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Canadians seem to have a passion for cookies, as nearly three quarters of them say they enjoy this type of baked product. Their main concern is related to the amount of sugar in sweet baked goods, according to Mintel.

New research from Mintel, Cookies, Cakes and Sweet Goods - Canada, reveals that 72% of Canadians eat cookies, making it by far and away the nation’s most popular sweet baked good. Other top contenders making the list of Canada’s favorite baked goods include muffins (57%), cakes (53%), donuts (45%) and pastries (44%).

Despite the popularity of cookies from coast to coast, it appears not all generations agree on their favorite sweet baked goods. Younger consumers aged 18-44 are more likely to eat donuts (49% vs 39% of consumers 45+), bars (38% vs 29%) and cupcakes (37% vs 21%); meanwhile, those aged 45+ have a sweet tooth for pies (50% vs 39% of 18-44s).

One-third (32%) of consumers agree that sweet baked goods take them back to their childhood. However, 31% say that cookies and brownies are a good snack, particularly among younger consumers aged 18-24 (41%).

“Cookies take the number one slot in terms of popular sweet baked goods, even beating donuts – possibly the most intrinsically Canadian of all sweet baked goods. Given their flexibility and portability, it is not surprising that cookies are eaten more than other sweet baked goods,” said Joel Gregoire, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. “Our research suggests baked goods that are more portable prove more popular among younger Canadians, indicating pie makers may look to innovate toward individual occasions in an effort to grow share among these consumers in order to further develop the category.”

Buy them from in-store bakery 

A new generation of bakers is covering their aprons in flour as Mintel research reveals 52% of consumers aged 18-24 say they enjoy baking from scratch, including 43% of 18-24-year-old males. However, it seems that men’s passion for baking declines dramatically with age. Indeed, today’s young Canadian men are almost twice as likely to say they enjoy baking from scratch as men aged 65+ (23%). Overall, 45% of Canadian consumers agree they enjoy baking from scratch.

Highlighting the importance of scratch baking, Canadians are far more likely to opt for baking sweet goods from scratch (69%) than baking from mixes (39%) or pre-made refrigerated dough (39%). Despite the popularity of baking, however, Canadians are still most likely to get their baked goods from an in-store bakery (74%), and nearly two-thirds (63%) go to store shelves.

While much has been written about cooking being a ‘lost art’, our research highlights a sweet future for baking among Canadians, with enjoyment being a key driver. Young Canadians’ passion for baking signifies an opportunity to invest in winning young men over to spur growth in scratch baking,” continued Gregoire. “One of the simplest ways for companies and brands to engage these interested younger consumers, and perhaps help them learn the craft, is through social media, particularly through how-to videos, appealing visuals and smartly-positioned branded content.”

Fight against sugar content

In the pursuit of living healthier lifestyles, sugar remains a concern for Canadians, and two in five of them say they are concerned about the amount of sugar in sweet baked goods.  

A significant percentage of Canadians express concerns about the amount of sugar in sweet baked goods (43%). This reflects broader concerns that Canadians hold with regard to sugar across categories. While Mintel forecasts sales of sweet baked goods to continue to grow, sugar emerges as the top health concern as related to the category. When asked what’s most important to consumers when deciding what sweet baked good they purchase, reduced sugar (24%) eclipses demand for offering products with GMO-free ingredients (11%), are gluten-free (6%) or nut-free (4%), providing some perspective on what claims are more and less likely to resonate with a wider cross-section of consumers. What’s more, over two in five (45%) consumers are interested in trying sweet baked goods with alternative sugar ingredients.  

Young women aged 18-24 are the most likely demographic to say that sweet baked goods are bad for their health (46%) compared to 30% of Canadians overall. Meanwhile, two in five (43%) Canadians agree they are concerned about the amount of sugar in sweet baked goods. 

Despite these concerns, price (67%) and flavor (60%) rank as the most important factors to consider when purchasing sweet baked goods. What’s more, two-thirds (66%) of Canadians agree that it is okay to occasionally indulge, regardless of nutrition.

On one hand, this is good news as it indicates that the majority of consumers make space in their diet for indulgence. The challenge and opportunity, however, is the word “occasionally”, which suggests there is an opportunity to support frequency growth. Just under a third of consumers describe health as being a barrier, with 30% agreeing that “sweet baked goods are bad for (their) health.” At 46%, nearly half of young women 18-24 agree with this statement, identifying them as a key area of focus in alleviating potential health concerns.

“While Canadians turn to sweet baked goods for indulgence, this can create challenges as consumers increasingly look for better-for-you options. Although there is a core group who look for gluten-free products, it’s a relatively small one. Sugar remains the biggest concern for consumers, but companies can leverage different tactics, including alternative sugar ingredients and local ingredients, to address this obstacle,” concluded Gregoire.

Demand for snackable options and baking’s popularity also serve as paths for growth, particularly among younger consumers. Companies that look to diversify with options for different dayparts and occasions are likely to be more effective in addressing concerns over sugar and general healthfulness.

Related articles: 

Exclusive: “Like Homemade” Pastries Are Best in France 

Market Research: Ireland Has a Taste for Private Label Biscuits 

Research: the Business Potential of New On-the-go Snacks 

Euromonitor: The future of bread in Europe  

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