Storytelling with sweets

Vanilla Bake Shop Mini
From wedding couples to airport customers, Vanilla Bake Shop in Los Angeles targets a wide range of customers.

When it comes to marketing, retailers need to challenge the status quo to keep relevant with today’s changing consumer as well as new ethnically diverse demographics, multiple income levels and emerging technology that is altering the way people shop.

In a recent presentation during the American Bakers Association annual convention in Orlando, Florida, John Rand, senior vice president, retail insights for Kantar Retail, urged attendees to rethink about how they merchandise and market their products as well as how they romance their brands.

“(Consumers) don’t buy cupcakes. They buy a birthday party. Think about where it’s going. Tell a story,” he says.

Rand cautions against generalizing about millennials, boomers and other demographic groups. Rather, he encourages looking at today’s consumers as highly fragmented. Focusing on “mom” or “millennials” who are 18 to 35 as a cohesive group is a highly simplified approached to marketing baked goods or any other product, Rand says. Rather, today’s market is highly “fractionalized.”

“One out of every 10 kids born is a first child from a person who is over 35, so what does that do to your system?” he asks. “It’s just a different world. Gen Y is coming in large numbers. That’s good. They want different things; that’s probably good. You need to stay ahead of the curve on this. They’re also economically split. We need to recognize that not only is there a new generation in town, but it’s also not coherent. It’s not consistent. It’s not one big thing. It’s lumpy.”

Retail bakeries like Southern California-based Vanilla Bake Shop specialize in meeting the unique needs of their customers, who can range from wedding couples to on-the-go travelers at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). In Los Angeles' Tom Bradley International Terminal, airline travelers can satisfy their sweet tooth with  Vanilla Bake Shop known for its cakes, cupcakes and assorted sweets with a focus on fresh, high-quality ingredients. Vanilla Bake Shop was recently named as one of the top five retail bakeries at US airports by The Go Group.

For more formal affairs, Vanilla Bake Shop offers a wide range of wedding cakes, such as a French inspired wedding cake table or a champagne sequin wedding cake.

DecoPac, Inc. launched a collection of Star Wars themed decorations.

For avid movie fans, DecoPac, Inc. has launched a variety of Star Wars-themed cake, cupcake and dessert decorations.  The collection includes designs from Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars Classic (and the highly anticipated theatrical release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens later this year). 

Best-in-class cake and cupcake designs will be offered nationwide at leading retailers for all three brands.  The Star Wars Rebels items have already hit bakery shelves with the unveiling of new Star Wars Classic products coming this spring. The Star Wars bakery program will feature a full assortment of legendary and iconic characters and vehicles. The best-selling villain cake, inspired by Darth Vader, will include a sound chip of iconic breathing and a back clip-on feature for after-party play value. Party planners can further enhance their celebration with cupcakes showcasing sculpted rings of Darth Vader, C3PO, and R2D2. 

As the Star Wars hype builds, a Millennium Falcon cake with a projected light-up stand, sound, and TIE Fighter X-Wing picks representing the epic Death Star battle will be released. “We are really excited to be working with this legendary brand,” says Mike McGlynn, CEO of DecoPac, Inc. “Star Wars is a property like no other with a world-class portfolio of content easily recognizable in the marketplace. DecoPac is thrilled to bring a Star Wars celebration program to bakeries that share the vision and storytelling of the brand in an innovative way.”

STAR WARS and related properties are trademarks and/or copyrights, in the United States and other countries, of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates.

Custom Cookies

Eleni’s Cookies, a New York City bakery that specializes in online cookie sales, is promoting a new product just in time for summer. New Custom Photo Cookies allow online shoppers to upload their own photo to create a one-of-a-kind cookie.

Eleni’s also touts the customized cookies for corporate events and business gifts, making these sweet treats memorable and delicious by pairing a corporate or business logo with Eleni’s signature buttery-rich sugar cookie.

In May, Eleni’s encouraged customers to “Make Your Mom the Superhero” by ordering one of three special Mother’s Day gifts, which include a customized cookie. Superhero Mother’s Day Cookies from Eleni’s are customized with a photo of “Mom” (customers download a photo on the Eleni’s website).

“Your pictures make them perfect, Eleni’s makes them look as amazing as they taste,” the bakery proclaims. “We start with our buttery-rich sugar cookie that’s slightly crisp and not too sweet. Our exclusive cookie decorating technique paints edible ink directly onto the royal icing which showcases the image in rich detail and brilliant color. The result is a work of art that tastes better than ever!”

In other areas of the country, retail bakery owners are coming up with new twists to customize their offerings.

Trina Fornoff recently opened Nonnie’s Specialty Cupcakes and Cookies in Main Square Plaza in Portland, Oregon. “I like to decorate cookies and see them turn from a flat surface to a two-dimensional cookie,” she says. “It’s fun to watch the kids’ reaction when they see them for the first time.”

Fornoff opened the bakery to expand her home-based operation, naming the business after her great-grandmother, who died in 2007 at 107 years old. In addition to customized cupcakes and sugar cookies, Nonnie’s offers coffee and espresso, smoothies, flavored energy drinks, scones and what Fornoff calls “one special surprise item every day.”

The daily surprise item may include cookies of different shapes, frosted brownies or perhaps peanut butter bars. So far, Fornoff’s daily unveiling of home-crafted sweets is a hit among the mostly word-of-mouth clientele. “It’s been great,” she says. “I’ve basically been selling out every day. It’s exceeded my expectations.”