- Puddings and fruit cakes are Christmas staples, so here's how to achieve successful sales in December and beyond
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Christmas is a time when iconic food and drink come to the fore – turkey, cranberry sauce and of course, Christmas puddings and fruit cakes. These desserts have all the ingredients that are instantly festive, with plenty of fruits, spices and booze. As such, they don’t necessarily appeal to all, so while it’s worth stocking up on the traditional desserts there’s also the opportunity to provide your customers with a lighter version, or an offering that can cater to a wider audience. When it comes to keeping your shop stocked up for the festive season there is no need to stop at Christmas puddings and fruit cakes. Perhaps look to incorporate the likes of gingerbread or Yule Logs that always sell well and are often popular with families. Look for produce to stock that supports suppliers in the area, as this will fare well with those customers that are keen to shop local.
How to keep classic offerings appealing in today’s marketplace? Alison Lilly, founder of LillyPuds, says that Christmas puddings are still proving popular and offering a few different versions can help them to appeal to a wider audience. “There will always be those who do not like Christmas pud – our aim is to convert the ‘dislikers’ with our lighter, fruitier version of our traditional Christmas dessert. Our Christmas puds are lighter and scrumptiously fruitier than most. The puddings contain less added sugar than commercially produced puddings and have a fruit content of over 50% and no mixed peel. By reducing the cheap fillers such as sugar, flour and mixed peel and then steaming the puds for less time, we have created a dessert that is easier on the palate after a heavy and indulgent Christmas lunch.”
Catering for customers that have other dietary requirements is also something to be aware of when stocking up for the festive season. LillyPuds offers a gluten-free option, and Alison says, “The gluten free puds were part of our original offering, all that was needed was a small tweak to our premium recipe. Aside from the gluten-free flour and suet, the ingredients are fundamentally the same – we are even able to use the same beer from The Brentwood Brewing Company, Gluten Free Chockwork Orange. Gluten-free and latterly our Vegan/ Gluten Free puds are extremely popular and represent 20% of our sales. Our customers are delighted to be able to offer the same premium pudding to all their diners and guests rather than the necessity to have more than one pud for those with special dietary needs.”
While puddings and fruit cakes are rightfully thought of as Christmas staples, there can be pressure there to carefully calculate the right amount of stock when planning for fear of being left with product to push in January. Tipple Tails has found a way to make fruit cakes sell throughout the year and has created them with a modern twist, with cakes being packaged individually in tins. Founder Jane Stammers says that by staying away from traditional Christmas packaging, the fruit cakes have appeal all year round: “The fruit cakes are a contemporary twist on a traditional product and are beautifully packaged so they make great gifts or treats and are a lovely addition to a Christmas hamper.
“Christmas is most definitely the busiest time of the year, but the products are deliberately not packaged in Christmas-specific packaging so they make great all year-round gifts. I sell lots across the year for birthdays, as a thank you, congratulations presents for new babies and new homes, hostess gifts or to cheer someone up. I do also see a peak in sales for Mother’s and Father’s Day and at Easter.”
There are other ways to incorporate festive bakes into your range throughout the year. Blacker Hall Farm Shop offers a fruit cake and rich fruit cake that are on sale all year-round, as well as at Christmas. Karen Close, head of buying and value says, “We ramp up the stock from October onwards which come in all shapes and sizes. The sales do drop in January and February but we have been looking into selling them in smaller portions as an energy boost for health kicks after Christmas for cyclists, runners etc.
“We aim to sell the fruit cake with our cheeses as we have such a large variety and they pair so well together. We do focus on them quite a lot around Easter and Mother’s day. They work really well on an afternoon tea and we often include them in ours which is served in the Barn Café. Over Easter we made Simnel Bites which included the rich fruit cake, marzipan in the centre and coated in dark chocolate.”
Alternatively, why not look further afield for stocking inspiration? There is German stollen or Italian panettone, which are both bakes that can offer something a bit different for customers. Take Wimbledon-based Italian bakery La Bottega del Pane which produces a renowned panettone which is freshly-made at the bakery rather than in Italy, and as such contains no preservatives. Every year company director Rocco Tanzarella and his team creates a different panettone recipe, with last year’s variation, Mandorlato, showcasing Sicilian almonds sourced from the coastal town of Avola.
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