Inspired by You

Who inspires you? Where do your best ideas come from? For us at Dawn, our customers are our biggest source of inspiration. Each day, they use ingredients to create delicious desserts that are distinctly their own. As their partner, we value innovating right alongside them, so that together, we bring the best to consumers in communities everywhere. This is the motivation behind “Inspired by You,” our new program with the mission of taking cake to the next level of amazing. To kick it off, we enlisted four passionate artisanal customers to help us develop new cake mixes that push the boundaries of flavor and give customers the ability to create desserts that reflect their style.

“Inspired by You” connects research with customer feedback in real time. “By partnering with our customers, we're making sure we're selecting the cake flavors we know are on trend from our research but are also going to work for our customers in their bakeries,” says Dawn Foods’ Senior Director of Category Marketing Phil DeWester.

coffee cupcakes

Coffee cupcakes

This collaboration has gone even better than expected. What started with an invitation to participate evolved into each baker bringing their vision to the table and showing what happens when out-of-the-box thinking is combined with creativity, hard work and insight. 

“By partnering with our customers through this co-creation process, we learned a lot more about how these new cake flavors would be used,” says DeWester.

An Invitation to Innovate 

Accepting the invitation to participate in “Inspired by You” was the first exciting step for the bakers.  

“When Dawn came to us about this, it was an honor,” says Julie Pinho of Pinho’s Bakery in Roselle, New Jersey. “You work so hard to get to the top of your field. To be picked to give a little input as to what we can bring out to the market—even without a trophy, it’s an honor!”

Having the opportunity to influence the new cake flavors was also a huge draw for Paul Bendinskas of ABC Cake Shop & Bakery in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “It’s been a while since we’ve had new flavors in the market. There’s nothing out there that has been new and innovative,” he says. “We were excited to be part of the process of coming up with new flavors or bases.”

Helping choose new cake flavors wasn’t the only exciting aspect for bakers. Stephanie Hart from Brown Sugar Bakery in Chicago couldn’t wait to absorb all the trend research that Dawn compiled about the potential flavors. “The information that we got a chance to get exposed to, we can build on that for years to come.” 

Anna Gutierrez of Pepe’s Bakery in Sunnyside, Washington, seconds this feeling. “It was an eye opener to see what happens behind the scenes to be able to create these new flavors.”

coconut bundt cake inspired by you

Coconut bundt cake with chocolate glaze

The Journey to the Final Flavors 

In April, the bakers traveled to Dawn’s Innovation Studio in Jackson, Michigan, for an interactive day of ideation, inspiration and innovation with Dawn Senior Application Chef Melissa Trimmer, Certified Executive Pastry Chef (CEPC®). 

“It was really interesting what the bakers came up with,” Trimmer says. “We thought that they were going to say that they wanted some really exotic flavor and color to round out our cake mix offerings, and that isn’t what happened at all.” 

During the phase one session, the bakers selected their top 10 flavors before voting on the final three that would move into development. To identify their top lists, they used consumer insights and trends from Datassential and Dawn’s Market Research team, as well as their own expertise, to decide what would resonate best with their customers.

“We worked as a group to come up with a short list of what would work in all of our areas,” says Edwina Bendinskas of ABC Cake Shop & Bakery. “We know our customers, and we know what they would be looking for. We’re here to be their voice.” 

The bakers chose three versatile flavors: coconut, honey and coffee. 

Inspired by You honey cake with slice

Honey cake with caramel drizzle

Co-Creating and Innovating

Dawn’s R&D team put in the work over the next month to come up with three versions of each of the three cake mixes. When the bakers returned to Dawn’s Innovation Studio in May, they tasted cakes baked with the mixes and decided which version they liked best. 

Then the bakers headed to the Dawn test kitchen, where they experimented with the mixes themselves. Each artisanal customer whipped up multiple delicious desserts from each cake mix, wowing everyone with their skill and expertise. 

“The goal there was to see the versatility of these cake mixes,” says DeWester. “If all you can do with the cake mix is make one type of cake, it's probably not something that's going to be very useful for our customers. So we were looking for versatility as a key criteria.”

From Innovation to In the Field 

The R&D team went back to the lab to refine the mixes using the bakers’ feedback from phase two. Once each mix was perfected, Dawn visited the artisanal customers at their bakeries, bringing along the first commercialized mixes. The four bakers sampled and tested the final products, giving them an exclusive first taste of the new cake mix flavors.  

After all of their hard work throughout the “Inspired by You” process, being able to introduce these new mixes to their customers and expand their market was the ultimate reward. This wouldn’t have been possible without the tools that Dawn provided throughout the partnership, and that’s pretty special, according to Hart. 

honey peach cupcakes inspired by you

Honey cupcakes with peach filling

The mixes won’t be exclusive to the “Inspired by You” bakers for long—the Coconut, Honey and Coffee mixes will be introduced to the world at the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) in Las Vegas this September. Then, Dawn customers will be able to order the mixes for their bakeries at the end of September.

Introducing the Final Flavors:

“With the rise of sustainability and local first, people are looking back at these natural sweeteners,” says Trimmer. She’s right—according to Datassential FLAVOR™, 40% of consumers who have tried honey love it. 

Tropical flavors are gaining popularity rapidly. Datassential FLAVOR™ reports that 57% of consumers love or like coconut and that number is likely to only increase. Currently, it’s on 37.7% of U.S. restaurant menus and is projected to grow 10.7% in the next four years.

As the popularity of artisan coffee grows, tapping into this delicious market makes good sense. Datassential FLAVOR™ reports 50% of consumers love coffee and its many variations. 

Coffee whoopie pies inspired by you

Coffee whoopie pies

Meet the Bakers!

 Pinho’s Bakery

Raul and Julie Pinho
Location: Roselle, NJ
Owners: Raul and Julie Pinho
Best known for: Pastel De Nata, a traditional Portuguese tart with a flaky crust and special custard inside. “We sell thousands a week!” 

Brown Sugar Bakery

Stephanie Hart
Location: Chicago, IL 
Owner: Stephanie Hart 
Best known for: Caramel Cake. “It’s very Southern, luscious and wonderful.” 

ABC Cake Shop & Bakery 

Edwina and Paul Bendinskas
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Owners: Edwina and Paul Bendinskas
Best known for: Buttercreme. “Our buttercreme is the best anywhere. It rocks!” 

Pepe’s Bakeshop

Anna and Jose Gutierrez
Location: Sunnyside, WA
Owners: Anna and Jose Gutierrez 
Best known for: Tres Leche Cake, a sponge cake soaked in three different types of milk. “Our tres leches cake has really changed a few minds!”