Innovation Tips for Plant-Based Bakery Treats

Sweet baked goods continue to be a hotspot for indulgence-happy consumers, making convenient, sharable treats like cookies a prime target for plant-based bakery innovation.

Simplicity and familiarity are both key for generating dessert appeal across generations, according to the latest “Flavor Flash” report from global flavor and fragrance producer T. Hasegawa. With 44% of consumers cutting back on treats to save money, smaller formats are a strong vehicle for delivering new flavors and ingredients.

Cookie Consumption is Strong

In the report, 75% of consumers claimed they ate cookies in Q2 2023, making them the top-consumed dessert after chocolate candies (76%). Furthermore, a leading number of consumers equate better-for-you (BFY) versions of favorite treats with innovation.

“Consumer demand [for BFY baked goods] is increasing and we are seeing people focusing on simple clean ingredients, short labels, plant-based, and certifications like non-GMO and gluten free,” Carolyn Haeler, founder of cookie company Mightylicious, told The Food Institute. “In addition, allergen control, cross contamination, and food safety are all important post-pandemic.”

For instance, the global vegan cookies market is expected to reach a valuation of $773.31 million (USD) by 2033, growing at a steady 8.9% CAGR, according to Future Market Insights.

In November, Haeler’s company doubled the number of vegan varieties in its line of gluten-free cookies in response to customer demand.

“Originally MIGHTYLICIOUS had two vegan flavors. Oatmeal coconut became our best seller, while our Vegan Chocolate Chip cookie variety was number three – so we saw an opportunity to increase our vegan varieties,” she said.

Innovation Tips in BFY Baked Goods  

As the report notes, trial will be limited as consumers continue to watch their food spending. By making slight tweaks to the flavor and texture of classic desserts, brands can add interest without increasing risk.

Among survey respondents, the top five flavors and ingredients of interest were:

  1. Cheesecake (88%)
  2. Cookie Dough (84%)
  3. Brown Sugar (83%)
  4. Birthday Cake (82%)
  5. Graham (74%)

Brands looking to enhance indulgence can look to layers. Layering flavors and textures can set products apart in an otherwise saturated market. The report also suggests that deliberate movement away from “guilty pleasures” and “self-indulgences” can also help growth in this segment.

Haeler’s trends to watch in vegan and plant-based baked goods include new and innovative flours, higher protein packed foods, higher functional ingredients, and better quality / taste.

“Gluten-free and plant based have become less of a niche market and more mainstream, so there is a need and demand to produce better quality that tastes good,” she concluded.