Growth in the supermarket bakery department has been tepid over the last handful of years. According to IRI data, the bakery category across the store — which includes everything from the bakery aisle, refrigerated and frozen items, baking mixes and cookies — is up 1.2 percent compared to a year ago and is growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 1.8 percent since 2012.

Growth, for sure, but nothing to set the bakery world ablaze.

Luckily, instore bakeries — and pastries, in particular — are part of the solution. Pastries and doughnuts combined for the third-highest number in sales of bakery products in 2018, according to Statista, trailing only ‘fresh bread and rolls’ and ‘snack bars/granola bars.’

To fully embrace the opportunities that pastries — in their sweet-but-not-too-sweet glory — offer, it might be wise to think outside the box.

“The pastry business is really good right now,” says Jean-Yves Charon, pastry chef and co-founder of Galaxy Desserts. “People are loving good pastries with not too much sugar.”

Macaron madness

When Charon mentions that macarons are one of the most important desserts in the expanded pastry universe, he wants to make sure you’re on the same page.

“I’m not talking about macaroons, with coconut,” he says. “Macarons, with almonds.”

That much should be clear by now — macarons have enjoyed some recent popularity, especially in upscale bakeries — but it doesn’t hurt to be clear.

The meringue-based confections can present quite the challenge for retailers, which may explain why they’re not found in most instore bakeries, but Galaxy Desserts presents a helping hand.

“Ours come already made,” Charon says. “You just have to put in in your showcase on in the freezer and suddenly you have a great assortment of flavor. You can have so many flavors with one product.”

The bright colors and varying flavors boost the popularity of macarons, as do their small size. They can be enjoyed by consumers looking to indulge smartly.

“You’re starting to see them more and more in the United States and I think it’s because they’re colorful, they look good in the case or in a package and it’s just one bite,” Charon says. “You can try different flavors at the same time.”

Canelé, not cannoli

Another product that is increasing in popularity and can easily be confused for another sweet treat? Canelé.

If you hear someone talking about canelé, you might immediately think of the popular Italian pastry. Instead, we’re talking about small French pastry with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust.

“This is a very good product that I think will start being seen in more and more bakeries in the United States,” Charon says. “It’s very popular in Europe.”

The pastry originated from the Bordeaux region of France and is typically baked in a small cylindrical fluted mold. Many bakeries today use butter on the molds to prevent sticking, but Charon says he prefers the traditional method of beeswax.

“It’s a crepe batter and it’s usually in a copper mold,” he says. “The beeswax does a really good job of preventing it from sticking to the mold.”

The batter must go through a fermentation process. Galaxy ferments its batter for 24 hours in a refrigerator.

Indulging in moderation

The old adage of the impossibility of wanting something done well, quickly and cheaply comes to mind when you start considering what’s driving pastry sales.

“I think consumers want healthy, convenient and a really good taste,” says Charon.

That seems like a tall order, but Charon says it’s not only doable, but pertinent.

“They want all three of those things,” he says. “And when you can get all three of those at once, that’s when you know you have a good product.”

Quality ingredients, smaller portion sizes and slightly less sweet pastries can help meet those demands.