Britons are shunning traditional treats such as scones and tea cakes and gobbling up cookies, brownies and muffins as the coffee shop trend fuels sales of American and European snacks.
According to market analysts at NPD Group, sales of traditional British desserts are falling while those of chocolate brownies, muffins and croissants are rising. Sales of cakes, however, outstrip them all.
“We have developed very American tastes when it comes to sweet items,” said Muriel Illig, food service account manager at NPD.
The trend, she said, had been driven by the rising popularity of coffee shops such as Starbucks and Costa, which serve American-style cookies, cakes and muffins alongside their hot drinks. The stores are benefiting from an increasing number of Britons buying their breakfast on the way to work, and eating at their desk at lunchtime.
Traditional bakeries are losing out while supermarkets are taking steps to win back sales of sweet treats.
The data shows sales of traditional desserts including puddings, scones and tea cakes sank by just over a quarter to 150m servings in the year to September, while chocolate brownie sales soared by 72% to 149m servings.
Sales of American-style muffins have risen 27% to 143m servings, cookies are up 18% to 151m and croissants are up 21% to 155m. But by far the biggest seller is cake, sales of which have risen by nearly 10% to 406m servings, according to NPD. The analyst measures sales in restaurants, cafes and pubs as well as supermarkets, department stores and even forms of transport such as trains that sell “food to go”.
Mark Davies, food and commercial director at coffee shop chain Le Pain Quotidien, said: “Our sales reflect these statistics, as there has been an increase of sales in our pastries, croissants and pain au chocolat in the last year. I believe this is true across the premium market, as more people look to purchase high quality food.
“I believe sales have increased because breakfast has become a real event – more and more people choose our continental pastries with their coffee for breakfast, whether it’s to sit down and relax or to go.”
But the biggest sellers are supermarkets, which are trying to fight back against competition from fast food outlets and the fashion for home baking prompted by The Great British Bake Off by selling their own versions of the sweet snacks.
“It is fair to say that they probably have taken inspiration from one another and they definitely have been influenced by the general baking trend in developing a more appetising sweet offering,” Illig said.
The rapid growth of discount chains Aldi and Lidl, for example, has been partly fuelled by installing in-store bakeries. Sainsbury’s is testing out moving its bakery section right to the front of the store in its latest attempt to improve its fortunes.
Traditional bakeries have not managed to get a fair slice of rising demand, however, according to NPD. While the total market grew 9.2% over the past five years, in terms of servings, business in bakery shops only increased by 2.5% over the same period. In the year to September, bakeries’ sales of sweet desserts fell 3% while they rose nearly 9% in coffee shops.
Clive Schlee, chief executive of the Pret a Manger chain, said coffee shops were benefiting from people using cafes and coffee shops more often throughout the day. But he said he had not noticed a big uptick in sales of cakes alongside coffees: “There is not a massive drive for a sugar rush,” he said.
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