Chalky pastels will be a prevalent cake decorating trend in 2017.
Today’s retail market is a kaleidoscope of health trends, label claims, marketing strategies and more, all aimed to connect products to the right consumers. Bakers are finding success by offering a variety of products that attract not only health-minded shoppers but also those craving classic indulgence.
The baking business is approaching $50 billion in sales annually, according to the most recent data from Nielsen, and growth among categories such as cookies, snack cakes, crackers and baked bread are leading the way for baked goods in all channels.
Accelerating retail growth can be boiled down to one overarching objective: Reach the right shoppers.
Former Nielsen marketing guru Todd Hale says that diversity in today’s world creates all new challenges and opportunities. “We have never been more different than we are today in terms of our population,” he said. Between 2010 and 2025, the proportion of the white population in the US will decrease from 64 percent to 58 percent. Meanwhile, the Hispanic population will grow from 16 percent to 20 percent, and black and Asian population percentages will rise to 13 percent and 6 percent respectively. These demographic changes make it harder to win with mass-marketing techniques.
Brands have more capacity for innovation and the ability to target niche markets, and they invest in research to understand where new opportunities will arise. “Brands that are better connected with population segments that are going to drive population growth in the future stand the best chance of finding success,” Hale says.
With these insights in mind, it’s time to move on to 17 influential trends to watch in 2017 that have the potential to reshape the retail bakery business and tap into emerging developments and demands on the consumer front. Any one of these, or many of them, may apply to your bakery’s continued success.


1. Savory Muffins

There’s a lot of talk about savory nowadays, and it most certainly applies to the future success of the retail bakery sector. Ask almost any bakery owner that offers savory items, in addition to sweet, and they’ll tell you that savory can outpace sweet bakery sales. One reason why is that consumers, particularly younger ones, are looking to the bakery as a place to enjoy delicious foods to go, and snacking has replaced mealtime occasions.
At Dawn Foods, they are addressing what it calls the “Mealtime 2.0” trend with perfect-fit product ideas like southwest corn muffins, pretzel croissants and individual pizzas made with Dawn Croissant Squares. According to Dawn, changing household dynamics, longer commute times and more hectic lifestyles all mean that the traditional image of a sit-down meal is evolving. Food is increasingly becoming fuel for our busy lives.
Other examples of savory product ideas that were showcased at the recent International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) included malted sorghum muffins and gluten-free spicy cornbread from Bunge and Cajun kolaches from ADM.


Becky Loveland, vice president of business to business marketing at Dawn Food Products, says that Dawn is addressing other influential trends like gluten free and clean label. At IBIE, Dawn offered a preview of its clean label line with its Crème Cake Mix and also showcased a new gluten-free cake donut. “These products offer the best of both worlds: extra healthy and delivering on great taste,” Loveland says.

2. Understanding Clean Label Demand
Corbion Caravan has conducted research to better understand consumer perceptions and expectations of clean label, a term that has not been consistently defined across the industry. “Bottom line, people are less focused on ingredients and health when they’re eating sweet goods,” said Abby Ceule, director of market management for bread at Corbion Caravan, during a panel presentation at IBIE. “When we are looking at sweet goods, we shop with our eyes. People are less likely to turn that package around and see what’s in it.”
Clean label means different things to different consumers. “The definition isn’t quite so tidy… is it about something that’s healthier? Is it about specific ingredients?” Ceule said. “From this survey, we found out that some consumers are really zoned in on ingredients, and some are looking for a healthier label around reduced calories, reduced fat, and then there are other consumers who don’t care what’s out there; they’re just buying based on price.”
Both ingredient-focused and nutrition-focused consumers are willing to pay more for products with 12 or fewer ingredients, the research revealed. However, Ceule noted, taste, convenience and a host of other factors remain critical to driving purchasing decisions.
3. Non-PHO Shortenings
Under new rules from the Food and Drug Administration, bakers have until June 2018 to reformulate bakery products without partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs). That means 2017 will be a pivotal year for the transition to non-PHO shortenings and oils. Mitch Riavez, a certified master baker and national account manager for Stratas Foods, explains that Stratas Foods has introduced a number of PHO-free shortening solutions for bakers. Stratas offers Flex, which creates either palm or soy based shortenings that function more like partially hydrogenated shortening. Golden Flex is a new line of zero-trans shortenings made with high oleic soybean oil and the flex technology. Riavez says that bakers seeking drop-in solutions, particularly for icings and laminated doughs, can find it with Golden Flex.
During an IBIE presentation, Riavez explained the benefits in sheer economics. Every dollar more a baker spends on shortening equates to one penny in added food cost. Add that to being able to transition successfully to non-PHO shortenings without having to reformulate your products, he says, and the benefits are obvious. Plus, the new federal rules are not voluntary; they are mandatory. “If you sold every cake for 50 cents more, you’d pay for your shortening,” he says. “To me, as a baker, I’ll spend that extra money every day because it works.”


4. Cake Trends for 2017

On the cake decorating front, Heather Sisson, vice president of customer relations at Lucks Food Decorating Company, says that the new year will usher in a wide range of color trends that cake decorators need to be keenly aware of. One example is chalky pastels with unfinished edges and imperfect textures that become part of a worn, shabby but familiar style. Colors are muted yet contemporary. “You’ll start seeing more chalky pastels in 2017,” Sisson says. The “Fresh Traditions” trend story, according to Lucks, is driven by the rising cost of city living for young creatives, who are moving to the edge of urban areas to create subcultures of urban influence. Cake decorators are moving between city and suburbs in their cake designs, and this brings a combination of grit and beauty into the design process. Painting on cakes also falls into this trend.

Other notable cake trends for 2017 include the use of emojis, candies and cereals, Sisson says. The popularity of drip drizzle cakes is expected to grow, as well as youthful, succinct messaging like “HBD” on cakes, rather than “Happy Birthday.” 


5. Expanding Use of Fondant

Fondant for cakes has been around for decades, but now cake decorators like Anne Heap are promoting a new idea: fondant cookies and accents. The owner of Pink Cake Box Custom Cakes in Denville, New Jersey, recommends using fondant on top of decorated cookies to make clean, colorful, eye-popping designs. 

“One of the things I love so much about using fondant is that you are able to put your own stamp on it and make more money,” she says. “There are so many things you can do that will increase your profitability.”

Another useful trick is to use fondant to make cake toppers ahead of time, like a fondant bluebird that you can place on top of a decorated cake. You can also make custom flower-shaped cookie cutters so “you have something nobody else has.”

6. Printed Chocolates
Personalization is paramount in today’s world, and In2food features a number of innovative ways you can personalize the look of your indulgent desserts, including printed chocolates, full color printing, and even cookie toppers.
7. Chocolate Accents
Callebaut has launched a new line of chocolate ingredients catering to beverage and specialty dessert professionals. The collection, which includes Callebaut Ground Chocolate, Mini Chocolate Crispearls, ChocRocks and Mini ChocRocks, deliver a rich taste and exciting finish to numerous beverage, dessert and baking applications. 
Mini Chocolate Crispearls are tiny dark, milk and white chocolate beads with a crispy biscuit center top off drinks with a shiny, crunchy bite and chocolate taste. Shaker packaging makes for easy use and storage. ChocRocks are roughly, uneven shaped chocolate rocks add a rugged finish atop desserts and pastries. This great versatility allows for use in mixed ice cream and chocolate mousse applications, or as an inclusion for muffin, brownies or bread dough.
8. The Comeback of Eclairs
The French love the éclair more than any other cake. Yet, unlike the macaroon or the millefeuille, this strip of choux pastry has never captured the imagination of modern pastry chefs until recently.

At the legendary FP Patisserie by François Payard in New York City, the reimagined éclair is a choux pastry filled with strawberry pastry cream and topped with dried strawberries and decorative chocolate pieces.
For Payard, the acclaimed pastry chef shares that his favorite flavor combinations are dark chocolate, caramel and salted peanuts (very American), passion fruit and raspberry, and pistachio and cherry. “When you use too many flavors, the identity of each flavor gets lost. I try to keep it simple,” he says.
9. Individual Tarts
Even with consumers increasingly making better-for-you food and beverage choices, they are not ready to give up on dessert. Individual tarts are making serious inroads at pastry shops across the country. They allow you to push the limits of creativity with flavor combinations that intrigue shoppers into wanting more.


10. Hispanic Flair
There is no question that Hispanic populations are growing swiftly in America, and panaderías in northern California offer numerous examples of how offering a variety of flavor choices and unique products can drive higher sales.
Lola’s Market, based in Santa Rosa, California, capitalized on the tourism trade earlier this year with a catering event in which they offered freshly made buñuelos and churros, in addition to a variety of meats and quick snack foods. Owner David Ortega recalls that they sold 700 churros – all made fresh by hand – within several hours, while a competing vendor had trouble selling any. “The competitor didn’t sell one churro until we were done.”
11. Pie Charting
Nothing seems capable of slowing down dessert sales. With the current atmosphere of health-and-wellness pushing the food industry, it would seem a safe assumption that desserts would be falling out of favor with consumers. The numbers, however, suggest otherwise. According to data from IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, dollar sales for the pie category for the 52 weeks ending Aug. 7, 2016, saw 15.5 percent growth from a year ago.
Now pie bakers are latching onto this link between pies and holidays to create opportunities for sales growth throughout the calendar. Through larger sizes and new flavors, pies can keep consumers celebrating all year round. Strategies such as using traditionally-seasonal flavors year round, single-serve pies, and innovative flavors are being employed by pie bakers. 
12. Mini Wedding Cakes
As the owner of Frosted Art Bakery & Studio in Dallas, pastry chef Bronwen Weber supervises one of the most influential and innovative cake studios in North America. Her cake designs range from out-of-this-world scuplted cakes to the tiniest mini wedding cakes (made with special 3-tier molds that are just a few inches tall) you’ll ever see.
“We are going to make tiny little baby cakes today,” Weber said during an IBIE cake decorating demonstration. “You can buy a chocolate cup shell and turn them upside down, they become little tiny cakes. You can fill it up with whatever you want: lemon curd, marshmallow, whatever.”
Take a cake pop stick and insert it through two or three mini chocolate shells to create a mini tiered wedding cake. Then decorate as you wish to make an eye-catching treat. Or Weber recommends you can work with chocolate companies like Callebaut to create your own three-tier chocolate mold for ease of use.
“People ask why mini cakes are so expensive,” Weber jokes. “I tell them, ‘so are diamonds.’” 
13. Packaging Innovations
Branding your bakery translates into packaging, as well, because you want to make sure shoppers walk out the door with your name on every package. This ensures their family and friends will see the name of your bakery and help spread the word to gain more notoriety for your place of business.
At Bake-In-Cup, retail shops can brand their creations with customized solutions that identify your brand right on the bakeable cups that come in attractive colors and patterns. 
For other ideas, Novacart’s new OP PLUMK Paper Baking Loaf Mold attracts much deserved attention with an elegant gold scroll on easy release white paper. Like all Novacart paper baking molds, the new loaf mold is easy to use. Just pour your batter into the mold, bake, and serve. There is no need to re-package.


And appealing to the rising numbers of self-serve shoppers, RoundWare is the latest offering in Inline Plastics’ breakthrough Safe-T-Fresh line of patented, tamper evident, products.  The single piece, 4” diameter, clamshell design, coupled with Safe-T-Fresh tamper evident, tamper resistant technology, promises to revolutionize this market segment, according to the company.
“We partnered with our customers during the development of this product line in order to create the highest quality product, and ensure that it performed in real world applications.” says Carrie Cline, senior product manager. “We found that the eye-catching RoundWare clarity and user friendly design encouraged impulse purchases, as well as stimulating repeat sales.”
14. All-Day Breakfast
According to the American Egg Board, while the idea of all-day breakfast is not new, it’s been getting a lot of attention lately. Within the past year, McDonald's, White Castle and Golden Corral have added all-day breakfast items to their menu offerings.
What happened to make eggs start wandering all over the menu? First and foremost, Americans love breakfast. National Restaurant Association research shows that 72 percent of adults want operators to offer breakfast items throughout the day. Classic breakfast items and those that blend breakfast and traditional lunch favorites create new and exciting meals.
15. Great Grains
There are some important considerations to make when going whole grain, says Brian Strouts, vice-president of baking and food technical services at AIB International. “Whole grain is still very much a place where, if you’re not there already, you need to be thinking about getting there, and if you are there you may still be facing some challenges,” Strouts said during a recent IBIE presentation.
Whole grain consumption has been linked to significant reductions in the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, digestive cancers and stroke. Studies have shown that eating whole grains may aid in weight management and lowering blood pressure. “There is a lot of consumer acceptance around it, and there are a lot of things that come with that whole grain — minerals, antioxidants, vitamins — that are very easy to promote as being more healthy,” Strouts said.
16. Pulse Flours
The bakery and snacks segment accounted for over a 90 percent share of the global pulse flour market in 2015. Grand View Research expects pulse flours to have a compound annual growth rate of 14.5% within this segment from 2016-2024. When incorporated into bread, pulse flours add a new taste and an enhanced nutritive value, according to Grand View Research. The ability of pulse flours to replicate the functional properties of other flours, without causing any side effects, may propel consumption through 2024.
Pulses are a low-fat source and have high fiber content and a low glycemic index, according to the report. Pulse flours are derived from the hulls of such pulses as peas, lentils and chickpeas. Pulse flour, when combined with its grain counterpart, may improve the overall nutritional content of a food item. 
17. Community Connections
It’s always important to make a name for your bakery within the local community, and retailers can accomplish this in numerous ways. Piccione Pastry, for instance, focuses on public relations and high-quality pastries to keep customers aware of their presence, as well as new menu items. BuzzFeed, the popular digital media company that operates a global news and entertainment network, recently named St. Louis-based Piccione Pastry as the single must-try pastry/dessert shop in Missouri.
Piccione’s chefs create recipes from scratch, bake in small batches and use high quality ingredients for their desserts. Currently on the menu, a variety of seasonal treats and local favorites include Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake, Toasted S’mores Cassata Cake, and the Piccione Signature Cannoli with chocolate or vanilla Piccione cream.

“It is quite a treat to be recognized by the BuzzFeed Community,” says Sandia Hoormann, Piccione Pastry chef. “Our original recipes have been passed through the Piccione family for almost 100 years; we work hard to provide guests with unique and seasonal twists on authentic Italian cookies, pastries, cakes and more.”