Consumers generally eat sweet baked goods to indulge in a treat. Increasingly however some are looking for healthier more nutritious indulgences, or "better for you" treats that still taste good, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts in the report, Sweet Baked Goods: U.S. Market Trends.

Data featured in the report show that 54% of adults say they always try to eat healthy foods and maintain a balanced diet. Conversely and indulgently, nearly 60% of adults say they eat foods they like regardless of calories. 

Snacking has become the new way to eat for many and two-thirds of adults over the age of 18 (155 million people) agree a little or a lot that they often snack between meals. About 30% in 2015 say they usually only snack on healthy foods.  A third of adults pick salty snacks as their favorite while over 40% frequently eat sweets.

Packaged Facts found that despite consumers' love of packaged sweet baked goods—spending $20 billion in 2014—the market is mature with growth challenged by health and diet concerns, changing snacking choices and an increasing desire for fresh rather than packaged foods. 

Sales grew by a compound annual growth rate of 4% since 2010. However, higher pricing drove much of the gains. Smaller products and packaging designed for snacking on the go have been extremely popular and at relatively high price points have helped drive dollar sales higher. These products meet the desire for convenience as busy consumers seek out "minis," single packs and other "grab and go" products.  Smaller-size products like these also address the needs of the growing single or dual household segment, older people, and consumers watching their weight or overall health.

The market will continue to be challenged in the future as consumers stay concerned about health and diet, and increasingly seek out healthier snacks, or when they want to indulge, fresher baked goods from in-store and independent bakeries, according to Packaged Facts. Lower-priced private label products, about 25% of dollar sales, will put pressure on national brand marketers that will have to continue innovating with product, marketing and retail strategies.  

Product trends will navigate between healthier, more nutritious and indulgent, more decadent sweet treats, according to the report. Marketing initiatives will continue to integrate social media with traditional advertising and promotional campaigns especially targeting Millennials. Retail strategies need to keep the center of store exciting to keep consumers from gravitating to the bakery department.