns.