JACKSON, MICH. - Sept. 22 marked the first day of fall, and the demand for fall flavors is heating up, providing a significant sales opportunity for bakeries.  

“Fall is a time for tried-and-true classics,” said Melissa Trimmer, CECP, senior bakery application chef at Dawn Foods. “This year, it’s all about nostalgia. People have been pushed socially so far out of their comfort zone that they want to experience some of the flavors they had in childhood.” 

Satisfying consumers’ appetite for nostalgic foods doesn’t mean bakeries can’t get creative, however. In fact, using traditional flavors in unique and unexpected formats can spur interest—and sales. 

In recent years, bakeries around the world have introduced mashup desserts that merge classics with other components. Leveraging seasonal ingredients in everyday baked goods can help bakeries present fall flavors in a festive, yet accessible way, said Elena Taylor, senior marketing director, wet ingredients, at Dawn Foods.  

“We have a coffee-flavored cake mix I’ve seen paired with pumpkin [in] a cake and cupcake—an unexpected way to bring that flavor profile together,” Taylor said. “I’ve seen [flavors] blended in brownies, whether it’s caramel or pumpkin; apple as a topping on donuts and apple and caramel in a variety of things.”  

Along with produce like apples, sweet potatoes and cranberries, autumn-oriented baked goods can include spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and rosemary, as well as flavors like salted caramel and, of course, pumpkin—an ingredient that’s become extremely popular in recent years. 

From fall 2018 to 2019, pumpkin-flavored products earned $511 million in grocery sales, a 4.7% increase from the prior year, according to Nielsen data.      

This year it will be important to remember that the treats consumers buy to celebrate fall holidays and events will likely look different, Trimmer noted. 

“Indulgence will factor in; but on individual portions,” she said. “For example, if you think about a back-to-school treat, even if kids aren’t in school [physically due to COVID-19 concerns], we still are going to want to get those for our kids. But instead of getting a whole tray of cookies to bring to the classroom, it might just be a couple to bring home to your children.”  

“Fall holidays—back to school, Halloween, Thanksgiving—are huge bakery holidays,” Trimmer continued.  “[There] can be sensory or savory applications for fall flavors—something like mashed sweet potatoes with pumpkin for empanadas, caramel apples, turning trick-or-treating candy into a cake. It’s important to remember, as we head into the season, that you don't have to just do what you’ve done before.”