If there’s one point in the calendar where bakeries gather their new ideas, remind themselves of their previous successes and pull out all of the stops to ensure they capitalise on the droves of customers that arrive at their doors, it’s Easter.
In this day and age, the annual celebration of Easter means far more than just the culmination of the Passion of Christ. It’s a chance for families to congregate around the table for a roast meal; perhaps flock from all corners of the country to enjoy a day out; or simply enjoy the rare occasion of being in the presence of each other.
With all the family together, the Easter holiday is ideal for a spot of over-indulgence, and that’s where the bakeries come in.
Aside from the annual payload of chocolate eggs, there are cakes, cookies and shelves of sweet treats awaiting the hungry consumer. Stores bring out their traditional favourites, invite their customers to sample some of their newest creations and prepare to do battle over what’s become one of the most profitable dates in the confectionery calendar.
Considering the extent to which the baked goods industry has grown in recent years, this means huge business for the companies involved.
Much like a finely prepped tray of cakes at gas mark five, the global baked goods industry is currently going from strength to strength. Consumer demand is on the up and the holidays are continuing to cause a spike in sales.
According to research from Global Industry Analysts, the baking industry will rise to a worth of $310 billion (£186 billion) by 2015. Growth is expected to be driven by changing lifestyles, which leaves little time for people to prepare main meals, never mind puddings. It’s for this exact reason that when the family comes to sit down on April 20 for their Easter gathering, they can expect the third course to be shop-bought.
Indeed, while busy consumers have been quick to buy convenient savoury snacks such as wraps, biscuits and pastries, Easter is the ideal platform for the sweeter side of baking.
Consumers are on the lookout for products to enrich their festivities and will often use sweet treats to cap off their family feasts. The host will typically cook the main course and provide some pre-made favourites to keep the hungry stomachs ticking over.
As research from Maplehurst states, seasonal sales are more than “nice-to-haves” for the bakeries of the world – they can sometimes make or break their year. It’s common for sales of products around Mother’s Day, Christmas and Easter to represent six per cent of all business from that year, with cakes driving the figures along.
In 2011, cakes accounted for 60.7 per cent of all sales after spikes were seen around Easter and Mother’s Day. Fillings of large cakes around this period tend to be basic – a Victoria sponge with plenty of seasonal decorations being par for the course – but it’s smaller versions of the nation’s favourite that enjoy the most success over Easter. Cupcakes are in huge demand as a plate full of shop-bought mini sponges saves hours of time in rolling, baking, decorating and slicing.
Still, cakes tend to post strong sales all year round, and Easter has its very own sweet surprises.
The old favourite
No lowdown of the bakery business over Easter can be complete without a mention for the hot cross bun, which is continuing to represent a roaring trade for stores across Britain.
Just ask Morrisons, who sold over eight million hot cross buns over Easter 2010 – a 15 per cent increase year-on-year increase which benefited from sales of the supermarket’s very own fresh, cream-filled variation of the product. The supermarket even released a special, limited edition Hot Cross Ale to drive sales of its flagship Easter treat – labelled the ‘perfect accompaniment’ to an Easter meal.
High street bakery chain Greggs also took advantage of the nation’s love for hot cross buns in 2011, when sales of its own treat hit three million. The company had recently suffered from a decline in business as a result of global commodity price increases, such as fuel, energy and key ingredients, but sales of its sandwiches, pasties and the ever-reliable hot cross bun set everything straight.
Yet despite the hot cross bun continuing to represent a safe investment of time and resources for the average British bakery, some businesses will use Easter as a time to trial something new.
New kids on the block
Perhaps the most inventive way that a bakery can boost business over Easter is to introduce new varieties and homespun classics adjacent to their core line-up.
Sales of Danish coffee cake in America – the home of the caffeine boost – has caused UK bakeries to take note and begin stocking their version of the sweet treat on their shelves. Easter is the ideal time for such products as old friends meet up to discuss their recent activities over a hot drink.
There’s also the cake pop – a small ball of sponge which has been covered in icing and mounted on a stick. These can be purchased in packs of around 6-10 and provide the ideal treat for families to pass around over Easter.
Aside from this, it’s all in the decoration and using the imagery of the Easter bunny, chicks and eggs to boost sales of regular products over Easter.
Whether they can match sales of the hot cross bun is another matter, but the bakeries won’t seem to mind – it’s all good