KANSAS CITY — Convenience and sweet baked goods go hand in hand, and with continued interest in grab-and-go products it’s no surprise that certain bakery snacks are finding favor with consumers.

In the 52 weeks ended Dec. 1, dollar sales of bakery snacks totaled $3,456,313,659, up 1.1% from the same period a year ago, according to Information Resources, Inc. (I.R.I.), a Chicago-based market research firm. Pastries, donuts and muffins — products commonly found in convenience stores — also were on the rise, as dollar sales in the pastry/donut category tracked by I.R.I. rose 3% to $5,263,572,347.

One of the largest players in the bakery snacks category, Chattanooga, Tenn.-based McKee Foods Corp. enjoyed growth in the past year while moving in new directions. In 2019, McKee gathered momentum, as bakery snacks dollar sales rose 1% to $842,126,907 for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 1, according to I.R.I.

In May, McKee acquired Prairie City Bakery, a Vernon Hill, Ill.-based provider of fully-baked, thaw-and-sell bakery solutions for the convenience store, food service and in-store bakery channels. Prairie City Bakery offers 125 varieties of individually-wrapped and bulk food service products, including cinnamon rolls, Danishes, cookies, donuts, donut holes in a cup, brownies and Ooey Gooey Butter Cakes.

“We sought to acquire Prairie City Bakery because they built a great brand with quality, innovative products that satisfy specific retail customer needs,” Mike McKee, president and chief executive officer of McKee Foods, said when the transaction was announced in early May. “We want to continue that success by following the same great strategy with the same great management team.”

McKee has wasted little time in putting its stamp on Prairie City. Last week, Prairie City introduced a new dessert bar line inspired by homemade desserts. Marketed as Down Home Delights Delectable Dessert Bars, the new sweet baked goods are available in three varieties: oatmeal Carmelita, chocolate almond coconut and apple cinnamon crumble. They are individually wrapped and have a suggested retail price of $1.59 to $1.79.

The addition of Prairie City did not dampen McKee’s desire to continue to move ahead on the reintroduction of different Drake’s sweet baked goods since acquiring the brand from Hostess Brands in 2013.

Sweet baked goods chartIn late August, McKee reintroduced Drake’s Mini Pound Cakes. The golden pound cake squares come individually wrapped, six cakes to a 10-oz box.

The mini pound cakes are available in supermarkets, supercenters, value retailers and convenience stores throughout the eastern United States.

“We’re excited about the return of a classic variety to the Drake’s lineup,” said Chip Stenberg, associate brand manager for Drake’s.

The introduction of the mini pound cakes came just a few months after McKee introduced Drake’s Starlight Brownies. Starlight Brownies are fudge brownies topped with chocolate-flavored icing and white candy-coated chocolate chips.

While Kansas City-based Hostess Brands has taken steps over the past few years to expand its portfolio, including the acquisition of Voortman Cookies earlier this month, the company has injected energy in its snack cake business.

Donuts and cupcakes were revenue “outperformers” for Hostess during the third quarter of fiscal 2019, and sales growth also was fueled by new Hostess branded Danishes and Dolly Madison products.

In a Nov. 6 conference call with analysts, Andrew P. Callahan, president and c.e.o. of Hostess, described the sweet baked goods category as “highly compulsive and expandable.” To that end, Hostess has introduced new innovation in the form of a triple chocolate brownie.

“This is a highly differentiated consumer-preferred product that allows us to participate in and capture a disproportionate share of a $250 million-plus brownie subcategory that has grown 5.5% over the last year,” he said. “We are excited about this new product launch and the incremental revenue we believe it will generate in the future.”

Hostess Triple Chocolate BrowniesIn addition to the triple chocolate brownie, Hostess in late October debuted new pastries designed to tap into consumer demand for on-the-go breakfast and all-day snacking. Berries & Cream Cheese Danish consist of a flaky puff pastry with a buttery texture and a cream cheese and mixed berry fruit filling. The pastry includes a drizzle of icing.

“With the addition of Iced Danish, we are responding to a consumer preference and enhancing a classic item in our breakfast portfolio,” said Chad Lusk, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer for Hostess Brands.

Flowers Foods, Inc., Thomasville, Ga., this year debuted Tastykake Scoop Shop, a new ice cream-inspired line of sweet snacks. The company said the new line will explore the crossover of two sweet snacks by borrowing flavor and forms from different categories. The company debuted the line in March with a partnership with Bassetts Ice Cream Co. to launch Cookies and Crème Mini Donuts. Then, in April, the second phase of the Tastykake Scoop Shop line roll-out took place with the introduction of Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwiches. The sweet baked goods feature a mint ice cream flavored crème sandwiched between two soft chocolate cookies studded with chocolate chips.