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Single slices allow customers to sample new flavors without having to buy the whole product.

Serving a need with single-serve baked goods

Dessert lovers no longer need to take the whole cake— single slices are selling fast

H-E-B shoppers don’t have to buy a full 8-inch cake to enjoy the chain’s popular red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. For about $3, they can get it by the slice. The same goes for H-E-B’s chocolate cake with fudge frosting and several other desserts.

Whether it’s because they live alone,  want to limit sweets or hate to waste food, shoppers are seeking out smaller servings of baked goods. In-store bakeries are responding by offering individual slices of cakes and pies, half-loaves of bread and two-packs of buns.

At Wegmans Food Markets, bread lovers can get half loaves of many of the stores’ popular breads, including its organic rosemary olive oil bread, organic bread with dried cranberries and artisan bread. Each sells for about $3 to $3.25.

Containers holding two slices of cake are merchandised in the grab-and-go bakery case at ShopRite. (Photo: Carol Angrisani)

At Dorothy Lane Market, individual cake slices are offered in about 10 flavors, including chocolate, red velvet and carrot. The store also does well with individual pie slices in key lime, peanut butter and other varieties. And Wakefern’s ShopRite stores package two slices of various cakes and sell them for $3.99 in the bakery’s grab-and-go case.

Single-serve, many reasons

Single-serve baked goods are more common at bakeries as retailers respond to the changing demographic profile of their shoppers, according to Eric Richard, education coordinator at International Dairy Deli Bakery Association.

“Not all customers are shopping for a spouse and three kids,” he said. “Consumers today are a lot different than they were even five years ago.”

Many shoppers have two- and one-person households and don’t need “standard” portions of food, including dessert. Retailers need to understand their shopper demographics and make the appropriate changes to their food assortment and packaging sizes, Richard recommended.

“If you don’t adapt, you will lose customers,” he said.

Single-serve portions also cater to other types of shoppers, from those who are limiting sweets for health reasons to those who simply don’t want to waste food.

“Waste is a big concern for today’s shoppers,” Richard said. “They don’t want to buy a whole cake and have to throw some of it away.”

At the same time, consumers are more interested in food experimentation. By offering single slices, in-store bakeries can build interest in new recipes and products.

“People want to try new flavors, but may not want to commit to buying a whole product,” he said.

Deliciousness on display

Once a retailer decides to offer single-serve portions, the next step is deciding how to merchandise them. Some in-store bakeries opt to sell them exclusively behind the bakery counter. At other chains, bakery associates will cut slices each morning, package them and merchandise them in a grab-and-go case.

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Customers have a lot of single-serve slices to choose from in this window display.

A key retail benefit of single-serve baked goods is that they are conducive to cross-merchandising. For instance, individual slices of bread can be merchandised near soup bars and deli counters, while cake slices can be placed in the prepared foods department. By cross-merchandising single-serve baked goods, retailers can put their exclusive bakery recipes and offerings in the spotlight.

“It gives retailers an opportunity to remind shoppers of baked goods that are unique to their stores,” Richard said.

That’s the thinking at Minnesota supermarket chain Marketplace Foods. The bakery department merchandises some of its single-serve fresh baked goods at the front-end checkout. These include single servings of its popular “scotcharoo” bars, a Minnesota favorite made from crisped rice cereal, butterscotch chips, peanut butter, chocolate and other ingredients. Bakery associates bake the bars in a large tray in the morning, cut them into bite-size pieces and package them in small containers that sell for $1.99 to $2.99 at the checkout.

“We keep them on the check stand,” said Katie Knowles, a bakery associate at a Marketplace store in Minot, N.D. “They do very well.”

Individual slices of cake and pie make sense at a time when the popularity of prepared foods and salad bars has made supermarkets a lunchtime destination, said Knowles.

“We get a lot of people stopping in for lunch who like to grab a sweet treat,” she said. “This makes it easy for them. They can grab a fork and eat a dessert with their lunch.”

Marketplace also sells individual slices of chocolate, white, marble and other cakes. Other single-serve items for sale include jumbo cupcakes for $1.99 and cake/pudding dessert cups for $2.99. Individual 5-inch cookies are available for $1.99 each.

“Kids will stop in after school and buy one,” Knowles said.

"A little bit of everything"

Angelo Caputo’s Fresh Market, an eight-store chain based in Carol Stream, Ill., sells about eight cakes by the slice, according to Giovanni Pisani, bakery director. These include its popular tiramisu, tres leches and cannoli cakes. Each sells for about $2 to $3 per slice. Caputo’s also promotes certain seasonal offerings — like its strawberry shortcake in the summer — by selling them by the slice. Customers can order the slices at the bakery counter.

The main reason for its single-serve options is to provide shoppers with more variety. Pisani said shoppers like to buy individual slices of different cakes and arrange them on a platter so that their guests have more dessert choices.

“We like to give our shoppers options so that they can try a little bit of everything,” said Pisani.

The retailer also sells single servings of its bread, including Vienna, Italian, sourdough and ciabatta. Each chunk sells for about $2. The slices are sold in the bakery department as well as in the meat department so that shoppers can buy a few slices to enjoy with a sandwich or hamburger.

“We slice it fresh to order,” he said.

Individual cake slices are “insanely popular” at Dorothy Lane Market’s store in Springboro, Ohio, said Emily McMullen, bakery manager. For about $3.50, shoppers can buy individual slices of chocolate, red velvet, carrot and other cakes, as well as key lime and other pies. Bakery workers typically bake the cake in a large sheet pan and cut it into slices each morning.

Individual slices are so popular that about 50 slices are packaged in the morning and merchandised in a grab-and-go case near the bakery. All 50 slices typically sell out every day. The store also does well with other small package sizes, including cookies in 5- and 10-count bags.

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