Licensing concerns and difficulties can deter bakers from capitalising on the use of popular TV or film characters on their celebration cakes and baked goods. However, there are ways to satisfy customer demand for these characters and keep them coming back for more

Add popular characters to your cakes and bakery

TV and movie characters will always be popular for children, influencing consumer decisions in all aspects of our life. ‘Pester power’ is not a new phenomenon and we hear it every day, across all shopping situations – and perhaps even more so currently with our children at home and likely spending more time watching TV and online. As a parent, it can be repetitive and draining, but as a business, there is significant value in being able to tap into a world of super-heroes, talking animals and fairy tales.

When considering a child’s birthday cake purchase, research indicates that 45% of mums head to the supermarket to buy a ready-made celebration cake1 and this is primarily because they want their child’s favourite character on the cake. Supermarkets are undoubtedly extremely well serviced with impressive licensed cakes. At least in ‘normal’ trading circumstances, without lengthy queues and consumer confidence in what they’ll find on-shelf, they get another tick in the box for convenience – this being cited as the next most important factor influencing the buying decision. 

However, arguably more so now than ever, opportunity exists for smaller bakeries and food-to-go outlets to meet the demands of the significant number of consumers who are actively seeking more bespoke solutions, featuring licensed characters.

As a bakery or food-to-go outlet, consumers are looking for something in your counter that captures their eye at that moment. Instantly recognisable and emotive, popular characters will bring success in the ‘grab and go’ market too. 

Consider, for example, selling themed cupcakes that tap into the enormous success of the recently released Trolls World Tour film, streaming to millions of living rooms across the nation. Or how about banana muffins to coincide with the launch of Minions 2: The Rise of Gru, or putting that iconic black and yellow emblem on a biscuit ahead of upcoming movie release, The Batman?

However, the licensing world is complex. As British Baker recently reported regarding the use of brand names such as Mars or Nutella, similar rules apply around reproducing a character image2. Intellectual property specialist Lucy Gray, Partner at Hay & Kilner LLP confirms “It can be an infringement of copyright to copy and print character images without express permission from the brand and image owner. You can be pursued for copyright, and potentially trade mark, infringement for doing so, and disclaimer terminology does not protect the producer, or the customer.”

So what’s the solution?
Graham Broadbent runs a thriving tearoom in Gravesend. Baking on-site, he saw the potential of servicing the growing demand for character cakes and that, often, customers can’t get exactly what they want in a ready-made solution. “We were going through a stage of having lots of customers coming in and asking, in particular, for PAW Patrol. There might have been one in a supermarket, but they weren’t happy with it; it wasn’t big enough, it wasn’t one of our cakes – they love our cakes – and we weren’t able to offer something until PhotoCake came along.”

PhotoCake is a print-on-demand decorating tool which produces an exceptionally high quality Edible Image quickly and simply. Content is built in, so Graham has grown his business through being able to meet demand for a variety of occasions, trends and themes, including character cakes, without complex and time-consuming modelling.

The business model that Graham adopts is simple: keep stock of a selection of cakes in popular shapes, sizes and flavours, then customers choose their preferred cake construction, colours and theme for a set price and turnaround.

In this way, inventory challenges that come as popularity ebbs and flows can be mitigated with print on-demand. So, it is possible to introduce a character product into your business at a very low risk. Variety and uniqueness keep customers coming back for what’s new today.

PhotoCake content is officially licensed and approved by the copyright and trade mark owners to be used on cake decorations, so the system presents a great opportunity to those who seek to build their business and take a slice of the lucrative opportunities that licensed characters attract.

The PhotoCake system is now being rolled out in the UK following huge success in the US, where it services to more than 24,000 outlets via DecoPac Inc.

To find out more about PhotoCake, click here.

To view a video on PhotoCake, see below.

1 iProspect 2018
2 British Baker, Nov 2019