IRI International, Chicago, found muffins over index with Millennials, both with young families and those raising teens. A mini version is often popular among Millennial parents who have young children. In contrast, larger sizes can offer a more decadent treat such as muffins topped with cinnamon crumbles, powered sugar or fruit. Barry Callebaut recommends ingredient inclusions such as peanut butter cups, fudge cups, cake batter inclusions, marshmallow chunks, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips and almond paste.

Gen Z, a generation known for its exploration of fresh and innovative ingredients, shows a high affinity for chocolate chip muffins – demonstrating the ongoing desire for both comfort foods and fresh, new flavor experiences. But muffins remain a great option for consumers of all ages with hectic, on-the-go lifestyles. With category growth, Dawn Foods, Jackson, Mich., expects to see 29% growth in menu penetration over the next four years, as informed by Datassentials statistics.

For those looking for extraordinary experiences, muffins offer ample room for experimentation. 74% of consumers enjoy trying new flavors of baked goods, according to Barry Callebaut, Chicago. In 2022, top flavors included blueberry, chocolate chip, banana, chocolate and lemon, according to Nielsen. Traditional flavors remain top sellers in the category, according to IRI, including chocolate chip, blueberry, party cake, banana muffin and Mantacadas, a sweet and buttery Mexican sugar muffin. Additional flavors showing strong growth include triple chocolate, pumpkin and confetti cake.

Dawn Foods is seeing consumers flock to both traditional and innovative flavor profiles. This includes an ongoing affinity for nostalgic sweet goods that offer comfort. These often have rich chocolate and sweet vanilla bases, including those with fruit, like blueberry muffins. Alternatively, muffins offer an area for creative exploration. This could be an opportunity for adding on-trend matcha to a lemon muffin or going savory with a sundried tomato and feta option. Layered flavors such as matcha, bourbon and curry present ways to marry new tastes with familiar flavors.

Barry Callebaut’s Top 6 Trends to Watch in Bakery predicted new twists on nostalgic flavors such as birthday cake, s’mores, cookie dough and cookies and cream. Seventy-two percent of US consumers agree that they enjoy things that remind them of their childhood. Regional baking styles and street food-inspired desserts and baked goods offer ways to invoke both familiar flavors and nostalgia with new experiences, depending on the audience. For bakeries interested in trying something new, it is recommended to begin with tiny tweaks as to not go too far beyond a consumer’s comfort zone.

“Consumers seek daily delights as a way to bring moments of joy into their daily routine and to unwind,” Altobelli said. “Nostalgic flavors serve as a popular way to deliver comfort.”

Anytime treat

Packaging in the form of resealable pouches with tear-strip openings can also be a great option for mini-sized items. These pouches often have zipper or press-to-close features that allow customers to return to the item with the same amount of freshness whenever they want. Additionally, single-serving sizes let customers try out something new without having to commit to multiple servings with the bonus of on-the-go indulgence. There is also opportunity to entice consumers with seasonal varietals.

Altobelli recommends instore bakeries encourage consumers to think about tomorrow’s breakfast and snacks while in the store or shopping online to drive an incremental purchase. Bakery confections remain a relatively affordable purchase and consumers facing inflationary pressures are increasingly open to ways to replicate out-of-home experiences. Likewise, this behavior fuels permissibility for a more premium muffin or other bakery items because it’s still a more cost-effective option than purchasing from a restaurant, café or coffee shop.

“Instore bakeries have the opportunity to highlight muffins as a sweet treat any time of day, not just in the morning,” Fitzsimmons concluded. “By offering seasonal items such as peppermint toppings, pumpkin or chocolate flavorings for the holidays, bakers can drive greater seasonal demand. Additionally, other LTO offerings and muffin flavors such as blueberry streusel, cranberry orange and lemon poppyseed can help drive sales throughout the day.”