Could Co-Branding and Health Innovations Prove a Useful Step in Regenerating Dessert Mixes?

Dessert mixes tends to be a relatively staid category in developed markets, although some potential does exist, while the category is growing dynamically in emerging markets. With growth and innovation focused on fresh chilled products, dessert mixes do not enjoy the same retail shelf space. The US is the largest market, accounting for 28.5% of total retail value sales and 35% of volume sales, but remains relatively flat.

Innovation is needed in this category. In 2013, emerging nations favour dried processed foods due to a lack of chilled or frozen storage facilities. In Venezuela, in November 2013, Empresas Polar has launched a non-refrigerated yoghurt, MiGurt, with a six-month shelf life, targeted at expanding ambient dairy dessert distribution in low-income regions. Ambient desserts compete against dessert mixes, with the latter category valued globally at US$6.1 billion in 2013, with retail volume sales of 853,000 tonnes.

Top 7 Markets in Terms of Volume Sales Growth for Dessert Mixes (2008-2013)

Source: Euromonitor International

Serving a Lost Generation

In a particular country, the baking and dessert culture will govern the importance of dessert mixes. Consumers in the UK, for example, with its many celebrity chef shows, the Great British Bake Off and a glut of related television cookery books, prefer baking from scratch, as do Canadians. Sometimes, however, the situation is complicated by mothers not being able to pass down cooking skills to their children due to time pressures and busy lifestyles.

For some years, advances in technology meant that labour-saving products, hardware and cooking methods removed the need for home cooking. During this time, many young adults missed out on gaining essential cooking skills, largely due to a focus on microwave cooking and prepared ready meals. Dessert mixes are promoted for their convenience, long-term storage as a cupboard staple, ease of preparation and also variety, but many consumers still prefer fresh desserts.

Additional Functionality is Necessary

In 2013, consumers in many countries still cook but have little time to prepare foods like cakes, so dessert mixes remains a versatile category, allowing store cupboard products to be easily whipped up as finished desserts and off-the-shelf baking solutions in response to an unforeseen event. They also represent a simple activity parents can enjoy with their children to stimulate creativity and teach kitchen and cookery skills.

With many ingredients and a long shelf life, dessert mixes tend to be viewed as being of lower nutritional quality than some other processed packaged foods, so innovation to improve perceived nutrition and health would be of immense benefit. Adding more functional ingredients or additional fibre to mixes, in the form of plastic pouches of nuts, fruits or whole grains, for example, could add value.

Many products already follow the indulgence trend, which remains popular, but in 2013 more varieties focusing on healthier cakes or smaller portion sizes could target a wider cross-section of consumers. Consumers also prefer products without artificial colourings or flavours, a strategy favoured by Green’s Foods Ltd, which commands a 22% value share in Australia.

Co-branding as a means of adding value

Another way of promoting dessert mixes is by using another brand to endorse value and quality within both. In the New Zealand foodservice channel, Unilever Food Solutions offers a dessert mix exclusively for professional chefs – a Carte d’Or Crème Caramel/Crème Brûlée mix trading on the strength of the ice cream brand.

In US packaged food, General Mills’ leading Betty Crocker brand teamed up with chocolate manufacturer Hershey in September 2013 to launch ‘A sweet for every style’. This new range will incorporate Hershey’s chocolate, Reese’s peanut butter and chocolate and also Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme, in three cookie mixes, cupcake mixes and frosted icing products. Co-branding dessert mixes allows an alternative to having to promote one’s own recipe ideas. Such innovations could help to reinvigorate the category in developed markets.

Looking forward to 2018, markets within Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America will continue to drive overall volume and value growth in dessert mixes, particularly Iran, Tunisia, Serbia and Indonesia. By using innovations in nutrition and health functionality, flavour innovations and also suitable local co-branding partners, the category should be well equipped to grow retail sales.