There was a time not long ago when a doughnut was a doughnut, a muffin was a muffin, and bakeries held true to traditional tastes, ingredients and textures. The thought of adding a savory, hot or unusual topping or flavor wouldn’t even cross the minds of bakers or consumers.
But as we’ve seen throughout the food industry, thinking outside the box can put a business and its unusual products in the spotlight—and, through the power of social media sharing, generate a following among current and new customers.
A recent example took place in Grand Rapids, Mich., at The Donut Conspiracy. The baker skeptically released a Flamin’ Hot Cheeto doughnut—comprising a plain yeast doughnut topped with melted pepper jack cheese, a Velveeta cheese drizzle and hot Cheeto crumbles—after several people commented on the bakery’s Facebook page that they would try one. The result? The baker sold more than 600 of them in less than two hours.
There are two factors at play here. First is the adventurous nature of today’s consumers. They’re no longer content to purchase and consume food made to traditional standards. They want retailers to push the limit of taste and ingredient combinations, whether it’s a sweet and spicy take on an old standard, an out-of-this world topping that no one would think to add to a donut, or a multitude of indulgent fillings, toppings and flavors.
We’re seeing this across our fresh departments, as consumers seek global flavors and new takes on traditional American fare. And the in-store bakery is no exception. In fact, in-store bakeries are in prime position to take advantage of this trend with new concepts and innovations of their own. Independent bakeries do not have a monopoly on creativity.
The second factor at play is social media. The two go hand in hand, as evidenced by the success of the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto doughnut. Would it have been as successful without the social media buzz surrounding it? Probably not. Would sales have been that great without the sharing of photos and info? Not likely. The buzz created around this interesting concoction was paramount to its success.
An important lesson can be learned from the success of campaigns such as this: Don’t limit your creativity! Take chances when it comes to new flavor combinations or adventurous twists on traditional baked goods. Keep abreast of what flavors, cuisines and ingredients are trending by reading industry resources such as IDDBA’s "What’s in Store." Engage shoppers through your social medial channels to learn what types of combinations and flavors they’d be interested in trying; create a poll and let customers decide.
And perhaps most importantly, don’t forget how creating an experience resonates with shoppers. Despite the rise of alternative channels into the retail food market, traditional grocers are in the perfect position to offer in-store experiences that can help grow their shopper base. These experiences can be accelerated through creative products, as demonstrated annually by our Show & Sell Center teams, who’ve developed concepts such as using cheese puffs and cannolis as cake toppers, and transforming the in-store bakery into a breakfast destination that offers items beyond traditional baked products, such as hot breakfast sandwiches.
Hesitation can be a barrier to creativity and, ultimately, success. Take a cue from successful, sometimes far-out food campaigns to create a buzz around your in-store bakeries.
Mike Eardley is president and CEO of the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA).