HOUSTON — Buddy Valastro has had an interesting relationship with supermarket bakeries.

When “The Cake Boss” of TV fame — the day before IDDBA 2024 started, he won an Emmy — started out, taking over the family bakery after his father’s death from lung cancer, ISBs were a formidable foe.

When it came to sheer volume, Valastro couldn’t compete with grocery.

“Supermarket bakers were putting bakers like me out of business,” Valastro told IDDBA attendees. “How many doughnuts did I have to fry to make $1,000? I had to start making things they couldn’t make. So I doubled down on wedding cakes. I could make a three-tier cake for $1,000.”

From the start, Valastro made beautiful wedding cakes. And one day, a wedding magazine editor saw one in his shop window.

The rest is history. Valastro’s cakes became staples of all the wedding magazines. His personality and the personalities of what he called his “crazy, big Italian family” made him a natural for TV.     

But at some point, the circle came back around to grocery bakeries. Once again, Valastro has ISBs on his mind. But this time his attitude is a cooperative one.

“I feel like now, I’m not a retail baker anymore. I have bakeries. But I’m an innovator. I want to innovative for the industry.”

Shows like IDDBA “bring us together,” Valasco told the crowd, clearly indicating that he’s now full sail in the same direction as grocery ISBs. 

And he has some definite ideas about where his and grocery bakery departments’ ships are headed.

“When I think of retail, I think single-serve is the future.”

The germ of Valastro’s entry into the single-serve business was a meeting with an entrepreneur who had the idea of putting cannoli in a vending machine. 

That would never work, Valastro told him. The cream wouldn’t hold up.

But cake slices would work. The result was a vending enterprise in Toronto that went through a tractor-trailer’s worth of cakes in a month.

Later, Valastro was talking to a grocery chain about installing cake vending machines. The grocer was worried that it would compete with the stores’ ISBs.

So Valastro recommended selling the slices in the ISB and skipping the vending machine altogether.

Every Buddy’s Cakes, as Valastro’s MAP-packaged slices for retail are known, are actually three slices in one — one slice of cake with three layers, each a different flavor.

Everything in them is made from scratch, they have no preservatives, and yet they have 30 days of refrigerated shelf life. The line boasts a miniscule 2% shrink rate at retail. 

Newest for Valastro are Buddy’s DIY cake kits, which contain all the ingredients to make a 5-inch cake. A QR code on the packaging links to a video where Valastro shows you how to make it. 

Cakes in the line include Frankenstein, Santa, a jack-0-lantern, reindeer, elves, cats, dogs and many more.

“Think how many gingerbread cakes you sell,” Valastro told the retailers in his IDDBA audience. “No offense to gingerbread, but these cakes, you can eat.”

Next up for the Cake Boss for retail are a DIY cannoli kit, a tres leches cake and a cookies and milk cake. Expect to see them in stores soon.

ISBs have made huge progress in recent decades, Valastro told the audience, and he’s confident that more big strides are ahead.

“You should be very proud of the past 20 or 30 years. This industry has come a long way from the 90s to today. But how can we push ourselves further?”

Think outside-the-box, experiences and more clean-label, Valastro urged his fellow bakers.