Patisserie, Danish, Viennoiserie... they’re all interchangeable titles for the same thing, aren’t they? Well, sometimes, but you’d be best advised not to mix them up if you’re doing a category analysis. According to one market analyst’s definition, sales of one of those categories soared nearly 17% last year, while another dropped nearly a third and the remaining one fared pretty solidly.

So which one is which and what do any of them mean? Before defining the categories, let’s ramp up the dramatic tension by revealing the winners and losers. Drum roll please...

Viennoiserie was the biggest grower through the in-store bakery (ISB) category last year, up nearly 17% year-on-year, boosting the category’s value from £41m to £48m over the year (all data supplied exclusively by Bakehouse/IRI Total Retailers, 52 w/e 27 December 2008).

Danish was the solid seller, outperforming the category by a couple of percentage points; it was up 9.7% to £42m, compared with a total ISB sales (not including doughnut sales) average of 7.9% growth. Meanwhile, patisserie sales fell in the in-store bakery category, with sales down nearly a third on last year.

Now for the definitions...

Danish: Viennoiserie: Patisserie:

Plaits (eg maple pecan) Croissant products Tarts

Crowns Brioche Tartlets

Coronets Pain au chocolat Fresh cakes

Croquantes Pain aux raisins Cake slices

Minis Minis Fondant fancies

Selection packs Torsades (puff Cornflake clusters

Swirls pastry twists)

Taking each in turn, the Viennoiserie category shot up although it slowed to 4.4% growth in the last four weeks of 2008. Growth in Danish, on the other hand, increased towards the year end. "The Danish category has been fairly traditional in many ways, so we’ve had to come up with exciting products - ways of doing Danish differently," says Kate Raison, marketing director for Bakehouse, which commissioned the research. "Viennoiserie and Danish are showing growth above the category as a whole, with Viennoiserie in particular showing among the highest rates of growth (in the ISB)."

An increase in promotions has played its part, as evidenced by a drop in Danish sales over the Christmas period, when retailers’ focus turned to mince pies. Alternative data on ISB pastries from Nielsen shows that, in the 12 weeks to 3 January, Viennoiserie declined by 6.8% year-on-year - a trend bucked by Morrisons, which saw a huge rise of 156.5% over that period. So what’s accounting for those extra sales?

"We offer a rolling programme of good value promotions," explains Morrisons’ bakery trading manager Andy Clegg. "Nothing ridiculous, but certainly three-for-twos and price cuts. Plus, we’ve got croissants in the pick-and-mix fixture, which is a high traffic area for us. There’s massive growth for us in this area."

While the core products have been the mainstays, Morrisons has populated the fixture with limited-editions, including rhubarb and custard and strawberries and cream-flavoured products, to add a degree of seasonality. Pastries are also handled by a separate cake department, rather than the ISB, so that they can focus on sweet products and the bakery can stick to the bread, says Clegg, while turning over product quickly for freshness. "We’re always looking for innovation, but we’re mindful that we have a core range that sells very well and is priced as an attractive proposition for the customer."

Meanwhile, Bakehouse’s Raison predicts more "twists on existing favourites", as coffee shops demand ever more differentiated products from the ISB - ones that look as hand-finished as possible but without the complexity. Even the US is moving towards smaller portions, with US bakery exhibitions last year hinting at a "super(down)sizing" of products. "We will continue to see more growth in American-style products and more fresh fruit," says Raison. "But there may be a trend towards smaller products, as this addresses some health issues."

While heavy promotion of popular favourites has been behind sweet pastry growth in the ISB, Steven Mackintosh, managing director of bake-off supplier Mantinga thinks there is scope to broaden the category’s appeal with new products. "Maple Pecan Danish is one of the most popular pastries consumed in the UK," he says. "Our challenge, working with the food outlets, is to encourage the consumer to broaden their tastes and to try other pastries."

This view is shared by Délifrance commercial controller Alan Moutter, who has experienced double-digit growth in the category in the last 12 months on Viennoiserie. "While our basic offerings - croissants and pains au chocolat - have experienced consistent sales, we have noticed an increase in demand for our added-value products, including lines with more fruit fillings and a greater butter content in our pastry," he says. "Mintel’s 2009 Consumer Trends predict 2009 is the year of going back to basics and using escapism to lift the nation’s mood, so while the credit crunch may have impacted on standard purchases, consumers still want and feel they deserve a treat."

So any growth in the category could partly be attributable to more ’treat yourself’ occasions, a switch towards Continental and US-style products, but most of all, promotions and the expansion of retailer convenience store formats featuring bake-off.


=== Consumer watch: are sweet pastries recession-proof? ===

They are, if you go by qualitative research conducted by consumer market research firm, Cambridge Direction (November 2008), which looked at whether the recession would affect consumer spending on sweet pastries. It showed that only a few respondents from four geographically spread focus groups felt they might buy slightly less often in future.

Even so, those same people said they were not looking for a cheaper price point, and that sweet pastries were "affordable treats" - a core reason for buying them. Based on four two-hour qualitative group discussions conducted with 32 consumers who bought and ate from a selected list of sweet bakery products (purchased from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose or Marks & Spencer and high street coffee shops), the research showed that while people might tighten the purse strings on spending for family consumption, there was a marked determination not to trade down for self-consumption.

Consumers also picked up on the fact that ISB pastries were fresher than those sold in high street coffee shops, because there was no evidence of baking on-site in the cafés. However, while the wider product range of ISBs was recognised, coffee shop varieties were considered to be "more exotic", such as big American-style products, and commanded a higher price. Even so, premium bakery retail concepts like Paul were perceived to be the freshest outlets.


=== New products ===

== Lemon & cream cheese pastry ==

Delice de France is launching a lemon and cream cheese French pastry in February. A rich butter pastry is shaped into a pocket, which holds a lemon curd and cream cheese flavoured filling, and can be decorated or dusted with icing sugar. The product has been added to Delice’s French Pastries range and follows on from its cherry cream pastry.


== Chocolate swirly Danish ==

Bakehouse has tweaked the traditional Danish swirl to bring a new shape to the category - a hand-twisted swirl of flaky Danish pastry, with dark chocolate pieces and a natural vanilla-flavoured filling. The chocolate is 49.9% cocoa solids and the pastry is supplied ready glazed, eliminating the need for hand-glazing.


== Multigrain croissant ==

Mantinga has introduced the mini multigrain croissant made from germ-bud flour, containing 11 germinated grains, including spelt, lupin, and red clover, as well as whole linseed, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. The use of germ-bud flour means the product stays fresh longer and improves flavour, says the firm.