Rising temperatures often signal slower foot traffic for supermarket bakeries. According to David Diamond, president of grocery marketing firm David Diamond Associates, the average in-store bakery can see sales drop as much as 15 percent during June, July and August.
However, bakery departments can get creative to buck the summer slump and boost sales. One way is to offer products with seasonal flavors: “In-store bakeries do best when they’re responsive to the seasons and offer items that reflect the fruits of summer,” Diamond says. Grocery customers may have wandered the produce section only seconds before walking through the bakery, so they have the bounty of berries, peaches and cherries top of mind. Featuring those ingredients in the bakery’s display cases is the quickest way to underscore the freshness of those offerings. For most in-store bakeries, that means getting creative with fillings.
Warm weather gatherings and indulgence call for tropical flavors. In fact, mango is one of the most popular bakery flavors during summer months, according to market research firm Datassential. However, offering desserts featuring tropical fruit can be costly and ultimately unrealistic if made from scratch because of the fruits’ availability and price. Guava, for example, isn’t widely available in its whole fruit form in the U.S. outside of the Southeast.
Fortunately, premade fillings make offering tropical flavors that satisfy summer cravings affordable and easy. For example, the bakery can step up their breakfast pastry offerings using mango filling to make mango-swirled muffins, or guava filling for guava cream cheese Danishes.
In addition to minimizing ingredient-sourcing challenges to capitalize on seasonal flavors, relying on premade fillings gives bakers more control over flavor consistency, portions and waste. “You can be more creative because you have more time,” says Sharon Wullenweber, bakery manager at Jungle Jim’s International Market, a grocery store chain in Ohio. Instead of washing, chopping, cooking and reducing from scratch, bakers can simply open the filling package and get to work.
“There’s a huge variety of high-quality premade fillings available for purchase now, and they save time and labor in the bakery,” Wullenweber says. “The Dawn Foods pineapple filling makes our pineapple upside down cake popular year round—but especially in summer. My advice would be to experiment with different flavors and desserts, and offer samples to keep the excitement going.”
For example, applying a creative twist to classic summer desserts can offer up something new and exciting for customers. The Florida-based grocery chain Publix fills its summer bakery case with raspberry cigars, fruit floats (squares of puff pastry with fruity filling centers), strawberry eclairs and mango-key lime pies.
In addition, combining a classic summer flavor, like peach, with a savory note, like rosemary, for peach-rosemary empanadas may pique customers’ curiosity. “In-store bakeries need to continually freshen their mix, and fillings do make it easier to try new things and see what works,” Diamond says. And both eclairs and savory desserts have topped retail bakery trend predictions for 2017.
When revamping offerings, bakery managers should keep in mind that dessert scenarios shift during the summer. Instead of a plated slice of cake to complete a cozy family meal at the table, the bakery may sell more items for summer barbecues, picnics and potlucks, points out Diamond. Bite-size treats that seem easy to transport or share with a group have extra appeal.
And just because the winter holidays are over, bakeries shouldn’t discount pie—sales have been booming: Data from retail research provider IRI saw year-over-year pie sales up 15 percent in August 2016. To carry that trend through the entirety of summer, in-store bakeries can supplement standard 9- and 10-inch pies with portable alternatives that use the same filling, such as pie fries, hand pies and single-serve mini pies. In addition, departments can highlight the desserts as easy crowd-pleasers by displaying them in four-, six- or 12-packs.
“You have to consider it from all angles—flavor, form, packaging, display,” Diamond says. And with summer fillings as a secret weapon, the bakery can maximize creativity to satisfy seasonal cravings—without compromising the bottom line.