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Dawn Foods Touts Trends Report, Need For Retailers To Remain Flexible

Sarah Hickey from Dawn Foods at IDDBA
Sarah Hickey

Jackson, Michigan-based Dawn Foods released its second 2023 global bakery trends report earlier this year. The Shelby Report caught up with Sarah Hickey, the company’s senior director of North America marketing, during the recent IDDBA Show in Anaheim, California, to discuss how the report can benefit retailers. 

Dawn Foods, which is more than 100 years old, focuses primarily on the cake and doughnut space. 

“We have all of the mixes and bakery ingredients that you can ask for, as well as all the sweet complements and toppings to incorporate. Mostly, it’s cake and doughnuts but also other, new baked items,” Hickey said. 

Dawn Foods’ trends report was broken down into four main findings: happiness in every bite; everything old is new again; technology has forever changed the eating experience; and reaching the conscious consumer. 

Hickey explained how each one can benefit retailers. 

Happiness in every bite

As consumers place a stronger emphasis on mental health and wellness, they are changing their perceptions of sweet goods. Enjoying something sweet has gone from trying to maintain a strict diet and being miserable to finding a balance to provide some happiness, Hickey said.

“We’re really seeing and attributing that rise in mental awareness as being one of the factors where consumers are saying, ‘Hey, this is an important part of my overall well-being, it’s not just about calories and restriction,’ she explained. “Wellness is much more holistic and complete now. And mental wellness is part of that and food that makes someone happy leads to those kinds of decisions.” 

The report found that when consumers have these moments, they come from a nostalgic viewpoint. 

“Consumers see food as a way to bring positivity to their mental well-being,” Hickey said. “Of course, what’s more positive or happy than a sweet treat? It comes from and reminds them of a very nostalgic moment. A moment away from what they are currently feeling.”

That doesn’t mean consumers are over-indulging. The report noted that consumers are having these nostalgic moments in “smaller, bite-sized pieces.” 

“You’re not eating a whole cake yourself,” Hickey said with a laught. “You’re taking that moment to bring yourself that joy daily, weekly.”

Everything old is new again

Dawn Foods’ findings suggest consumers – especially younger generations – are turning to items that mix traditional with modern. During the IDDBA show, Dawn Foods showcased two of its “traditions with a twist” items – gingerbread and celebration doughnuts.

“Think about gingerbread cookies, a very traditional classic holiday item, right? Couldn’t get older than gingerbread cookie decorating,” Hickey said. “[We’re taking that] nostalgic, traditional moment and twisting it just a little bit and putting it into a doughnut format, and then frosting it with cream cheese.”

The company offered tastes of the doughnuts to showcase the products and the appeal of small moments of happiness. Hickey referenced the name of the “celebration doughnut,” saying, “It’s birthday cake flavor, but it’s not just for birthdays.” 

“They’re great to celebrate a moment or an occasion,” she continued. “You don’t have to buy a whole cake…you’re really taking those nostalgic flavors and formats that were driven from dessert…and putting them into a new dessert.”

Dawn Foods offers a doughnut calendar to retailers. It outlines the best recipes relevant to specific seasons or events. She mentioned Valentine’s Day in February and strawberry and cherry flavors in spring. 

“We’re seeing our customers being incredibly successful…planning out those things brings a little bit of enjoyment and excitement to the customers, specifically to help them drive that basket size that they’re looking for,” Hickey said. 

Tech and consumer experience

Technology has transformed how consumers choose, receive and consume products. From QR codes to touchscreen ordering, digital components have become part of nearly every consumer interaction. 

“Most operators in this space have already started to embrace ordering online, online payment and delivery,” Hickey said. “We have started to see the rise in dark stores or ghost kitchens, where consumers are really connecting from a brand perspective.

“Those ones to me are kind of the ones that – from a technology standpoint – we would recommend starting to embrace immediately.” 

While impulse buys in-store are continuing to rise, retailers need ways to entice consumers digitally. 

“One of the technologies we talk to a lot of our customers about is the power of social media – things like Instagram – that drive that ‘craveability’ in a new and interesting way,” she said. “Beautiful photography that says, ‘Oh my gosh, that looks delicious. I have to run out and get it.’ It’s a way to communicate and drive impulse purchases.”

Reaching conscious shoppers

Consumers are putting more thought into the companies they patronize. Younger generations are loyal to brands and establishments that support causes that align with their beliefs. Dawn Foods’ report advises retailers to consider what they stand for. 

“One of the easiest examples is someone who has celiac disease and is gluten-free for a specific reason. That consumer will actively search out what they can and can’t have. They will actively engage in the values that they need to know about,” Hickey said. 

She continued saying Dawn Foods’ customers and retailers, in general, should try to reach the “flexitarians.”

“A flexible audience that isn’t necessarily gluten-free all the time…I think it’s important to show and continue to highlight the offerings that you have in that space and complement them with your other offerings. It’s a communication to [the consumer] about inclusivity.”

Consumers are looking for solutions and value at the same time. “How do you look and provide multiple solutions that really meet the needs of those consumers and then communicate what your value system is as well? What makes that person choose your bakery or your store? They’ll consider what’s important to them.”

About the author

Jack R. Jordan

Content Creator

Jordan joined The Shelby Report in May 2022 after over a year in the newspaper industry. A native of Marietta, Georgia, he studied writing and communications at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. He spends too much time in the grocery store trying to find recipe ingredients, so he looks forward to covering the industry.

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Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
Chicago, Illinois
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