KANSAS CITY — From indulgent and healthier to sweet and savory, pastries offer a sweet goods profile that’s a delicious driver of product innovation. In one tidy package, pastries can encapsulate experiential essences and cultural influences while welcoming elements of playfulness, exploration and nostalgia in one delicious bite.

“By highlighting authenticity, cross-selling with breakfast, brunch and snacking occasion products, and clever merchandising you can capitalize on shoppers’ desires to try new experiences,” said Paul Baker, founder, St. Pierre Bakery, Manchester, U.K.

St. Pierre Groupe offers individually wrapped Butter croissants and Chocolate croissants and its Bakery 6 Chocolate and Hazelnut Rolled Crepes are now available at Walmart. Baker shared that 40% of U.S. shoppers are spending more on food shopping with 48% actively looking to recreate restaurant dishes at home. While updated formulations, boasting natural ingredients and clean-label profiles give consumers even more reasons to indulge throughout the day.

With no shortage of food trends to choose from, pastries offer bakers the perfect vehicle for upscale indulgence and innovation. Filled with milk-based and liquor-flavored creams, and/or studded with nuts and chocolate, pastries offer bakers a range of opportunities. Possibilities include infusions of flavorful glazes and powders and on-trend, not-just-for-dessert savory options filled with goat cheeses, aromatics and greens.


Although pastries are largely thought of as indulgent in nature, these products can also find a niche within the better-for-you category with the use of natural, real and fresh ingredients. For example, the use of functional ingredients can support increasing consumer desire for comforting foods that support health and wellness. This could include swaps such as doughs featuring whole grains, nuts and seeds and fermented ingredients that offer a halo of health.

“Our customers are always looking for ways to respond to consumer requests for those healthier options without sacrificing taste,” said Raoul Dexters, general manager USA, Vandemoortele USA. “Many of our most popular pastries are clean label and that certainly speaks to the quality of the ingredients we are using.”

New York-based Vandemoortele USA offers clean-label authentic European baked goods such as filled and unfilled croissants, Danishes and mini-sized items through its Banquet D’Or line. The company’s freezer-to-oven Bake-Up technology does not require a trained baker throughout the day to meet demand and to produce authentic, clean-label results.

“Made in-house products with a minimal amount of ingredients can become a selling point that resonates with consumers,” said Eric Richard, industry relations coordinator, IDDBA, Madison, Wis.

“Instore bakeries can highlight this focus on natural, minimal ingredients through marketing both in-store and digitally online.”

Vincent Barcelona, director of sales – national accounts and culinary, Stratus Foods, Memphis, cited strong presence of better-for-you ingredients in the pastry category including mixed berries (blueberries, strawberries and raspberries) on light lemon citrus custard tarts, mango and tropical fruits and rhubarb, and callouts of “flourless” in the pastry description.

Responsible indulgence is further encouraged by employing one-to-two bite mini sizes, which negate guilt when having more than one. Stratus Foods’ bakery shortenings help bakers ensure the delivery of appearance, flavor and texture in products, which achieve their finished form in a different bake process, said Roger Daniels, vice president research, development, innovation and quality, Stratus Foods.

Influential media

The buzz around innovative pastries is further enabled by increasing exposure to social media and its various influencers. Consumers hungry for different flavors and textures are welcoming traditional and experimental influences from bakers, chefs and culinary experts from around the world. These social media influences and viral communications help spread the word and link people and ideas together. Constant exposure offers consumers information about a multitude of new flavors, textures and innovative product ideas.

The voracious consumption of online everything is further intensified by the trend to “experience more.” After months of lockdown, consumers are actively searching for the new, sharing what they’ve heard about from friends, family and influencers with other social connections. An ongoing desire to shake things up is ushering in increased interest in culinary travel adventures as a substitute until it’s possible to physically experience new cultures in-person.

Culinary wanderlust is also seeding inspiration through pastries featuring exotic offerings of ube, or Filipino yam, adzuki beans, native nuts and seeds, custards and flans, fresh seasonal fruits and regional flavors. Barcelona observed these more adventurous eaters are more likely to reside in more densely populated big cities and their suburbs, while those living in rural areas tend to know what they like and stick to it.

Flavor exploration

Ongoing interest in cultural flavors with authentic and fusion influences from around the world continue to fuel the global pastries market, which is projected to see a CAGR of 3.44% 2021-2026, according to Mordor Intelligence. IDDBA/IRI Integrated Fresh found perimeter pastries up 13.6%, a Dollar Sales % Change vs YA with $30,910,265 in Dollar Sales Change vs YA.

This includes a growing interest in a variety of Hispanic pastries from regions throughout Mexico, Cuba, Central and South America in addition to fusion takes on traditional favorites. Like other segments within the pastry category, Hispanic pastries are on the rise with a 0.6% Dollar Sales % Change vs YA and $644,413 in Dollar Sales Change vs YA, according to IDDBA/IRI Integrated Fresh.

A growing appreciation and curiosity for Hispanic products is finding a growing number of consumers gravitating toward the approachable authenticity of a range of Hispanic influences, seeking out foods and flavors from Mexico, Cuba, Peru, El Salvador and other Central and South American countries.

Continued cultivation of interest in Hispanic products is important for consumers interested in exploring a range of rich non-homogenous Hispanic culinary history and for the growing shopper demographic of 55.4 Mil Hispanic consumers. According to Claritas, the estimated household income of Hispanics in the U.S. totaled $1.285 trillion in 2020. As household incomes continue to grow, the demographic will have $1.8 trillion in purchasing power. By 2025, more than 69.5 million Hispanic Americans will live in the U.S., which will be approximately 20% of the U.S. population, according to Claritas.

Creating connections

With food as a major connector between all people, bakeries will need to determine how to best meet consumers where they are now. This includes accommodating a growing consumer base that’s keenly aware of how certain foods can affect their overall health from a digestive health perspective along with lifestyle-driven vegan, keto and gluten-free diets for weight management and sustainability efforts.

These increasingly popular lifestyle choices are fueling R&D innovation as many strive to accommodate evolving consumer perceptions about health and wellness. Perceived to be healthier and more premium than traditional formulations, these free-from applications can help meet a variety of dietary restrictions from consumers of all demographics. As the vegan lifestyle continues to intersect with Main Street demand, Stratus Foods is helping bakers replace lard-based shortenings with vegan options.

Looking to assist bakers with quality, stability and consistency, Corbion, Lenexa, Kan., offers baking solutions from cinnamon rolls to sticky buns, muffins to Danish, that help bakers create sweet dough applications and ingredients. The company’s Ultra Fresh Sweet portfolio offers a comprehensive freshness solution that protects the quality of finished products, ensuring they stay fresher, longer. The tiered portfolio offers solutions for increased moistness, resilience and softness.

“Like many other areas of the food and beverage industry, sweet goods consumers are also looking for greater transparency,” said Kathy Sargent, global strategic innovation director, Corbion. “Consumers want products that are free of additives and preservatives, and they want to know where their products are coming from. For this reason, many bakers are seeking ways to incorporate naturally derived ingredient solutions that don’t impact taste, texture, quality or consistency.”

Unifiller, Delta, BC, Canada, works with bakers to meet evolving consumer expectations and remain competitive, producing more in less time, in addition to optimizing portion control of fillings or glazes to ensure a consistent recipe and ingredient cost management.

“Pastries often have delicate fillings or need smaller portions, so portion accuracy without damaging the filling is a key principle in the design of our equipment,” said Sonia Bal, director of global marketing, Unifiller.

Supplying equipment that’s versatile and portable, Unifiller’s compact depositor features easy swap-out of attachments with a tabletop footprint. The company also partners with Boyens International, Indianapolis, to offer a state-of-the-art glaze sprayer, which quickly sprays pastries with flavored glazes to improve flavor and shelf life. Drawing ambient temperature glazes directly from a container, the Boyens system first heats and then sprays the warm glaze onto pastries and other products.

Coming full circle

Ironically, despite continual innovation within the category, pastries are most often designed to elicit feelings of pleasure and simplicity. Familiar and comforting, these classic flavors and/or textures are typically the ones consumers return to time after time. As witnessed during the pandemic, nostalgia-driven baking purchases naturally lend themselves to comfort-induced escapism, something many are craving as life resumes its busy pace.

“Nostalgia is not a straightforward concept when you talk about food,” Baker said. “Nostalgia could be a childhood reference, but it could also be ‘borrowed nostalgia’ – an experience that evokes the same comfort but isn’t a direct memory.”

This can be accommodated with formulations that contain ingredients seen in the home pantry or offerings that echo beloved and familiar family recipes. Using this backdrop, the instore bakery can create a platform to build a narrative around the sourcing and the use of local ingredients, including the backstory of those who are producing the ingredients or who are making the products in-house. Overtime, the implementation of skilled and authentic storytelling can help consumers create a connection and an associated level of comfort in making the purchase today and again in the future.

“When the making of a product or the ingredients used are backed by a story, these elements can further resonate with consumers and create good memories and experiences with the product,” Sargent concluded.