Financial meltdown or not, it seems UK consumers are frequently tempted by a Danish pastry or pain au chocolat to accompany their breakfast, mid-morning, or afternoon hot drink. Ian Toal, managing director of Delice de France UK and Ireland says the firm has experienced strong demand for its more traditional sweet pastries, such as its Danish pastry selection, over the past 12 months. "Despite the recession and tougher market conditions, the demand for sweet pastry products has remained strong. In fact, it would be fair to say that bake-off sweet pastries have proven to be one of the most resilient categories during the period as consumers choose sweet treats as a relatively inexpensive way to indulge and have a personal treat."

Commenting on the latest trends in this category, Bakehouse marketing director Kate Raison says its retail customers are interested in new variations on popular themes or product types, in order to keep their bakery offering fresh and consumers interested in trying new options. "While NPD, where traditional ranges are given an innovative twist, is important, indulgence with flaky pastry, chocolate, authentic flavours and fruit fillings is still key," she explains.

"Retail sales patterns show growth in sales of doughnuts and, notably, Danish pastries. Although the traditional favourites maple & pecan plait, vanilla crème crown and the cinnamon swirl make up over 77% of the Danish market, there have been recent fresh developments in Danish, such as fruit fillings and new shapes, which are helping to grow the sector." Responding to the trend, Bakehouse has launched an Apricot & Almond Scroll, made with Schulstad Royal Danish pastry, topped with almond remonce [made from creamed butter and sugar], and featuring a real apricot filling.

Country Choice has also tapped into this development with the launch of some new lines, designed to continue the growth of the long-established Danish and Continental pastries market. A Lemon & Blueberry Crown, Raspberry Croissant, and Apricot Croissant, have joined its portfolio. Other launches include Delifrance UK’s Vanilla Plait and Danish-style vanilla custard, which commercial director Alan Moutter says have been launched in response to potential growth opportunities in the breakfast market an area he says has been becoming a more ’premium’ occasion.

Vandemoortele says the bake-off sweet pastries category has been showing good overall growth within in-store bakeries. "In-store bakery Danish sales equate to £34m annually, with puff pastry products, comprising turnovers, Eccles and fruit puffs worth in the region of £13m a year," says marketing manager Chelsea Pogson. "The latest data from Kantar Worldpanel has shown Danish sales have increased by 4% in value for the 12 weeks ended 31 October 2010 versus the previous 12 weeks; this is also up on the comparable 12 weeks last year."

Pogson says puff pastry fruit turnovers have also continued to grow, up 2% over the last 12 weeks. As sweet pastries are suitable for a number of different eating occasions breakfast, afternoon treat or dessert she adds it’s important for in-store bakeries to make sure they are available to consumers throughout the day. In terms of festive products, the firm says it is seeing twists on traditional mince pies, made with puff pastry, with visual changes such as lattice tops and mini options, and recipe changes, such as the addition of butter to the recipe, which it says should help drive sales of ISB mince pies by attracting new shoppers.

The Viennoiserie market is also expanding, says Bakehouse’s Raison, currently making up around 10% of the in-store bakery snacking market. "Consumers still view these products as ’breakfast treats’ and the whole Viennoiserie category is seeing great growth at 5.7% (data: Nielsen Scantrak 52 weeks to 2/10/10)," she says. "Pain au chocolat is proving the product ’hero’, with a 13.5% growth, due to increased distribution, gaining broader universal appeal in the UK market."

Some pastries, it seems, just never go out of fashion.