Innovative and fun. Those two words perfectly capture the retail baking vibe for 2023. This year is all about putting a distinctive twist on the tried-and true as well as playing with some out-there flair to meet growing consumer demand for new, yet somewhat familiar, baked and sweet good experiences.
Here’s a peek at what’s trending in retail baking in 2023.
Trend No. 1: Apothecary aesthetic. The earthy, whimsical style that’s popular in home styling is expected to migrate toward the bakery. This trend topped the 2023 Pinterest Predicts list in the food and beverage category. The trendspotting giant shared that searches for “sage green cupcakes” increased 210%, searches for “wildflower cupcakes” were up by 110%, and searches for “daisy cupcakes” ticked up 85% between September 2020 and September 2022. The biggest surprise was the spike in searches for herbal apothecary aesthetic, which soared more than 1,025% during the same time frame. Incorporating edible florals such as Japanese cherry blossoms, herbs and other botanicals into their cake and cupcake designs or as flavor enhancers could help retail bakers set themselves apart.
Trend No. 2: Authentic experiences. Street food-inspired flavors are driving this trend. For retail bakers, that swings the innovation door wide open and creates opportunities to weave ingredients and flavors from their personal background and cultures into bakery classics. Capitalizing on this trend can be a win-win: bakers can have fun with bold, exotic flavors while satisfying consumers who crave something new, exciting and different.
Trend No. 3: Blowout bashes. Scaled back celebrations are a thing of the past. Consumers, especially baby boomers and Gen Xers, are ready to party in 2023. Milestone birthdays and anniversaries are expected to be over-the-top events. With cakes, cupcakes, sweet goods and pastries always taking center stage at such gatherings, this trend puts retail bakers in the perfect position to highlight their creativity with designs and flavors customized to meet consumers’ specific requests.
Trend No. 4: Colors as flavors. Pink and orange — and related hues like red and rust — are just two of the colors popping up in fun new places. Pink, especially, evokes a sense of playfulness, optimism and childhood, according to Lizzy Freier, chief executive of research and discovery for Technomic, Chicago. Standards such as strawberries and cranberries are consumer favorites, but make space for pink sea salt, maraschino cherries and dragon fruit. Similarly, carrots and pumpkin are staple baked goods ingredients, but other orange foods like cara cara oranges and mangoes can add international flair and flavor.
Trend No. 5: Classic croissants. This buttery baked good is enjoying a bit of a rebirth. Its versatility and comfort food status has already captured consumer appeal, but new twists on the classic are also resonating with bake shop customers. Circular croissants, minis and pastries incorporating local, regional and cultural flavors have people waiting in block-long lines to satisfy their cravings.
Trend No. 6: Exotic citrus fruits. Yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit that imparts a sweet-tart flavor, has the potential to be a powerhouse in the retail bakery. It adds an unexpected zing to classic desserts like lemon meringue and key lime pie and can also be used to enhance the flavor profile of other baked goods. The fun fruit combines three trends from this list: subtle floral/botanical notes, an authentic experience and the excitement of trying something new. Other contenders? Retail bakers may consider experimenting with kumquats, pomelos and Buddha’s Hand, either as design aesthetics or flavor enhancers.
Trend No. 7: Healthy indulgence. Consumers continue to be interested in baked goods that can offer portion control, balance taste and health, boost energy, support mental health, and keep them feeling fuller longer, with cookies and pastries being the most sought after.
“Whether it’s focusing on foods that benefit the mind — both emotionally and cognitively — or avoiding those that are detrimental to mental health, eating and drinking for mental health is a trend that I predict will continue to take center stage,” said Jessica Werley, research and insights manager, Datassential Research, Chicago.
Trend No. 8: Nostalgia-ish. Comforting and familiar meets exciting and new. It’s a mashup dubbed “newstalgia” by Rob Corliss, chef and owner of culinary consulting company ATE (All Things Epicurean). The “everything old is new again” trend lets retail bakers push traditional boundaries with taste and texture while still pleasing consumers — think vegan brownies and coffee-inspired cupcakes.
In 2023, it’s all about innovation, and retail bakers are innovators to their core. The opportunities to entertain — and educate — the consumer palate with unlikely pairings; creative twists on the traditional; and authentic, cultural flavors are endless.