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Single and ready to mingle

With dessert, smaller is better.

A little dessert makes every day sweeter. Or so it seems for grocery patrons.

Cupcakes, cake pops, mini pies and an expanding array of tantalizing single-serve desserts are bringing out the sweet tooth in Canadians. Even the health-conscience crowd can’t resist.

“Single-serve desserts provide indulgence and convenience in one,” says Alan Hiebert, senior education co-ordinator at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association.

IDDBA’s latest trends report, “What’s In Store 2014,” says sales of single-serve and mini bakery items are rising as fast as muffins in the oven–up a yummy 10% in the last year alone.

Mini cupcakes are leading the charge, while mini pies are slowly entering the scene and having a major impact on category sales, according to the report.

Who’s to blame (or thank) for the trend?

Millennials, of course. Unlike their boomer parents who grew up on grandma’s scratch cooking, twenty-something millennials were raised on food shows and food bloggers. They prize quality, not quantity, in desserts and go gaga over sweet treats that promise “hand-made authenticity.”

In-store bakeries wishing to reach the dessert crowd these days need to focus on quality ingredients, as well as remember that their customers are still interested in portion control, says Mélanie Proulx, national innovation manager at Les 5 Saisons, an upscale grocer in Montreal.

are looking at labels and want high-end ingredients,” she says. “We’re working with local suppliers to get unique hand-made products.”

READ: George Weston to focus on growing gluten free sector

Price also matters, but that can be a good thing for retailers who get it right.

“We’re finding that petite desserts are a feasible add-on to the lunch bill,” says David Sherwood, director of fresh operations and merchandising at Fresh St. Market in Vancouver. “Bakery has the highest margin in the fresh category, so it’s a great focus.”

Sherwood believes that the best way to grow single- serve dessert sales is to offer shoppers a variety of options to choose from, with lots of visual appeal.

“Gluten-free is almost mainstream now, and we’re starting to promote diabetic-friendly options, too,” he says. “If you can involve local vendors in the bread-making process, you can use staff to focus on merchandising and decorating so you can make dessert displays really pop.”

At Nations Fresh Food Market, an ethnic grocer in Hamilton, there are 12 daily varieties of cake, each available by the slice. Indeed this HMR-centric store makes single dessert portions for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

READ: There’s potential in them pies

But it’s not only fresh bakery fare luring sweet seekers. Manufacturers of chilled and frozen desserts are making their products tastier than ever. Take Gü Desserts, grand prize winner in innovation at the SIAL show, in Montreal, last month. The U.K. company makes chef-inspired chilled treats that are typically housed in the yogurt and dairy aisle. Ingredients come from around the world, such as key limes from Peru and Madagascan vanilla, says international brand manager, Joanna Badham.

Canadians, Badham says, have a penchant for the brand’s key-lime pie and molten lava cakes.

“Keeping our ingredients real and our shelf-life short means we can create desserts that taste amazing. It’s restaurant quality to enjoy at home.”

Summer Fresh Salads is another CPG honing in on the quest for quality desserts. Best known for its savoury dips and sauces, the company now has a line of glutenfree Summer Fresh Mousse, available in four- packs, with flavours such as sweet-salted caramel, chocolate and raspberry. Each is topped with shaved chocolate and made from “real” ingredients, such as Belgium chocolate, Canadian cream and raspberries.

READ: In frozen treats, a shift to the stick

Deeper into the freezer, frozen desserts are branching out beyond traditional ice-cream snacks. According to the Specialty Food Association, frozen desserts were among the fastest growing specialty categories in 2013, along with nut butters and egg products. Nielsen data reveals that sales of frozen tortes, in particular, have grown 27% in the last year in Canada (see chart, at right). No wonder, then, Toronto-based bakery Dufflet launched a grocery version of its decadent tortes and cakes, called the Cakelet, with new flavours and packaging this year.

Meanwhile, Canadian ice- cream company Chapman’s recently brought to market Slice Cream, an ice cream reminiscent of a Swiss roll. Available in flavours such as vanilla truffle and caramel chocolate pecan, Slice Cream is a showstopper on the dessert table, says Mary Breedon, Chapman’s sales and marketing manger. Considering its $5 price tag, it’s an economical option to ice-cream cake.

Breedon also suggests placing frozen desserts in bakery freezers with frozen fruit and other dessert items. Or pair them with fresh fruit, nuts and syrups.

Of course, with summer on the way, frozen desserts are flyer-ready. So be sure to promote.

“That’s the best way to get people to try them,” Breedon says.

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