From the Donnoli (a donut-cannoli) at Vaccaro’s Bakery in New York to pineapple upside down Cruffins (croissant-muffins) at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in Los Angeles, bakeries across the country are creating inventive, delicious mashups. And as consumers continue to embrace these creations with excitement and enthusiasm, larger foodservice operations are taking note.
Panera Bread, for instance, now sells a chocolate chip Muffie (a muffin-cookie), and Au Bon Pain has offered a sweet cheese CroisBun—a breakfast mix of a croissant and sweet bun.
Mashups have made their way to supermarket aisles as well, and they’re not just limited to combinations of two distinct baked goods. From WaffleWaffle’s red velvet frozen waffles to birthday cake Oreos, food companies are finding success by marrying diverse flavors and textures.
Now, more bakery manufacturers are experimenting with the trend. While certain baked goods and flavors may seem like no-brainer combinations, manufacturing profitable mashups isn’t so straightforward.
New creations can require a serious investment in extra ingredients, equipment and revamped production, as well as testing and training staff around new processes. And recipe development alone can be both time-consuming and costly.
To make the most of mashup mania, and do it cost-effectively, consider these tips.
Prioritize Bakery Production Capabilities
While hybrids that combine two distinct, elaborate pastries, like Cronuts (croissant-donuts), may prove successful for artisanal operations, they likely aren’t the best choice for manufacturers. “That requires two different production processes under the same roof, so you’re driving down margin and adding complexity,” says John Kirkpatrick, a bakery consultant at process and packaging solutions company Reiser.
Fortunately, innovation doesn’t necessarily mean starting from scratch. In fact, one way to keep costs in check is to pick mashups made from similar starting points. Combining two forms that are closer together, like a cookie and a brownie, can be more cost-effective because the new product can be made with equipment a manufacturer likely already owns and uses on a regular basis, says Kirkpatrick.
Drawing from ingredients used elsewhere on the production line can also help keep food costs under control.
“Hybrids, like adding cream to the center of a muffin to make it a muffin-cupcake, can be a whole new ballgame for a bakery,” says Scott Buchele, founder and president of Performance Enterprise, a food-manufacturing consultancy.
Develop Original Dessert Mashup Ideas and Test Small
Though consumers are smitten with novelty and inventiveness, too often, bakery businesses default to a copycat when an of-the-moment product appears. But there’s more value, and more marketing buzz, in creating a mashup that stands out to consumers—and manufacturers’ customers as a result.
“Have the courage to try something different and focus on innovation,” Buchele says.
Manufacturers can experiment with new flavor profiles working within the parameters of their existing offerings. For example, Kirkpatrick notes many bakery businesses are experimenting with savory flavors.
From sea salt and caramel to gochujang and raspberry, the possibilities for savory-sweet combinations are endless.
“New flavor profiles can scale—and they can scale a lot easier than some of the more complicated mashups,” he says.
“Approach your R&D lines as more of a test kitchen,” recommends Buchele. “Make small batches and try to truly innovate and create something in uncharted territory.” If something flops, the manufacturer won’t have wasted ingredients in a full run. And if something feels like a fit, the business can move on to internal taste panels and blind taste tests.
“If something still has legs, then put it into full-scale R&D and figure out how to scale it,” he suggests.
Get Help Bringing Bakery Mashup Ideas to Life
If developing a new mashup feels overwhelming, manufacturers should tap their network, says Kirkpatrick. Suppliers and distributors can be a well of insight into everything from consumer trends and recipe formulation to equipment and production recommendations—and they’ll already understand the challenge of balancing expense and quality.
These partners can also simplify sourcing for new ingredients, such as unique spices or inclusions. “Suppliers can help make sure the sources are clean and help a wholesale bakery build a safety stock,” says Buchele. In addition, they can suggest and provide time- and labor-saving shortcuts, such as bakery mixes. Those can be especially effective for staff with varying skill levels on a new product, Kirkpatrick adds.
While mashup mania may seem like a complex undertaking for bakery manufacturers, planning around current capabilities, prioritizing originality and leaning on suppliers’ expertise can help them embrace the trend successfully.