Whether it’s mothers with strollers filling the quiet daytime trading gaps, holding the purse strings at the supermarket checkout, buying cakes for birthdays or sending cake gifts, it’s those MILFs – mothers I’d like to, er, feed – that should be front-of-mind when creaming your cakes. No doubt, the bakers that do the best trade are the mother-huggers with an eye on this demographic prize.
We commissioned a specialist brand consultancy to find out what makes them tick, honing in on those who had recently become mothers, through to families with four kids aged up to 17 years old.
"We’re talking about your standard British housewife,” explains Natalie Reed, strategy partner at brand consultancy Reach, which conducted a series of one-on-one interviews. So what were the main themes that came through? “They see cafés as far more innovative than what’s in the supermarkets,” she says.
Worryingly, craft bakers appear to have dropped out of the consciousness as a go-to place for cakes – at least with our sample. “I had only one person talk about buying cakes from a baker; when they think about cakes, they think in terms of coffee shops and then supermarkets.”
So how adventurous is this particular group when it comes to cake choice? “The more adventurous people will see something new and think, ‘Ooh what’s that?’ and buy it. If they were more traditional cake purchasers, they still liked to see something with a twist,” says Reed. “What they all had in common was that the cakes should have a homemade feel. There seemed to be a possible gap in the supermarkets for something that feels a bit more homemade, or had a twist on the traditional. Even for the big retailers, having very uniform, plastic-looking cakes is not the way forward. When they talk about naturalness they don’t mean healthy, but homemade and having natural ingredients.”
In the craft sector, a thriving area of online activity is cake gifting, but there is still some work to do before sending cake is an obvious gift option.
"Those people who received cake gifts would say, ‘what a lovely idea’,” says Reed. “The cakes came in really nice presentation boxes, beautifully wrapped, in a girly way. They were considered special, because it’s not something you would commonly get. They said they would consider giving cake gifts now that they have received them. But people’s default position remains flowers, chocolates – things that are more commonly top of list. I don’t think there are any barriers to online cake gifting. Some more PR in women’s magazines about sending cakes as gifts could work.”
While US-style products have seen terrific growth in the past few years, could we be seeing the beginnings of consumer fatigue? “One thing we picked up on was a perception that ‘Oh, I bet that’s American, that’s come over from America’,” she says. “They are not perceived to be particularly natural products. This natural, homemade thing came across prevalently. Putting a modern twist on traditional British cakes might be quite interesting.”