The UK cakes market has enjoyed positive, though slowing, growth over the past five years, but the shape of the market is changing.

In 2006, sales of small cakes, cake bars, pies and tarts were worth £670m, 62% of the total UK ambient cakes sector (Key Note Biscuits & Cakes report). By 2007, this had risen to £715m, or 65% of the total sector. Sales of large, whole cakes, pies and tarts, meanwhile, declined.

Key Note says the trend is caused by the growing number of smaller households, more staggered eating times and the tendency to eat ’on the go’, rather than buy large cakes for sharing.

Since the end of the 1990s, more products have become tailored to the eat now market, Key Note says. Single-serve packs of small cakes and biscuits have been developed for impulse buying, lunchboxes and other ’on-the-go’ occasions. Individually-wrapped items are now standard for many brands of small cake.

The trends are being reflected right through the baking industry, from manufacturers and craft bakers back down the chain to equipment manufacturers. Tristan Hunt, marketing executive at Somerset-based Pullins Bakers, says there’s definitely more demand for single-serve packaged cakes and slices. Pullins supplies a wide range of products for the wholesale trade and is actively pushing further into individual cakes and slices. Last year, the firm launched a range of mini cakes which have proved popular with retailers, says Hunt. And it plans to increase its individually-wrapped cake lines to cater for demand.

== Changing lifestyles ==

Hunt says the increasing popularity of single-serve and snack cakes and slices is likely to be a result of people’s changing lifestyles. "People are busy and they are also more health-conscious; they don’t necessarily want a whole cake," he adds.

Kevin Pearce, bakery manager at Cheshire-based Chatwins, says younger bakery customers are more interested in flapjacks, fudge brownies and similar products than the slab cakes favoured by Chatwins’ older generation of customers.

Slab cake sales have seen a steep decline in recent years, Pearce says, and while the bakery plans to repackage and relaunch the range, he believes the issue is generational. "Younger customers want to eat the cakes on the go, rather than taking them home to eat."

Proper Cornish - which started out as a pasty specialist and has recently moved into the biscuits and cakes market - launched a range of traybakes last year, which are supplied to bakery retailers, cafés and foodservice outlets via the wholesale trade. Mark Muncey, marketing manager, says snacking and eating on the go are trends that are having a marked effect on sales.

Proper Cornish is now launching a range of individually-wrapped and branded slices, both to cater for demand and also to increase brand visibility.

Market drivers

British Bakels also says convenience - and health - will continue to be one of the key drivers of the baking industry. The company commissioned an exclusive research report from Leatherhead Food International (LFI).

LFI’s report says: "Cakes are inherently convenient, particularly single-serve and individually-wrapped products, which continue to drive market growth at present." The report also notes that single-serve cakes account for half of the cakes market, and it quotes TNS Worldpanel data for 2006/7, which found cake slices had grown by 18%, while cake bars were up 17.2%.

Bakels’ managing director Paul Morrow says the trend is very much down to changing eating habits, rather than specific health concerns. LFI’s report backs this up, pointing to snacking and lunches on the move as key drivers of single-serve cake sales. Fourteen per cent of lunchboxes now contain a cake, it says.

The trend is filtering down to equipment suppliers, too. At the recent Interpack exhibition in Dusseldorf, machinery manufacturer Ilapak’s sales director Mike Butler told British Baker that its customers are increasingly asking for machines that can wrap and pack smaller items such as slices and other individual cakes. The UK’s café culture boom is a major contributor to the sales spike, Butler thinks.

But the rise in popularity of single-serving cakes and slices does not necessarily signal the death of the whole cake market. Key Note says: "Portionability will remain an important factor for biscuit and cake products. The convenience of wrapped, single servings is becoming increasingly important as average household sizes continue to fall. However, there will also be counter demand for biscuits and cakes for sharing occasions."