When corner shops became c-stores, product categories were put under the microscope and many lines were thrown out. One category to suffer was home baking - hit by the drive for convenience. But times have changed. Home baking is currently extremely fashionable and no c-store should be without the essentials. Most stores will already stock the basic ingredients for a sponge cake - sugar, butter, eggs and flour - but retailers need to make room for a few more items.
Mintel recently released a report on the home baking market which talked about consumers discovering how to make their own cakes from scratch. According to its data, sales of baking products rose by 22% to hit £419m in 2005, and the market is expected to reach £550m by 2011.
Mintel reports that ready-made pastry, cake and flour mixes have fuelled this growth. Sales of mixes have grown by 34% since 2001. Mintel senior market analyst Vivianne Ihekweazu says: "The sector has clearly experienced something of a revival, despite the image of 21st-century consumers being time-pressed, convenience food devotees."
Cooking is growing in popularity as a leisure activity and in particular as a way of spending quality time with the family. Making cakes from scratch can be a fiddly affair but mixes, with all the ingredients measured out in labelled packets, make it much easier.
Mintel says that character-licensed baking mixes and activity kits targeted at children and families are helping to boost the market and establish baking as a regular household activity. Once consumers are accustomed to baking with these kits, they are more likely to experiment with recipes.
McDougalls recently added two new lines to its Let's Cook baking kits range: Easy Peasy Mini Muffins and Golden Chewy Flapjacks. They contain no artificial colourings or flavourings. Each pack includes the individual ingredients, simple cooking instructions and some helpful tips. All the cook needs to add are the fresh ingredients such as butter or eggs.
In addition, Easy Peasy Mini Muffins come with a disposable baking tray to help save on the washing up. Obviously not all households have baking trays so this really is the ultimate in bakery convenience. SuperCook is doing something similar with its new Bake in the Box range of two breads and four cakes. Consumers just add milk and, as the name suggests, bake in the container the mixture comes in. The bread cooks in 45 minutes. There are two varieties: sundried tomato & parmesan and sunflower seed. The four cakes - triple choc; banana, nut & seed; white chocolate & raspberry; and lemon poppy seed - cook in 35 minutes.
Betty Crocker is a name that's synonymous with home baking. Andy Foweather, sales director of brand owner General Mills UK, says: "There's a growing perception that home-made is better than ready-made. The quality home-made appearance and texture of the Betty Crocker range of products encourages loyalty to the brand and increases frequency of purchase."
Another big name in baking is Jane Asher, who is keen to share her knowledge via her Home Baking Collection of convenience mixes. These include an indulgent chocolate fudge cake mix which needs the addition of water, an egg and oil. Also in the range are lemon drizzle, coffee & walnut and coconut cakes. An on-pack offer gives consumers the chance to buy Jane Asher's latest book Cakes for Fun
Meanwhile a Beanie cake has been added to the Jane Asher Great to Bake range. It's a vanilla sponge with vanilla icing and chocolate-coloured beans. It is being marketed as a fun way of teaching children to bake, particularly in the school. Other mixes in the range include triple chocolate chip cookies and triple chocolate chip muffins.
For consumers who think that using a cake mix is still too much trouble, Tryton Foods has the answer with its Aunt Bessie's Ready-to-Bake scones. These are selling like hot cakes, and are on track to deliver £3m-worth of sales within 12 months.
The company hopes to build on the success with the launch of Aunt Bessie's Double Chocolate Chip Muffins. John Hendy, commercial director, says: "With more than 40% of UK households buying muffins, this product has mass-market appeal." Hendy is confident that Tryton is creating a new multi-million pound category.
Mixes and ready-to-bake products are great for people with limited time but there are those who like nothing more than opening a cookery book and baking from scratch. Research conducted for Mintel reveals that almost 50% of consumers are doing this, with cakes being the most popular. So aside from the basics like butter and flour, retailers should make room for a few more ingredients.
SuperCook is a big name in ingredients - go to any superstore and you'll see its name on dozens of products in the home baking aisle. For c-stores with limited space, it recommends the following items as must stocks: vanilla extract; vanilla pods; almond extract; bicarbonate of soda; baking powder and red, yellow, blue and green food colourings.
Dried fruit is a key ingredient in home baking, especially with growing consumer demand for healthier products (see panel opposite). Sales growth has also been boosted by its consumption as a healthy snack.
Whitworths' marketing director, Neil Hepplewhite, advises c-stores to stock a core range of dried fruit products. "Our research shows that older consumers, who are the primary users of convenience stores, will use them to make top-up purchases of core baking ingredients, including, of course, dried fruit."
Focus on the top sellers
Whitworths produces a wide range of products for home baking, but recommends that convenience stores focus on these top sellers:
Stoned prunes (250g)
Stoned dates (250g)
Ground almonds (100g)
Desiccated coconut (150g)