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The consumer desire for convenience is catered for in the home baking sector – there’s been a myriad of cake kits of all types in the food industry since the likes of Betty Crocker set up camp decades ago, and a growing number of quality options available for independents to stock – but that’s not to say that it’s king. It can, however, be a failsafe option for hosts nervous about creating a free-from dessert for their vegan or coeliac guests. Home baking is seen by many to be a treat, a quiet activity on a rainy day or an opportunity to get creative, so consider how your home baking range is displayed and if an element of convenience can be added to your store’s offering. For example, if your flours, sugars, decorations and the like are displayed together, consider adding a small sign directing people to the tills for their locally-sourced eggs and the fridge for their butter.
We’ve all seen the world of flours and sugars evolve over the past few years. Shoppers no longer simply have to choose between caster, demerara and granulated when it comes to sugar, and there’s a whole host of ‘healthier’ flours now on the market for consumers wanting to bake a sweet treat minus the guilt that refined ingredients can sometimes bring. Consider stocking ancient grain flours such as spelt, rye and kamut – they can sometimes contain less gluten than conventional wheat flours, too, which makes them a great option for shoppers wary of their gluten consumption.
While you can’t beat a simple, homemade classic – who could say no to a Victoria sponge’s delightful and time-honoured combination of vanilla sponge, jam and cream topped with a dusting of icing sugar (we advise you keep a year-round stock of all these ingredients) – today’s baker is becoming increasingly influenced by the creations they see on social media and television. Anyone who’s seen a cake baked by an influencer or professional on Instagram will be au fait with the trend for ‘naked cakes’ and bloom-bedecked wedding bakes, while Pinterest users will be inundated with artfully photographed creations dripping with creativity. There’s a few decorative options available to you as a retailer. Firstly, and conveniently ambient, there’s a huge selection of sprinkles available to stock. From the childhood favourite and pleasingly bright hundreds and thousands to pearl-like drops, tiny fudge cubes and golden nuggets, it’s worth perusing the options.
It’s also worth stocking a range of non-edible decorations such as cake bunting, which arguably kicked off a desire for occasion cakes topped with miniature cardboard characters and scenes as well as the traditional small birthday candles. You can also find metallic sprays and edible paints; there really is a world of creative options out there. Finally, look into edible flowers. Their shelf lives might not be long and they could seem an extravagance, but they’re sure to be a popular option with home bakers – particularly in the summer months. They do, however, come with a warning: do not run the risk of assuming a flower is food safe, as some can be toxic and not safe for consumption. You can find comprehensive lists of flowers which are safe to be served with food online.
As the influences on shoppers’ habits become ever-wider, consider widening your home baking offering in line with them. We’ve all seen the rise of fragrant, Turkish-inspired dishes like tagines and couscous, and the advent of delicious smelling ingredients such as rose harissa, so why not bring those influences to your home baking lines? Ingredients like orange blossom water, rosewater and dried flowers are popular right now, as are flavours such as cardamom and fragrant black peppers. Speaking of spices, the classics will always keep tills ringing, so while it’s sensible to be inspired by industry trends, keep a full stock of perenially popular options like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove – especially at Christmas – to satisfy the unabating consumer desire for traditional treats like gingerbread biscuits and cinnamon-scented cookies. Equally, the British shopper has increasing awareness of flavours from Asia, so the flavour and colour-boosting chai and matcha tea powders and syrups should go down well.
The Baker’s Calendar
Just as shoppers will have dates highlighted in the diary for days which require a home-baked treat – birthdays are of course a year-round occurrence so it’s sensible to always carry a stock of home baking items – you should mark relevant dates in your diary to ensure a steady stream of home baking fans coming through your doors. At Easter and Christmas, for example, make sure you have a good stock of dried fruit, marzipan and icing for your shoppers’ Simnel and Christmas cakes – plus, perhaps, chocolate eggs, bars and cereal for everyone’s favourite Easter treat, chocolate nests! – and during the summer months keep a plentiful supply of fresh fruit and berries. Don’t ignore the ‘Bake Off effect’. Since it first came to our screens, The Great British Bake Off has got increasing numbers of consumers donning their aprons and whipping up cakes, biscuits and other showstoppers, so if you can, keep an eye on the show – you could find that the day after the latest episode airs, your customers are looking for ingredients related to the bakes they saw being created on screen the night before.
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