Milk Bar's Crack Pie is one of the most popular items on
Among the masses of marketers on the Internet, there’s one website, in particular, that independent retail bakeries need to know. It’s called

Tina Rexing, owner of T-Rex Cookie in Minneapolis, Minnesota, ditched a 20-year corporate career to make a name for herself as a cookie baker. Her giant cookies baked in small batches became such a hit that agreed to sell them on its highly curated online platform.

Since its founding in 2013, Goldbely’s team of “food explorers” seeks out the best local foods across the country and subjects them to quality assurance tests to ensure fresh and prompt delivery every time. Only three percent of food merchants are approved to join. Current popular items include Momofuku Milk Bar’s Crack Pie, Dorothy Lane Market’s Killer Brownies and New York City’s Ess-a-Bagels. According to Goldbely, the company managed the shipment, logistics and customer service for more than 200,000 food orders in 2016 when it witnessed a 200 percent increase in customers. Orders are individually packaged by the company’s 300-plus food partners with available delivery to all 50 states.

“Our platform empowers small business owners and regional food makers and evens out the playing field with big chain retailers and online mega-brands,” says Joe Ariel, the CEO and co-founder of Goldbely.

Dorothy Lane Market's Killer Brownies are another bakery item reaching consumers through online marketplaces.
Jenny LaPaugh, senior director of global market research and insights for Dawn Foods, points out that Dawn research shows that independent retail bakeries are growing in both size and number. “People love supporting local bakeries,” she says. “Millennials want to be in the know — how a business is supporting the local community. Bakeries can take advantage of that.”

Dawn created the Innovation Studio for this exact reason of helping independent retail bakeries thrive and innovate. LaPaugh says they invite customers to the bakery research and development center, located in Jackson, Michigan, for innovation sessions to generate new product ideas. One example is Dawn customer Hurts Donut’s pickle donut, which went viral this year on social media.

“We co-create new recipes and products,” LaPaugh says. “It’s been a great resource. We continue to support independent bakeries.”

According to Dawn consumer insights, millennial consumers are most likely to choose a place to buy bakery products or other foods based on sites like Yelp or Facebook. Younger shoppers give a lot of weight to recommendations from friends on social media. They are using mobile technology to find bakeries and share what they’ve had.

“That’s where they are going to seek out unique experiences,” says LaPaugh, adding that “foodie expression” is a key insight from Dawn Foods related to millennials wanting to connect and share. “Bakeries can fuel that obsession with memorable items. Convenience is definitely important. Millennials tend to make less trips overall, but when they go somewhere, they spend more.”

Consumers are seeking unique food experiences.

Beth Fahey, co-owner of Creative Cakes in Tinley Park, Illinois, cites her own bakery’s sales trends in the past year when she points out that customer counts are down, but average sales per trip are up.

Creative Cakes recently opened a sales-only office 45 minutes from the bakery’s production facility in efforts to capture new customers.

“Most of our shoppers are harder to reach using conventional methods,” agrees Lynn Schurman, owner of Cold Spring Bakery in Cold Spring, Minnesota. “They are expecting more online options. They are expecting more information before they make their purchasing decision.”

Still seeking human interaction

A new study from Culinary Visions Panel’s Mindful Dining Initiative highlights younger consumers’ craving for human connection when dining out. The study found that despite their love for technology, younger consumers are using it not to replace human interaction but to enhance their social experiences.

“Our studies show younger adults, in particular, enjoy the social aspects of dining out,” says Sharon Olson, executive director of Culinary Visions Panel. “Today’s younger consumers grew up with technology and their facility with it allows them to use technology to make their lives more convenient.”

Younger consumers are using technology to enhance social experiences.
Questions on consumer-facing technology were included for the first time since the project began in 2014. Paired with questions related to human interaction, the study provided a rich, complex picture of the needs and wants of younger consumers. Here are four takeaways that the study found on consumer attitudes towards technology and human interaction:

1) Despite the fact that younger consumers like to use technology to make ordering quick and error-free, the study revealed that Millennials and Gen Z consumers are some of the most appreciative demographics when it comes to quality customer service and positive in-person interaction. 64% of those surveyed between the ages of 18-34 years said they would love to go to a restaurant where the server calls them by their name. By contrast, 58% of those surveyed between the ages of 35-54 and 54% of those aged 55 and older said the same thing. It seems the pervasiveness of technology has upped the need for quality interaction.

2) Dining outside the home is considered a great way to catch up with friends. Young consumers like to share food, swap bites and are, in general, more influenced by what their peers order than their older counterparts. The 2018 Mindful Dining Study found that 50% of the consumers surveyed between ages 18-34 said that their ordering decision is influenced by what others are ordering. By contrast, 37% of those surveyed between the ages of 35-54 and 25% of those aged 55 and older said the same thing. Though it may be just a classic generational difference, younger consumers are far more likely to use the group’s preferences to shape their own dining decisions.

3) Millennial and Gen Z consumers view dining experiences as social experiences that should be celebrated through sharing on social media. The study found that 58% of the consumers surveyed between ages18-34 said that they like to take pictures to share on social media when dining with a group. By contrast, 44% of those surveyed between the ages of 35-54 and 22% of those aged 55 and older said the same thing. Additionally, 39% of those between ages 18-34 say that they think about whether a restaurant is a good place for photos when going out to eat and 38% say they have dined at a restaurant before with the express purpose of sharing a photo on social media.

4) Younger consumers may be quicker to embrace technology in foodservice because they value quickness and convenience as a generation. 48% of those between ages 18-34 say they prefer using kiosks or touch screens to order because it’s quicker compared to 32% of those between the ages of 35-54 and only 12% of those ages 55 and older. Young consumers’ ease in opting for technology when they need quickness and convenience is a reflection on how they use technology as a tool.