KANSAS CITY - In the $46 billion bakery category, snacking continues to gain momentum. With snacking on the rise among all consumers and nearly 60% of Gen Z and Millennials professing the inability to get through the day without a snack, mini sizes are finding favor before, during and after meals, as well as for dessert.   

Cargill’s Baked-in Opportunities Insights Report, a study on American’s snacking behavior, discovered four key snacking motivators: To satisfy a craving (77%), To give oneself a treat (71%), To satisfy hunger (70%), and To reward myself (55%). Treats that offer elements of consistency and comfort are pushing to the forefront with mini-sized bakery products gaining popularity during the morning daypart, according to Eric Richard, industry relations coordinator, IDDBA, Madison, Wis.  

Pre-pandemic, smaller snack sizes were beneficial around lunchtime when working adults would run into grocery stores for a quick, last-minute snack on a lunch break, shared Sarah Hickey, senior director of insights and market research, Dawn Foods, Jackson, Mich. These smaller-sized options now play a role in helping consumers break up the day at home with a sweet treat for themselves or another family member.  

Bulk versions of multi-packaged mini portions are also popular with parents who are purchasing larger packages of baked goods at warehouse retail stores. Multipacks offer access to a wider variety of items than when purchasing a larger quantity of a single item, said Kathy Sargent, director of global market strategy, Corbion, Lenexa, Kan.

For easy snacking convenience, Dawn Foods recommended bakeries use resealable pouches with tear-strip openings for mini bakery items such as brownie bites, mini donuts and mini muffins. By using the zipper or press-to-close feature, customers can return to the item with the same amount of freshness. 

  • Mini Doughnuts: Dollar sales $7,249,701 which is -36.7% change vs YA 
  • Mini Muffins: Dollar Sales $109,761,741 which is -3.6% change vs YA 
  • Perimeter Individual/Snack Pies: Dollar Sales $82.323,449 which is -20.4% Change vs YA  
  • Tarts: Dollar Sales $50,001,317 an increase of 11.7% vs YA 
  • Integrated Fresh reports, powered in partnership with IDDBA, for the latest 52 weeks ending 11-29-20 

Reasons to Snack 

  • Tastes good – 93% 
  • Is affordable – 79% 
  • Requires little or no preparation – 66% 
  • Feel good about eating it myself – 66% 
  • Made with healthy ingredients – 58% 
  • Can be eaten anywhere and anytime – 54% 
  • Not highly processed – 59% 
  • Can be a reward – 57% 
  • Can be eaten on the move – 51% 

Baked-in Opportunities Report, Cargill 


Before taking already-popular products and making them smaller, it’s important to understand which flavors and textures work best before trying to crack their profitability formula, cautioned Sarah Hickey of Dawn Foods. 

“Cakes and other popular celebratory baked goods are finding great success in miniature versions,” she said. “We’ve seen 19% growth in cake bites and 25% in cake slices over the last year.” (Nielsen Total Store View, xAOC, 4 Weeks Ending 11/28/2020) 

But simply smaller isn’t the only consideration. It’s also important to formulate for the moisture content of smaller items, according to Roger Daniels, vice president of research, development, innovation and quality for Stratas Foods, Memphis, Tenn. Incorporating shortening and/or margarine into a dough where it can interact with the flour and egg proteins to control strong protein-to-protein bonding is necessary to create the desired structure and eating properties in a finished product. 

“The size of the bakery item when one considers the amount of surface area versus the volume in that moisture migration, either through evaporation or movement from the center to the surface, will negatively impact the product with either a change in texture or premature staling,” he continued. 

Daniels recommended using an emulsified shortening in a liquid form, like Stratas’ Nutex, or a traditional plastic shortening form such as the company’s Sweetex. The emulsification bridges the fat-loving ingredients with the water-loving ingredients to effectively hold water where it needs to be to achieve the desired final product. Formulated with these considerations in mind, consumers have fresh options with a longer shelf life, a quality that could help the instore bakery compete with center-aisle products.  


There are two obvious demographics that appreciate mini desserts: smaller households of empty nesters and other age groups and younger single person households, according to Mark Boyer, president of Tippin’s Gourmet Pies, Kansas City, Kan. A Pew Research Center Social and Demographic trends report showed small family sizes are on the rise with 26% of children younger than age 18 living with a single parent. As smaller family units become the norm, this offers perimeter departments an opportunity to re-think size counts and package sizes.  

Smaller family units are seeking out smaller-count options in an effort to reduce waste and save money. These reduced sizes also fit continuing societal needs for smaller gatherings and celebrations as consumers navigate the ongoing impacts of the pandemic. In response, larger players have made adjustments. Costco, Issaquah, Wash., for instance, has downsized its half sheet cake, offering to a 10-inch size, according to The Freedonia Group.  

These smaller family units and individuals also include the increasingly influential Gen Z demographic and Millennials and their young families who in many cases aren’t yet regular instore bakery shoppers. To help attract them, Boyer recommended offering experimental and innovative new products and flavors to make the instore bakery a destination.  

The Millennial and Gen Z spending powerhouses also lead the charge when it comes to empowered purchasing and engagement with brands that demonstrate their support of the environment and the local community. The importance of such engagement with these empowered consumers will continue with the anticipated growth of those who expect to become more digitally engaged with brands over the next 12 to 24 months, according to Forrester’s The Future of the Empowered Consumer in the U.S. report. 

Corbion cited the purchase of smaller-sized versions as appealing to those who participate in simpler or minimalist lifestyles and who are interested in reducing food waste. The purchase of smaller package sizes can also simply be related to how willing and how often consumers want to go to the store, Corbion’s Sargent said. 

Clear communication of actions regarding one’s commitment to social, environmental and/or cultural values is necessary to preserve trust among consumers, according to Forrester’s report. This could include highlighting how the bakery is accounting for the associated waste of smaller packages, offering an in-house recycling program for packaging, or demonstrating how the bakery is using sustainable packaging.  


What’s considered worthy of indulgence is unique to the demographic and the individual consumer, and ever-changing evolutions in the concepts of health and wellness further complicate matters. One possible compromise is the form of smaller-sized baked goods that offer the desired indulgence in a smaller profile. Tippin’s Pies produces about a dozen different varieties of mini, six-inch pies, perfect for one or two people. Tippin’s also offers single slices in a variety of flavors, offering built-in portion control. 

“We think smaller portions create more opportunity for trial, and they can certainly provide an opportunity for indulgence without as much risk to one’s waistline,” Boyer said. “People choosing Tippin’s products are looking for an experience that is rewarding and highly satisfying, and they have already given themselves permission to indulge.” 

These smaller-sized offerings could also tempt more health-conscious consumers to explore the instore bakery and provide the needed green light for purchase. Viewed within the prism of pandemic aftereffects, the 2021 FMCG Gurus Food and Beverage trends anticipate consumers will re-evaluate their diet and lifestyle in regard to vulnerability to illness, making health an ongoing driver of consumer attitudes and innovation along with a risk-adverse approach to safety and assurance. Yet the “Right Bite” of smaller indulgent treats could help others balance stress and anxiety management, according to Innova Market Insights. 

“Indulgence remains the top driver for shoppers purchasing baked treats, but given today’s emphasis on healthy eating, many are looking for ways to mitigate the guilt,” said Allison Leibovich, senior technical service specialist, bakery, Cargill. “Single-serve and smaller items help consumers feel better about their choices, providing built-in portion control with smaller-sized, full-sugar portions, including minis, bites and thins.”  

Cakes-in-a-cup and bite-sized or single-serve options offer the best of both worlds: an indulgent eating experience without the guilt that gives consumers permission to indulge, Leibovich continued. Sarah Hickey of Dawn Foods recommended better-for-you baked goods should also remain a vital component of a grocer’s bakery case and strategy. Whether creating indulgent or better-for-you offerings, the desire for clean labels still applies with consumers on the lookout for ingredients found in the home pantry. This includes favorites such as classic olive oil and honey that are making a resurgence in ice cream, cookies and candy. In December, Datassentials menu data showed a 5% growth in chocolate menu flavors with an expectation of 25% growth in Nutella in the next four years. 


Time spent at home during the pandemic has sharpened the senses and tastebuds of consumers. A December ABA Bake to the Future podcast with Robb MacKie, ABA president and CEO, and Fred Penny, president of Bimbo Bakeries USA, forecasted 2021 as the year to build on consumers’ renewed appreciation for baked goods and interest in artisan products in the grocery store as an area for growth and innovation. High-quality, accessible craft- and artisan-inspired baked goods will be in demand as consumers return to some element of normalcy, making the transparency and authenticity of the sweet goods purchased increasingly important. 

“People are more stressed than ever before; nonstop connectivity to work, family commitments and extracurriculars often leave them in need of a few minutes to unwind with a special, permissible treat,” Hickey concluded. “They’re seeking to reward themselves with premium ingredients, sophisticated flavors and unique presentations — minis tap a growing consumer need: small luxuries that offer respite from the pressures of everyday life.”