H alloween is traditionally about dressing up in ridiculously unscary costumes, the implied necessity for everyone - well every child - to be out roaming the streets at night, trick or treating and getting someone else in the family to buy and carve a pumpkin. However it is also emerging as an increasingly profitable event for the bakery sector.
For Finsbury Foods, Halloween is rapidly becoming the second most important event of the year - after Christmas - and it will be supplying products to most of the major UK multiples as own-label or surrogate own-label.
"The reason for Halloween’s increasing importance is that it is a party opportunity for children - so the company’s focus has been to produce centrepiece cakes. But now increasingly we are supplementing these with spookily themed bite-size products, which meet the growing market trends of portion control and miniaturisation - as well as providing a useful option for trick and treating," says Phil Batchelor, head of the commercial team at Finsbury Foods. He explains that Finsbury has also moved towards a large traybake style, as these types of products provide value for money and lend themselves to far better, and easier, portionality.
Food ingredients manufacturer Macphie also understands the importance of Halloween as a growing market. "With the UK Halloween market growing by a staggering 25% year-on-year, many bakeries find that this is their strongest time of the year for novelty lines - even though it has a much shorter selling period than Christmas," says Macphie’s technical baker, Steve McCann. "Halloween sales might stretch to a couple of weeks, compared with eight to 12 weeks for Christmas. But Halloween has a strong visual identity and most bakers enjoy the opportunity to come up with fun ideas to brighten up their shop windows."
Halloween has also opened up other opportunities for craft bakers. Paul Barker, owner of Cinnamon Square, runs themed kids cookie decorating and baking workshops. "We use pumpkin-shaped cookies for the kids to decorate. We also give them orange fudge and black icing to use on the biscuits," explains Barker. For the baking workshop, "we decorate the ’Makery’ with spiders and webbing, for example. They make scary pizzas, blood red jam tarts and green custard."
Bill Donnelly, managing director of Cake Decor, also believes that events like Halloween are all about cakes for kids. "We commissioned a focus group, which found that kids’ favourite cakes are the ones they decorate themselves," explains Donnelly. "The trend seen everywhere, especially supermarkets, is make-your-own kits, which is something we’re now working with craft bakers on. It’s all about colour - whether it’s icings or decorations - and the most popular colours are orange, black and purple."
In terms of how craft bakers can capitalise on this market, Donnelly suggests bakers take an all-year product, for example cupcakes, and add a couple of components - for example using tubes of icing or pumpkin and bat motifs to make the product seasonal. "Halloween is a growing trend in the UK and one that craft bakers should latch on to," he urges.
=== Ghoulishly creative ===
== Ideas for Halloween ==
by Fiona Burrell, BB’s Seasonal Seller columnist
When we think of Halloween, we picture pumpkin lanterns with spooky faces and people dressing up to go "trick or treating". Yet baked goods can be given the Halloween treatment by either making them into special shapes or using ghoulish names. For example, using a basic biscuit recipe, biscuits can be cut out to the shape of ’The Scream’. Ice them with white glace icing and pipe on coloured icing for the eyes and mouth.
Make witches’ fingers from a cheesy choux mixture, piped out on to baking trays with an almond on the end. Once baked, paint the almond with egg wash and dip in paprika before putting back in the oven for a couple of minutes to make bloody fingernails.
Filo pastry ghosts can be filled with a spicy apple and dried apricot filling and then pulled together into a sack, which will form the head, the rest of the pastry can form the eerie body. Make cones out of foil to sit them on in the oven and, when cooked, dust with icing sugar and use melted chocolate to pipe on the eyes and mouth.
If you want to extend the theme, make soups such as pumpkin and apple, spiced tomato and red pepper or spinach and call them names such as Witches’ Brew, Devil’s Blood or Swamp Special Sandwiches can be made with a variety of breads, including pumpkin bread and filled with fillings such as cream cheese, pumpkin seeds and salad or Brie and grapes.
== Renshaw: Regalice Sugarpaste ==
Premium ingredients manufacturer Renshaw has a number of products suitable for creating Halloween toppings, such as its Regalice sugarpaste. "Regalice is the perfect product to add a little magic to your Halloween products," says Renshaw’s marketing manager, Diane Lunt. "We have a fabulous deep Atlantic blue colour, which can be used with our Celebration Regalice to create a spooky nighttime scene. Team this with our range of yellow, black and orange Regalice and you can have fun making cup cakes and biscuits come alive with pumpkins and cats, witches and bats!"
== British Sugar: Icecraft Sugarpaste ==
British Sugar’s newest product, Icecraft Sugarpaste, is great for quickly sculpting and modelling Halloween monsters and can be easily coloured and shaped, says Sue Callaghan, British Sugar’s technical manager.
"Celebration fondant icing from British Sugar is perfect for Halloween cakes, whether you require buttercream or glossy fondant icing. This finely milled icing sugar, with an average particle size of 11 microns, half that of other milled sugars, gives ready-to-use fondant in just 10 minutes - far quicker than traditional icing sugar."
== Macphie: Genoese Cake mixes and Mississippi Muffin/Cake mixes ==
Macphie offers a number of cake mixes that can form the basis for devilishly decorated products. Its Mississippi Muffin/Cake mixes or concentrates have been designed for muffins, traybakes and loaf cakes and are available in plain, chocolate and toffee varieties.
"Bakers can produce simple eye-catching ideas for Halloween," says Macphie’s technical baker Steve McCann. "Macphie Genoese Cake mixes are suitable for unfruited sheets, cake bases and cupcakes. They bake with a flat, even surface, which is a perfect blank canvas for decorating."
He suggests using 5th Avenue icings, sugar plaques or children’s sweets for the finishing touches.
== FoodLinks: toppings & decorations ==
Food decoration company FoodLinks offers a range of toppings and decorations for Halloween bakery goods. Among the edible items are assorted ghoulish sugarpaste characters, bakeable bat wafers, bat and pumpkin sprinkles, and Belgian chocolate pumpkins. FoodLinks also offers a range of plastic decorations, from green zombie hands to ghost and skeleton picks.
"Halloween has become one of the best features in the cake calendar," says Glen Winterflood, FoodLinks’ managing director. "One of the most popular products in the bakery is the baker’s friend - the gingerbread man. With our four creepy characters you can make your man suitably scary! Great for the children, these will add colour and interest to your range."
According to FoodLinks, rings have become a popular choice for decorating cupcakes, which it sells in luminous glow-in-the-dark versions.