Technically there’s nothing to stop us making cakes healthier. The nagging question is: will consumers buy them?
It’s hard to introduce a health dimension to foods where consumer purchases are primarily driven by indulgence. A glance at Euromonitor’s statistics shows that healthier cake products still add little value to the cake category and, until now, have attained a negligible market share. Up to now, the UK is the only Western European country that can boast a healthy cake sector of any size, with a 4% share of cake sales in 2012.
Opportunities do exist. While consumers are typically reluctant to compromise on their indulgent experience, they may be more likely to accept a smaller portion size. A Mintel survey of UK consumers, for example, has found that 43% perceive small, individually wrapped cakes as a means of controlling calorie intake.
In the same survey, 22% of small cake consumers state that their purchases are based on the need for an energy boost. Mintel suggests that this group is potentially more open to cake products that are high in fibre and other ingredients linked to health.
Although the number of global cake launches with a reduced calorie claim has declined over the past five years, it seems that products with a slimming or low/no/reduced sugar claim are increasing. Women are a frequent target consumer group.
Concepts that cut back
Responding to these developments, we have spent some time on small cake concepts for the health segment ourselves. Our indulgent toffee-filled chocolate muffin concept , for example, has been developed to meet demands for a limited number of calories per portion – around 50% less than a standard muffin.
In a sugar-reduced recipe, our lab trials show that a combination of xylitol and polydextrose works well. A similar sweetness profile to sucrose makes xylitol a good alternative to a high-intensity sweetener. Polydextrose functions both as a sugar bulk replacer and a source of healthy, invisible fibre. In this way, muffins can qualify for a high-fibre claim.
Using emulsifiers, it is also possible to cut back on the fat content at no expense to crumb softness and texture. In sensory evaluations, the muffins score just as high on indulgence as ever.
The claims dilemma
Reformulating cake recipes into lighter versions, then, is no big deal with today’s ingredient technology. But, with consumers generally still on the lookout for indulgence rather than health, the question is whether an on-pack health claim is a benefit to sales. Some consumers – particularly men, according to Mintel’s UK survey – may equate such a claim with compromised indulgence.
If that’s a risk on your market, your best tactic is probably to concentrate the focus on premium indulgence in product advertising. Reserve the messages about nutritional optimisation for corporate-level branding. We’ve got a hunch that indulgent cakes produced by the bakers with the healthiest image could redefine a category best known for making us weak-kneed with temptation.