Part ways with pumpkin spice through fall flavor mashups

KANSAS CITY, MO — With the ground soon to be covered in a blanket of colorful leaves and the weather shifting to a brisk kiss when stepping outside, autumn is settling in.

Pumpkin spice has quickly become the traditional fall flavor and continues to hit seasonal menus in bakeries earlier each year. Customers expect to see a pumpkin spice pastry when entering a bakery, but what about flavor pairings beyond that?

“I can’t stress more to bakers to move beyond pumpkin spice,” said Melissa Trimmer, corporate executive chef and director of the culinary and innovation studio at Dawn Foods. “That doesn’t mean you still can’t have something delicious. If your bakery is known for something pumpkin-flavored, then think about different ways you can use that pumpkin.”

Adding warm spices to baked goods can “spice up” a bakery’s fall menu. Elevating a common fall flavor can add a twist for the customer to experience upon their first bite. Combining pumpkin with chili or apple with herbs like thyme or rosemary, for example, provides customers with new takes on classics, piquing curiosity.

“I use a lot of those traditional fall ingredients as my base, then I go in and lighten it up with other flavors and textures,” said Jules Stoddart, managing partner of Little Ola’s Biscuits in Austin, TX. “I’ll keep a lot of those warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and coriander.”

As the bright summer colors fade out into more rustic tones, how bakers decorate their baked goods in the fall also begins to shift. Social media can serve as a great tool for finding decorating inspiration. Brown becomes an easy default color for bakers to rely on in the fall, yet other crisp colors like burgundy and forest green can catch customers’ attention and beautify display cases.

“I think a lot about the colors that we’re incorporating into the desserts, that way everything isn’t just brown butter, chocolate, apples and pumpkins,” Stoddart said. “I try to figure out how I can brighten those things up but still keep the main ingredients.”

Beginning to prep for fall can be a stressful time. From Halloween to Thanksgiving to the holiday season, baked goods are in high demand during autumn. It is wise for bakers to prep months in advance for fall products and ingredients to ease the transition for their employees.

“The biggest advice I can give to bakers when they begin to schedule for the fall is to plan as far in advance as they can, not only with the menu but also with the schedule,” Trimmer said. “Team members also want to have holidays, too. If your team members can have that schedule far in advance, they will be happier. And when they are happier, they will perform better.”

Fall is also a time that can be unpredictable when it comes to the weather. Learning to work with the weather rather than against it can sometimes be a tricky task. Ingredients that bakers expect from their suppliers don’t always arrive due to unforeseeable events.

“We fill our tarts with whatever the season brings … we also can whatever we can during the summer and use it throughout the fall in our baked goods,” said Shiri Reuveni-Ullrich, founder of Rising Above Bakery in Monsey, NY.

When experimenting with new fall flavors, the first bake is unlikely to be perfect enough to hit the racks. Developing out-of-the-box flavor pairings is all about learning and listening to customers’ feedback.

“When putting a twist on something, the first time you run the recipe, you are not done,” Trimmer said.

Transitioning into the fall season doesn’t happen overnight, and not only can adding new flavor combinations ease the switch from summer to fall, but it also provides customers with the opportunity to step outside of their pumpkin spice comfort zone.

Nothing Bundt Cakes debuts first filled flavor

DALLAS — Just in time for Hispanic Heritage Month, specialty cake company Nothing Bundt Cakes is debuting a limited-edition Churro Dulce de Leche flavor at all bakery locations.

“At Nothing Bundt Cakes, we’re dedicated to culinary innovation to deliver joyful experiences to our guests, and the new Churro Dulce de Leche pop-up flavor does just that,” said Claire Jessen, senior director of culinary innovation at Nothing Bundt Cakes. “Internationally inspired flavors have been a strong trend for several years now, opening up the opportunity to bring unique flavors to our loyal fans while also reaching new guests.”

Making its debut as the brand’s first filled cake flavor, it is topped with cinnamon sugar and filled with caramel dulce de leche. The new variety is in line with churros being the fastest-growing dessert on restaurant menus, with an increase of 34.4% over the past four years, according to Datassential.

“Between our everyday classic flavors, our seasonal featured flavors and our new pop-up flavors, we now offer more delicious ways than ever before to bring joy to any occasion,” said Angie Eckelkamp, chief marketing officer at Nothing Bundt Cakes. “Our guests will definitely want to come in and try Churro Dulce de Leche while they can.”

Churro Dulce de Leche is available exclusively as a Bundtlet from Sept. 25-Oct. 8. The brand is also offering a Pumpkin Spice flavor in all sizes from now until Nov. 29.

Bakery cafe maman partners with DavidsTea on seasonal cookie

NEW YORK CITY — With the turn of summer into fall just days away, brands are capitalizing on the interest in autumn-inspired flavors to create surprising limited-time offers (LTO). Among these, maman, a bakery cafe brand, and DavidsTea, known for its loose-leaf teas and blends, have teamed up to create the Oatmeal Pumpkin Chai Cookie.

“We couldn’t be more excited to team up with DavidsTea for this incredible fall collaboration,” said Elisa Marshall, co-founder of maman. “At maman, we’ve always believed in the power of bringing people together through the warmth of our baked goods, and the Oatmeal Pumpkin Chai Cookie embodies that perfectly. It’s a delicious fusion of our homemade charm and DavidsTea’s exceptional Pumpkin Chai blend, and we can’t wait for our customers to experience the taste of autumn with every bite.”

The cookie features the spices of the tea brand’s Pumpkin Chai blend in addition to pumpkin, raisins and oatmeal.

“We are thrilled to partner with our friends at maman to celebrate the start of cozy tea season,” said Sarah Segal, CEO of DavidsTea. “Our Pumpkin Chai blend has long been a fan favorite, and partnering with maman to infuse it into their exceptional cookies is a true treat for our US and Toronto-based consumers.”

This LTO will be available at select maman locations for $4.50, while supplies last. For customers who can’t swing by in person, the brands are launching a limited-edition Pumpkin Chai Gift Box, which includes six cookies, a 3-oz. tin of DavidsTea Pumpkin Chai and a Glass Nordic Mug from the tea brand. The gift box is available online on the maman website for $85.

Register for ABEE competitions

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ — Want to put your skills and baked goods to the test? Artisan Bakery Expo East (ABEE), to be held Oct. 1-2 at the Atlantic City Convention Center, is offering three competitions for attendees to enter.

Cake Decorating Extravaganza

In this prestigious annual cake competition, up to 125 participants will be entered into the professional division or beginner/student division. Cake decorators will compete to demonstrate their artistry, skill and imagination.

Bakers have three categories to choose from: tiered wedding cakes, novelty/specialty cakes and sculptured cakes. The cakes will be judged by appearance and points will be awarded based on neatness, originality, creativity, colors and degree of difficulty.

In the professional division, first place in each category will receive $500 and a trophy. The second place winner will receive $100 and third place will receive $50. For the beginner and student division, first place in will receive $300 and a trophy, with second and third place receiving $100 and $50, respectively.

Completed cakes can be delivers in a pre-designated area at the front of Hall C during two windows: Sept. 30 from 12-6 p.m. and Oct. 1 from 8-11 a.m. Any cake not delivered in time will be disqualified from the competition. However, late entries will be allowed on display for viewing purposes. Cakes entered must also be picked up on Monday from 3:30-5:30 p.m.

The schedule for this competition is as :

OCT. 1

  • 11 a.m.-5 p.m. | All divisions and categories can be viewed
  • 2-4:45 p.m. | Judging takes place
  • 4:45 p.m. | Winners are announced

OCT. 2

  • 11 a.m. – 3:15 pm. | All divisions and categories can be viewed
  • 3:30-4 p.m. | Awards presentation

East Coast Bagel Championship

The title of Best Bagel in the Northeast is up for grabs for the first time in two divisions: traditional and non-traditional. The competition is limited to the first 15 entries per category. Bakers are required to prepare their bagels onsite.

The winners of each category will receive $500 and a trophy, with second- and third-place recipients each receiving a trophy as well. The award for best schmear will also be declared, with the winner taking home a $250 gift card and medal.

The competition will take place over the two-day stretch of ABEE. The schedule is as follows:

OCT. 1

  • 10:30 a.m. | Competitors meeting
  • 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. | Non-traditional division (prep dough and forming, if needed)
  • 2 – 5 p.m. | Traditional division (prep dough and forming, if needed)

Oct. 2

  • 8-8:30 a.m. | Competitors and judges meeting
  • 8:30 a.m.-12 p.m. | Non-traditional division (boil and bake)
  • 12-3:30 p.m. | Traditional division (boil and bake)
  • 3:30-4 p.m. | Awards presentation

The Great Northeast Cookie Art & Creativity Contest

This inaugural competition is open to professional/advanced and amateur/student bakers. Each division is limited to 25 entrants who are fully qualified, registered and confirmed. All competitors must be 16 years old or older at the time of entry to be eligible to compete.

The theme for the competition is Vintage Atlantic City Postcards. For both divisions, the first-place winner will receive $500 and a trophy and second and third place will each receive trophies.

The schedule for this competition is as follows:

OCT. 1

  • 11 a.m. | Competitors and judges meeting
  • 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. | Professional division judging
  • 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. | Amateur/student division judging
  • 3:45 p.m. | Awards presentation

Register and read the rules for each competition on the ABEE website.

3 accessible ways for bakers to create festive LTOs

KANSAS CITY, MO — With Q4 only a couple weeks away, holiday-inspired products are top of mind for bakers. As the peak of the baking season looms on retail bakers of all sizes, having a plan in place to create timely, seasonal baked goods can support bakery owners and employees during the busy times ahead.

Put a twist on a classic

Innovation for the holidays doesn’t mean bakers need to re-invent what’s offered in their display cases. With the increase in traffic during the holiday season, adapting staple baked goods with simple accents can level up products without wearing out your bakery team. Using a different piping tip, decoration or color palette can elevate a classic baked good and give it a seasonal flare.

For example, warmer, more muted tones in frosting for a cupcake can draw in that fall feeling visually without requiring a whole new flavor. Adding simple frosting drizzles and combining sprinkle blends can also give products such as donuts a festive touch.

Look beyond the traditional holidays

While Halloween and Christmas may delight some, expanding your offerings to celebrate other occasions in Q4 can reach more customers. With a bit of research on some cultural holidays such as Dia de Los Muertos and Hannukah, bakers can shake up their products with new color schemes and motifs.

Ready-to-use icings and mixes can make creating these unique treats even simpler, saving time spent on creating these products from scratch to keep up productivity.

No need for reinvention with ‘newstalgia’
Between myriad holidays and increased foot traffic, bakery owners need to be resourceful with their time and ingredients to keep their operations in order and customers at their storefronts. In reimagining classic flavor profiles such as gingerbread and hot cocoa into baked goods the product is not often found in, customers can balance the intrigue of something new with a taste of what’s familiar.

Bakery owners of all sizes have to put in the work in the closing months of the year and plan ahead on some simple ways to create festive creations that can keep stress low and less taxing labor. Need a starting point for fall offerings or inspiration? Visit the Dawn Foods website for recipes, helpful tips and ready-to-use ingredients for the holidays.

Randy’s Donuts partners with Disney Plus Marvel show on LTO

INGLEWOOD, CA — Eagle-eyed customers may have seen an unexpected Marvel character on top of Randy’s Donuts location in Inglewood, CA.

For a limited time, the donut shop has partnered with Disney Plus for a donut inspired by the character Miss Minutes from the streaming show Loki, which debuts its next season Oct. 6.

The collaboration includes the covering of Randy’s signature giant donut — which was also featured in a previous Marvel project — to create a larger-than-life rendition of Miss Minutes. The character can also be found inside the bakery as a Bavarian cream-filled donut dipped in orange icing and detailed with a clock face.

The donut is available now through Sept. 17 exclusively at the Inglewood location.

Crumbl rolls out new cookie flavor each week, launches podcast

LINDON, UT — Crumbl, known for its rotating menu of cookies, is giving its customers a new flavor experience every Monday through the end of the year.

The new flavors will take one of the six slots in the cyclical menu of over 250 flavors. The first new flavor for customers is Apple Cider Muffin, a spiced muffin-inspired cookie topped with apple cider glaze and cinnamon brown sugar streusel.

“I like to think of us as trendsetters,” said Amy Eldredge, VP of menu at Crumbl. “We put a spin on classic desserts by adding the Crumbl Touch.”

In addition to the new flavors, Crumbl is publishing Crumbl Unboxed, a new podcast that not only reveals the weekly lineup but also features messages from social media and fan mail as well as customer experiences. The first episode will launch in a couple of weeks.

How retail bakers benefit from technology investments

JACKSON, MI — Dawn Foods, an ingredient supplier for retail bakers of all sizes, has invested in its technology in recent years, especially in the area of e-commerce and artificial intelligence (AI). In doing so, the company has created a sea of change for bakers in how they order ingredients and connect with Dawn.

The charge is led by Bob Howland, the chief digital officer, who joined Dawn in February 2019. With a background in profit and loss, and a track record of building or expanding the e-commerce capabilities of 27 companies across various industries.

When Howland joined Dawn, digital ways of working were not really part of how the 100-year-old company operated, and e-commerce was not something the company or the industry had really dabbled in before.

“Dawn really took a leadership role in filling my position,” he said. “It was with the ambition of launching e-commerce and setting the foundation for what was a transformational journey across technology. But I think in a larger way, this was a new way of doing business for Dawn, and much of what I did in launching, and now running, e-commerce has much less to do with technology and much more to do with change management.”

To get an understanding of the needs of Dawn’s customers, Howland headed out into the marketplace. By meeting with 30 bakers, he noted that bakers had a deep curiosity for their customers, other bakeries and learning new ways to work with baked goods. He also learned a lot of these bakers were already e-commerce savvy, using it to purchase supplies for their operations.

“My first 30 days gave me a lot of confidence for pulling in their feedback for what they were looking for from Dawn when it came to online ordering and our ability to deliver that for them,” he said.

Tuning in to customer needs

Howland and the Dawn tech team took that interest and developed the Voice of Customer program, which provided Dawn with customer feedback through a series of prompts in real-time, daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly. Through the qualitative and quantitative feedback received, Dawn has a steady view on its customers’ experience. This information helped pioneer an e-commerce experience other major suppliers in the baking industry had yet to break into.

“We listened to what customers wanted, we listened to our sales team, to our business and put out something which we thought was a really good first step with the intention to keep iterating and keep improving,” he said. “In fact, we spent more hours into the six months after we launched than the hours we spent to launch.”

To date, Dawn Foods receives regular feedback from customers and cultivates it into a roadmap, prioritizing new resources based on demand.

“We aspire to bring new features to market on a monthly basis, and our customer satisfaction score, which we measure every month, shows that close to nine out of 10 of our customers are likely to continue using our e-commerce platform,” he shared. “That’s just a great statistic that I’ve never really seen in my career. It was 90% out of the gate, and it’s about 90% today.”

One recent improvement is added transparency for customers. Howland shared that the team learned early on that customers want to know what’s in stock before hitting “check out” rather than viewing a product catalog and being uncertain about the availability.

“We learned very quickly that customers have a bad experience when they think they’re going to get something and it turns out that we don’t have it,” Howland said. “We’ve gone to a model where we only show product that is available in that local area for that specific customer. That’s a big win because customers now know when they order something, they truly can expect it.”

Bakers also want to know when they can expect ingredient orders to arrive. To add that visibility, Dawn is working with a third-party supplier that manages transportation and route systems.

All of this innovation is done to ease the path to the acquisition of ingredients for customers through transparency and access to updates from the convenience of their phones, granting piece of mind to busy bakers.

Game-changing predictability

The e-commerce innovations from Howland’s team are also helping Dawn anticipate what its customers will need in the future. The ingredient supplier’s platform features the ability to see the full product catalog with images, search for products in the catalog and in previous customer orders, a direct way to shop from recipes featured on Dawn’s website and more.

“For most of the customers that do online ordering through us, it becomes their dominant way to deal with Dawn,” Howland explained. “And because most of our customers order every week or every other week, this gives us a lot of predictability operationally of what we’re going to have in the future in terms of orders and volumes.”

This is where AI comes in. Using customer data, Dawn’s AI is able to help the supplier plan better around demand as well as take note of ordering patterns to further power the company’s operations.

One way Dawn is using this AI is on its corporate website, where the digital team merged it with the same content management system it uses for e-commerce. In turn, this allows the more than 750 recipes available on Dawn’s website to be integrated into the shopping experience and also provides insights for the marketing team to understand customer interests.

“We’re moving from inspiring customers to really understanding customer intent to seeing customer purchases all in the span of a three-second interaction on the website,” Howland said.

Supporting the supply chain

Yet AI is more than a marketing tool for Dawn. That same data can also fuel future demand for Dawn’s products and support forecasting and reporting. And with most bakers’ orders remaining consistent week to week, it also opens the door for Dawn to pitch recommendations based on purchasing patterns. This includes showing which products a customer purchased to another customer that buys similar ingredients.

“We’re showing ‘Customers who bought this also bought that,’ but we’re not doing it from the standpoint of what Dawn wants to sell a customer,” Howland said. “We’re doing that based on customer purchase behavior, and we know the customer purchase behavior because we have an AI model behind that. AI is driving our recommendations engine that presents suggested products for the customer and that’s relatively unheard of in any industry.”

Rather than being “hard coded” by a marketing team and getting the same recommendations across the board to all customers, the AI program’s recommendations are very specific. The niche recommendations, tailored to customers’ purchasing habits have driven a conversion rate of over 10%.

“It really reinforces to us that the recommendations driven by the AI engine are truly impactful and equal to the customer,” he said.

Though it may seem daunting to bakery owners, AI can also empower them to break down their own data, helping to drive inventory level management, organize their customers’ preferences and more.

Howland and his team’s approach to technology innovation is centered on supporting customers and adding some ease to their operations.

“I do find that bakers are really, really curious and they are looking for easier ways to operate,” Howland said. “If we can help them with a small aspect that makes their relationship with Dawn easier or brings part of our partnership to them, we’ll do that every day and Sunday.”

A relationships case study

Dawn’s customer support is a hallmark of the company, and tech innovation is adding a new layer to that relationship.

Allen Tine, CEO of Yummies Donuts & BBQ in Venice, FL, has benefitted from the company’s technology investments.

The bakery, established in 1989 by Allen’s father, has been using Dawn Foods products since the beginning, before the supplier had a distribution hub in the area. Allen’s father covered great distances to bring Dawn ingredients to his Florida bakery, whether it be a 20-mile drive to Sarasota, FL, or catching a flight back to Michigan to retrieve what he needed.

“He was flying up to Michigan, buying a U-Haul truck full of mix — cake donut mix, yeast-raised mix — and then driving it back down here for him to operate,” Allen recalled. “Eventually, Dawn opened a distributorship down here where we could get product.”

Allen took over for his father in 2006 and has developed the shop into a full-scale bakery. The relationship with Dawn Foods was also passed down to Allen.

The tech advances made by the ingredients supplier have made a difference in Allen’s business. Though he had some hesitations about the software initially, Allen’s opinion has since changed.

“If I’m looking for something I can pop right on my order and scroll, and there’s always recipes on there for different items” he said. “They’ve come a long way, and it’s just phenomenal.”

The future is digital

From a competitive standpoint, Dawn is blazing a digital trail through its investments in e-commerce and AI. And it meets the needs of customers.

Looking to the future, Howland teased a payment integration feature is on its way to Dawn’s website in 2024, which will give customers the convenience of paying their invoices online.

“We are very much leveraging technology to really help the customer in ways that we don’t see in the rest of the industry,” he concluded, “and I think it’s going to help solidify Dawn for years to come from a leadership position, which I’m excited to be playing a small part in.”

Rich Products debuts par-baked artisan focaccia bread

BUFFALO, NY — Rich Products released Cottage Bakery Parbaked Artisan Focaccias, a ready-to-bake, bread option for QSRs and fast-casual restaurants that can ease back-of-house constraints with one SKU with multiple applications.

The focaccia is available in two flavors, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Garlic Pesto. Both flavors are made and topped with extra virgin olive oil, and the Garlic Pesto variety includes an Italian herb blend. Applications include sandwich carriers, soup soakers, snacks and appetizer dippers.

“Now QSRs can deliver hand-crafted, fresh-baked bread with the convenience of par-baked, going from the freezer to a customer’s order in minutes,” said Alyssa Barrett, customer marketing manager of Rich Products. “Cottage Bakery Focaccia will enhance a QSR’s menu and set them apart as a destination with fresh-baked artisan quality.”

The Cottage Bakery Focaccia requires no thawing, proofing or additional handling and can be baked from frozen. The focaccias are 11.3 oz. and come 18 per case, with a shelf life of 270 days frozen and three days ambient.

City Cakes to host gravity-defying cake master class

NEW YORK CITY — City Cakes is kicking off October with a master class on elevated cake sculpting using tips and tricks from Chef  Benny Rivera.

The Honu’s Love class will provide advanced bakers with the resources and techniques they need to design and create a structure support system for gravity-defying cakes. This includes help with selecting propper materials and tools, cake distribution planning and determining the right colors for designs.

Attendees will also learn techniques for working with fondant and modeling chocolate, hand-crafting small details, sculpting animals with additive and subtractive processes, and applying different painting techniques based on the design.

Logistics for the master class are as follows:

  • Date | Oct. 1
  • Time | 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Where | 155 W 18th St. New York, NY
  • Cost | $500 per participant

All equipment, materials and tools will be provided for classroom use. The skills will be taught with Styrofoam rather than real cake, and participants will be able to take home their designs to use as a display.

For more information and to register, visit the City Cakes’ website.