Breathe a sigh of relief with that headline, we’re not building up to a discussion on what might poke out above Kerry Katona’s trousers, but rather the more palatable proposition of cake muffins being one of the top performers in the cake market over the past year.
Given that it’s a pretty mature category, valued at £64m, why has it seen a 20%-plus spurt over the last year? It’s largely down to the huge increase in opportunities to purchase, says Mike Benton, marketing controller at McVitie’s Cake Company. McVitie’s has developed the branded muffin market to the point where it has the top four muffin SKUs in what he calls the "eat now" market Galaxy, Mars, Jaffa Cakes and Choc Chip Muffins in that order and has a 51% share of the total branded muffin market. One way it has differentiated in an increasingly commoditised category is by injecting a filling and topping with chocolate.
"The growth and expansion of the multiple grocers, local, express and travel outlets plus the growth of café culture within the UK and all outlets offering muffins as a staple item, has led to the growth of the muffin market," he says. What’s more, the number of varieties on offer continues to expand, often with seasonal variations, "all leading to increased awareness of muffins within the UK market", he adds.
Strong growth has also come from the coffee shop sector, says Simon Cannell, head of bakery at foodservice wholesaler Brakes, which led with a range of five tulip muffins when launching its La Boulangerie bakery division earlier this year. "We’ve seen phenomenal growth on those and they’ve been our most successful range since launch," he says. Many of those muffins have gone into high street department store coffee shops and contract catering. "We know that the coffee shop market is outperforming the rest of the industry anyway, but a lot of the reason why ours have done so well is because they are flow-wrapped, so they’ve got a four-day shelf-life from thaw. They’ve also got good visual characteristics."
So is this boom something that is being reflected in craft retail? "It is, yes they’re certainly going in the direction of becoming one of our top sellers," says Neil Wood, head of retail sales for 16-shop and bakery wholesaler Wright’s, based in Crewe. "We’re very proactive in introducing new products and people’s eating habits are changing from some of the traditional lines to something that’s a bit new. Muffins have been so well advertised by the likes of McDonald’s, that it’s a product that fits into the marketplace nicely."