Valentine’s Day: time for a change of heart?

How moving away from tradition for the annual lovefest could reinvigorate sales

As Wet Wet Wet – and before them The Troggs – declared, Love is all around. While this is never more true than on Valentine’s Day, the traditional onslaught of hearts and flowers can become a little tiresome. And, with some consumers looking for more innovative ways to spoil their sweethearts, what options are open to Britain’s bakers?

Ignoring the lovefest isn’t one of them, as Valentine’s Day was worth £620m to UK retailers in 2017, up 12.7% year on year, according to Mintel.

“Love it or loathe it, this loved-up day provides many opportunities for bakers to get creative and extend their sweet bakery offering,” says Jacqui Passmore, marketing manager for UK & Ireland at Dawn Foods. “But it isn’t all hearts and flowers as bakers are looking at novel ways to ‘sex up’ the category with personalisation, luxury, and funky, retro and premium products.”

Champagne and raspberry mousse is one glamorous and indulgent example (see box out p32). Red velvet cakes also work and, as a year-round favourite, don’t alienate those not celebrating.

“A big trend is multi-coloured icing, so a swirled buttercream or meringue with white and pink or red is a great way to offer something different,” notes Margarethe Schneeweis, category market leader for pastry mixes at CSM Bakery Solutions.

There are also subtle ways to use hearts and flowers, she adds, suggesting skilled bakers can offer cakes and cupcakes with hidden surprises inside. “Consider baking ‘his and hers’ products such as half-and-half biscuits that fit together, or even cute pairs of animals modelled out of icing.”

The theme doesn’t have to be ‘his and hers’, of course, and all types of couple can be given the opportunity to pick up personalised treats. Indeed, personalisation is one of two key trends driving the seasonal market, according to Mintel. It says half of UK consumers want retailers to offer more options to personalise gifts, rising to three-quarters of 16 to 24-year-olds. This could be as simple as icing unique messages on biscuits, doughnuts or cupcakes, while offering generic grab-and-go ones featuring words such as ‘Be mine’ or ‘Love’.

While Valentine’s Day is mainly about lovers, the goods on offer don’t have to be. “Consumers are now buying gifts for family and friends too, meaning the opportunity for sales is growing,” adds CSM’s Schneeweis.

Jess Dalton, a degree-level apprentice at UCB and the Baking Industry Awards’ Rising Star 2017 winner, suggests an offering for those who aren’t loved up. “If you think your customer base is able to see the funny side, a range of biscuits or pastries could be themed with slogans such as the ‘Pies before Guys’ or ‘Whirls before Girls’.”

This would also tap Galentine’s Day, celebrated on 13 February, when ‘ladies celebrate ladies’ and their friendships. Made famous by US TV show Parks & Recreation, this once-niche event is moving into the mainstream, with US retailer Target hosting a Galentine’s Day section on its website.

Whatever the theme, it’s all about sharing a treat with someone special. Dawn Foods’ 2018 seasonal campaign, called ‘Love is in the Air’, focuses on opportunities bakers can embrace with sharing occasions such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter.
Mintel also reveals that 49% of consumers now believe experiences make better gifts than physical items. The Ticklebelly Lane Bakery & Tea House in Lincoln, for example, offers ‘Bake & Date Nights’, starting with a glass of bubbly and canapés, a spot of baking and a candlelit dinner.

While Valentine’s Day hearts and flowers are unlikely to disappear, a little flair and imagination can reinvigorate the occasion. Romance isn’t dead, it’s just changing.

Celebrating with savouries

When it comes to savoury Valentine’s Day products, hearts dominate what is currently a niche market.

“We’re seeing a variety of heart-shaped products such as loaves, sandwiches, pizzas and pastries,” explains Margarethe Schneeweis, category market leader at CSM Bakery Solutions.

It is relatively easy for bakers to tap the trends suggests Richard Wood, lecturer in bakery and confectionery at UCB: “With a range of large and medium-sized heart cutters, most bakers should be able to produce a selection of savoury pasties and turnovers with a little thought,” he says.

“An efficient way of using puff pastry trimmings would be to produce a savoury range of Palmiers, which do lend themselves to resembling hearts.”

Pidy produces heart-shaped Pidy Apéricoeur that can incorporate sweet or savoury fillings. Smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill with a splash of lemon; goat’s cheese with caramelised red-onion chutney or even steak and stilton are among the savoury combinations recommended by Fabien Levet, Pidy UK’s national account manager for foodservice.

Pidy has also created edible Mussel Shells in three variants – plain, parsley and black pastry. The latter is designed to imitate the real thing (see picture above).

“This has a black mineral added to the pastry, providing a modern and eye-catching design that will really make a statement,” Levet adds.

Champagne & Raspberry Mousse

Ingredients

  • Pastry base 
  • Dawn Shortcrust Pastry 
  • Mix, 500g
  • Cocoa powder, 20g
  • Butter (softened), 200g
  • Whole egg, 50g

Fruit Filling

  • Dawn Delifruit Classic 
  • Raspberry, 500g
  • Dawn Sanatine powder, 25g
  • Boiling water

Champagne mousse

  • Dawn neutral fond, 100g
  • Warm water (min 22˚C), 100g
  • Dawn Marc de Champagne
  • Compound, 50g
  • Lightly whipped cream, 500g

Finish

  • Dawn Decorgel Plus Glamour
  • Silver (heated to 40-45˚C) 
  • Raspberries, freeze-dried 
  • Dobla Chocolate Decorations

Method

Pastry base

Add all pastry ingredients to a bowl fitted with a beater and mix on slow speed. Roll out pastry to 3mm thick and cut out 85mm squares and place on to a silicone-lined baking tray. Bake at 190°C in a deck oven for 10 -12 minutes.

Fruit filling

Dissolve Sanatine powder in the boiling water and blend through Delifruit Classic Raspberry fruit filling. Deposit fruit filling mix into 30mm dome silicone mould and put into freezer.

Champagne mousse

Dissolve Neutral Fond powder in warm water, add Marc de Cham-pagne Compound and fold into lightly whipped cream. Deposit mixture into 65mm x 65mm x 40mm silicone heart-shape moulds, ¾ full, and place one frozen raspberry filling in the centre; top with more mousse and level off. Put in the freezer and allow to set (min 3 hours).

To finish

Remove frozen hearts from moulds and enrobe with Decorgel Plus Glamour Silver glaze. Place on a cooled chocolate shortcrust square base. Decorate base of the mousse with freeze-dried raspberry pieces and finish with half a fresh raspberry and a Chocolate Decoration.

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