Pop culture fads and special events present a unique opportunity for bakeries to offer—and profit from—themed, limited-edition goods.
The Chocolate Moose Bakery & Café in Greenville, South Carolina, for example, saw sales spike when it created cookies to commemorate its place in the path of totality during the 2017 solar eclipse, according to co-owner Emily Dallam. The cookies, shaped like South Carolina, were decorated in starry night sky colors.
“August can typically be slow for us; it was one of the best months of the year,” Dallam says.
In addition to an immediate boost in business, running trend-themed promotions can have long-term benefits in terms of brand exposure and customer reach—provided they’re carefully planned and executed.
Consider the following tips to identify viral phenomena, determine production amounts and map out marketing for this type of limited-time offer (LTO).
Once-in-a-century events like a total solar eclipse are just one potential source of inspiration. Sam Meyers, owner of Sugared And Iced in Irvine, California, finds customers’ orders can be a good indication of what trends are on the horizon.
“I tend to get requests in groups, and if it’s not something I’m aware of, then that forces me to be like, ‘Is this something popular?’” Meyers says. Many of these trends are based on TV shows, video games and toys. “We had a run of Shopkins when they were really popular—it was one order after another,” she says.
Similarly, last spring, Jessica Grose, owner of Dallas-based Clearly Cookies, jumped on the fidget spinner craze by recreating the toy in an edible cookie form, which greatly increased her bakery’s exposure. While the idea was a friend’s suggestion, Grose regularly seeks inspiration from similar trends.
“I’m always keeping an eye on social media to see what things are happening that I can incorporate into a cookie,” Grose says.
Deciding how much of an LTO your bakery should make can be tricky, especially in situations where, like The Chocolate Moose’s, you anticipate a crowd but aren’t sure how many customers to expect.
“We used one of our busiest weekends each year as a baseline, and said, ‘Anything nonperishable—flour, sugar—we’ll just get in bulk because we’ll use it soon,’” Dallam says. “We ordered a little more butter but knew we might have to go to Costco or a local restaurant supply store if things got a little hairy.”
Clearly Cookies, alternatively, employs an order-based structure for LTOs, which ensures the bakery only buys the ingredients needed for each purchase.
Even if you don’t plan to capitalize on a viral trend immediately, you can ensure your bakery’s prepared when an idea hits by talking to suppliers about what’ll be required to get extra products quickly and cost-effectively.
Honey & Butter co-owner Leanne Pietrasinski advises businesses that hand-decorate each item to factor any additional labor involved into prices.
Last September, the Southern California bakery offered scary clown-themed cookies to celebrate the release of the movie “It.” Though the bakery’s standard macarons are $2 each, Pietrasinski priced the clown ones at $5 because they involved a more complex design. “The time we spend decorating it is the biggest factor,” she says.