Fields of flours

As the cold weather sets in the baking products aisle blossoms with a stunning array of ingredients, mixes and frostings.

Let them eat cake—and brownies, cookies, biscuits, breads and moist, dreamy lemon squares too. With the winter and holiday seasons approaching consumers are turning their attention to comfort food. And nothing says “comfort” like a piping hot loaf of homemade bread, tray of brownies or tin of cupcakes right out of the oven.

Manufacturers are heeding this comfort call with a slew of new products geared to busy consumers who want to create home-baked goods modeled after the temptations churned out on TV shows such as Cake Boss and Cupcake Wars, but just don’t have the time or skill set to do it from scratch.

“Those shows certainly have a following of bakers and have helped generate excitement in the category,” says Kim Francis, marketing manager of Betty Crocker baking mixes at Minneapolis-based General Mills. “Like the shows, our goal is to inspire consumers to be creative in their baking and providing retailers the ideas of how they can bring that to life in the baking aisle. From a retailer perspective, leveraging what they are doing by displaying end caps with everything a consumer needs to make that double chocolate cupcake with candy cane frosting is important and also creates an in-store atmosphere consumers enjoy.”

Further category interest is being created with limited-time seasonal products. Betty Crocker, for example, once again rolled out Pumpkin Bars and Pumpkin Spice Cookies this fall and introduced Halloween Orange Frosted Brownies and Fall Frosting, with more items slated for the end of the year.

“For the holidays, Betty Crocker is introducing Hot Chocolate Cupcakes with Marshmallows and a Fluffy White Frosting Mix and Hot Chocolate Brownies with a Marshmallow Swirl on top,” says Francis. “A Snowflake Vanilla Frosting is also going to be offered. For cookies, Snickerdoodle and Gingerbread are returning, and new to the Betty Crocker seasonal offering is the Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie.”

Duncan Hines is creating excitement in the aisle by adding seasonal flavors to its popular Frosting Creations, launched last spring. “We have Pumpkin Spice and Apple Pie for the October/November fall season and Peppermint Stick and Gingerbread for Christmastime,” says Andy Reichgut, senior vice president, marketing, Duncan Hines, for Parsippany, N.J.-based Pinnacle Brands. “We’ll be coming out with recipes and doing a lot of consumer communications to create awareness of the new seasonal flavors and give consumers solutions on how to use them, recipes, etc.”

Distribution of an all-in-one German Chocolate Cake Kit (including cake mix, frosting and pouches of pecans and coconut) is being expanded and a Red Velvet Cupcake Kit is being introduced. It includes enough cake mix and cream cheese frosting to make 12 cupcakes.

“We include a piping bag so the consumer can take the frosting and squeeze it into the middle of the baked cupcakes and create a filled cupcake, which is unique,” Reichgut says. “It is really simple and fun and the consumer gets to feel like a gourmet pastry chef.”

That is also the goal behind the upscale Stonewall Kitchen line of baking mixes. “Our baking mixes help guests make bakeshop quality foods in their own kitchen,” says Janine Somers, director of marketing, for the York, Maine-based manufacturer. “In addition to cupcake mixes, we offer a variety of breakfast and dessert baking mixes, all made with the finest ingredients. From taste, to visual, to texture, we rate every product before going to market to ensure that the end result looks and tastes homemade,” she says.

This summer Stonewall Kitchen launched 21 new baking and jam products, including Maple Pancake & Waffle Mix, Buttermilk Doughnut Mix, Gingerbread Doughnut Mix and Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Mix, which won the 2012 Sofi Gold Award at the Summer Fancy Food Show.

Consumers following a gluten-free diet can return to the category thanks to Manischewitz Gluten-Free Cake Mixes. Available in Yellow and Chocolate varieties, both contain a baking tin and chocolate frosting in the box. Newark, N.J.-based Manischewitz has also introduced Manischewitz Red Velvet Cake Mix, which is Pareve and packed with a baking tin and vanilla frosting.

“Our cake mixes are kosher for Passover, and as such we cannot use flour in our mixes,” says David Rossi, vice president of marketing. “We bake Matzo and then grind it up into a fine powder, which we call Cake Meal. This is then substituted for the flour.”
Rossi suggests the Manischewitz mixes, which only come out for Passover, be merchandised in the Passover section of the store.

Value proposition
The Manischewitz Red Velvet mix has a suggested retail of $5.99 and many of the other new products are also in the super-premium range. However, the bulk of the aisle’s volume is still in the “value” products segment, which retail for $1.00 or less per SKU.
“Nationally about 89% of the purchases are ‘value’ products and within that we command a 67% market share,” says Howdy Holmes, president and CEO of Chelsea Milling Co., based in Chelsea, Mich. While Chelsea Milling may not be a household word, its primary brand—Jiffy—certainly is. The little blue-and-white boxes can be found in just about every baking aisle set.

“The reason we are so popular is that we are the value proposition,” Holmes says. “We don’t do any advertising—no couponing, no freestanding inserts. That gives us a business advantage and we can offer our products at a lower price.”

Chelsea officials also pare costs through vertical integration.

“We store wheat, have our own flour mill, make our own boxes, have a printing facility, do our own mixing and packaging. We have a logistics division as well. By doing it all ourselves we eliminate the middleman,” Holmes says. “If you look at a 40-ounce box of Bisquick and a 40-ounce box of our Jiffy Baking Mix, there is over $1.30 difference. That is from merchandising. Most of our growth comes from word-of-mouth. If a friend says you should try Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix you will consider that a lot stronger than a 50-cent coupon.”

Word gets around

Word-of-mouth is also driving growth in the flour category.

“We are very, very popular with the European bakers that had ancestors who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany, Italy and other countries,” says Judi Rasmussen, sales manager of the food service division and Chicago retail for The Uhlmann Co., the Kansas City, Mo.-based manufacturer of Heckers and Ceresota brands of flours.

The flours are also a commercial success, according to Rasmussen. “Our Ceresota brand is used by all of the pizzerias in Chicago,” she says. “Magnolia Bakery uses our flour exclusively. No matter where they open a Magnolia Bakery they have to use our Heckers flour. They have a shop in L.A. and I send them one or two pallets at a time. An exporter in Florida ships it to their shop in Dubai for us.”

Uhlmann’s “Unbleached Forever” tagline is a registered trademark. “Our flours are unbleached,” says Rasmussen. “We have never bleached our flours. We will never bleach any of our flours. It is the same with bromate, a chemical that is added. We don’t do that. It is a good selling point because within the last few years everyone, not just bakers, is trying to get a little more health conscious.”

Established in Boston in 1790, King Arthur flours have also never been bleached.  “King Arthur Flour has the strictest specification in the industry, so across all of our flours you’ll have consistent baking,” says Terri Rosenstock, public relations coordinator for King Arthur Flour, based in Norwich, Vt. “We are within two-tenths of a percent of the protein level, ash count, etc., whereas other brands are much further away. You are always going to have consistent baking when you use King Arthur Flour.”

King Arthur’s newest product is a Self-Rising Flour, the only brand on the market that contains non-aluminum baking powder, Rosenstock says. “Self-Rising flour was something that a lot of Southern bakers were asking us to include in our line. It is a blend of flour, baking powder and salt, which is very traditional, but we did a couple of years’ worth of testing to make sure that we had the perfect blend and mix. It is a lower protein wheat, so it produces softer, more tender baked goods and is great for biscuits, pancakes and cakes,” she says.

 

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