The development of limited edition products to tie into specific seasons or occasions is a popular strategy in many areas of the international food and drinks market.
Editor’s note: With Christmas on the horizon, Australian bakers will be required to produce holiday-specific food, while taking into consideration hot local weather conditions. Instead of hindering a baker’s possibilities, however, holiday-specific baking presents new opportunities for product development, which can be accompanied by hard-and-fast marketing strategies. This article outlines how major international food brands are capitalising on the festive season.
In the confectionery market, levels of seasonal new product development (NPD) around the Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Valentine’s Day occasions are always high. Similarly, the cakes and biscuits market sees inflated levels of product development around the Christmas and Easter periods as specialty products appear on the shelves for a limited period.
To date, these two religious festivals – Christmas and Easter – have been by far, the most important seasonal occasions for limited edition launches of cakes and biscuits. During 2012, for example, there were almost 860 seasonal/in-out developments in the sweet biscuits and cakes categories combined, of which more than 300 were launched in November and December in the run-up to Christmas, while almost 200 were launched in March and April, with the majority of these being aimed at the Easter market.
However, in certain countries, it would seem manufacturers are becoming more adventurous with their developments, as 2012 saw some interesting activity in other seasonal products as well as in limited editions that serve simply to give a new and interesting twist to an established brand.
The UK market has been particularly notable for its seasonal activity in recent years, with bakers being almost as active in seasonal NPD as confectionery manufacturers. In 2012, this was especially apparent in developments centred on the idea of the ‘Great British summer’, with Union Jack designs appearing widely to tap into the nationalistic feelings stirred by the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympic Games.
For example, new to Premier Foods’ Mr Kipling cakes range were British Summer Mini Batts; Battenberg-style cakes comprising squares of pink and green sponge with a coating of apple- and rhubarb-flavoured paste. They were sold in boxes featuring the Union Jack design, only in pink, green and white colours rather than red, white and blue. Similarly, Burton’s Biscuit Company added a Great British Summer variant to its Maryland Big & Chunky cookies range, with each cookie containing red, white and blue candy chips.
However, the focus of summer’s NPD in the UK was not solely attached to national events but also extended to products that simply adopted summer ingredients. Other seasonal additions to the Maryland range, for example, included Strawberry & White Chocolate cookies and Big & Chunky Summer Fruit cookies. Similarly, in Germany, Dr Oetker launched a Joghurtkuchen loaf cake made with yoghurt and a red raspberry filling, tagging it as a Saison Kuchen (seasonal cake).
While Easter and Christmas still dominate seasonal developments, the UK market has demonstrated high levels of interest in other seasonal events, with a large amount of NPD associated with the Halloween market during 2012. New Halloween products were launched by most of the leading branded cake suppliers in 2012, including products such as Cadbury Fingers biscuits in a Toffee Apple variant, Cadbury Spooky Strawberry and Cinder Toffee cake bars, The Fabulous Bakin’ Boys’ Slimey Limey and Spooky Choccy Orange mini cupcakes, McVitie’s Spooky Cake Bars with a Sour Blackcurrant filling, and Mr Kipling’s Toffee Terror Whirls, Shock & Orange Slices and Frankenstein Fancies. The Haribo confectionery brand also made the switch to the cakes category in 2012 with McCambridge’s launch of a large Haribo Halloween Cake and Haribo Halloween Cupcakes, all decorated with buttercream icing and Haribo sweets.
However, although limited edition NPD is often associated with specific seasons, other limited edition lines are more straightforward, simply adopting a new flavour to add value to an existing product or to attract a new pool of customers. Kraft’s Oreo cookies brand saw a particularly interesting limited edition development in 2012 as it celebrated its 100th birthday. In both the US and Canada, Oreo Birthday Cake cookies were launched, including multicoloured sprinkles in the crème centres.
The strong traditional associations that biscuits and cakes have with the Christmas and Easter occasions will ensure these remain at the forefront of limited edition NPD in the coming years. However, as shown by the activity in the UK market, there can be scope for much wider seasonal development to evolve.
With competition for the sweet snack dollar continuing to intensify, it is certain the larger manufacturers will look to tap as many opportunities as are available to them – so too should Australian bakers.