In grocery instore bakery, expect another strong year in 2019, says Mike Docherty, vice president of marketing for North America for Brill, a division of Sandy Springs, Georgia-based CSM Bakery Solutions Co.

“We predict fresh bakery will continue to have steady growth, as it has for the last several years,” he says.

Among the bakery industry trends to keep an eye on in 2019, Docherty says, are consumers’ desire for customization, demand for smaller portions and operators seeking labor efficiencies.

When it comes to customization, Docherty says, digital will play an ever more important role. “As we look forward, we expect online ordering for decorated  cakes and other bakery offerings to become more sophisticated to serve consumers’ desires for customization.”

It’s demographics, meanwhile, that’s driving demand for smaller portions, he says. With more than three-quarters of U.S. households containing fewer than three people, companies like Brill are working with their retail partners to diversify their offerings to cater to this growing market.

“We’ve seen some retailers have success with simply offering smaller options of their core products,” he says. “We work with our customers to help identify products that would be best suited for multiple sizes. It could be simply offering a single or double slice of a core dessert cake, a cookie package with a reduced count or a single-serve cupcake or muffin.”

Smaller cakes, Docherty says, showed the most significant growth in the cake category in 2018 — and Brill expects to see a continuation of that trend in 2019.

When it comes to labor, grocery instore bakeries will continue to face challenges in 2019, Docherty says — for some it’s availability, for others it might be a lack of skills. Whatever the cause, bakeries will strive to become more efficient in the coming year.

In addition to keeping an eye on trends in customization, smaller portions and labor efficiencies in 2019, Brill expects to see a continuation of the flavor explosion the industry has seen in recent years.

“We’ve seen a rise in unique flavors for dessert cakes, which is often being created by using a flavored icing,” Docherty says. Brill is doing its part with a full line of buttercreme flavors and fusions that includes unique flavors like Made with Oreo Cookies and Crème, Brownie Batter and Salted Caramel.

“These unique flavors allow retailers to create unique profiles, ultimately generating excitement for consumers,” he says.

In addition, Brill is also starting to see more of a focus on almond, pistachio and other traditional nut flavors in the bakery space, Docherty says. Brill already has pistachio muffins and loaf cakes to help fill this niche, and the company will soon come out with an almond buttercreme.

Also in 2019, expect to see a continued emphasis on “fun,” Docherty says. Think unicorns, think mermaids, think “happy.” “Color is a great way to do this,” he says. “We’ve recently added a rainbow cake layer to our portfolio that is a marble of red, yellow and blue. We’ve had a lot of interest in it already.”

On the health/transparency front, clean label will remain top of mind for the bakery industry in 2019, Docherty says. Brill’s own research shows that more and more consumers are looking to avoid specific artificial ingredients and replace them with clean ingredients. To help address that growing need, Brill has expanded its Simplicious line — products made without high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, sweeteners and artificially derived color. Cakes, icings and fillings can now be found in the Simplicious product list.

“Now retailers have a single supplier solution for developing clean label cake programs,” Docherty says.