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Jessica Pastries shares the latest in flavour trends


June 15, 2020
By Bakers Journal


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The summer favourite flavour two years running is the Passionfruit Coconut cake. Photo courtesy of Jessica Pastries

With COVID-19 affecting many food industries, and large factories in particular, Bakers Journal was curious to see how Canadian frozen pastry distribution specialist Jessica Pastries managed to thrive.

The Quebec-based company sells frozen luxury and family-sized affordable cakes to supermarkets such as IGA and Sobeys, as well as private label clients. Bakers Journal spoke with Ana Gamboa, the sales and marketing manager for this growing company.

Despite the lockdown, the factory still managed to stay afloat with their supermarket clients. Market research had shown that retail customers wanted some comfort in the form of sweets, and an affordable but luxurious treat was readily available through supermarkets.

“It’s very difficult right now to deal with new customers and with new suppliers. With the COVID pandemic, what we see is that it’s not regular clients or our suppliers [that present a challenge.] It’s very complicated to get in there. However, there is still the private label brand that is working very well for us at the moment. There is a lot of local companies that we need to support.” Gamboa adds that even if Jessica Pastries doesn’t appear in stores under its own name, she adds they are still incubating the B2C clients. “We’re still in their minds.”

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The frozen confection and cake company has a wide range of flavours and products, but at the moment is experiencing difficulty with international export. Trucking and transportation options are limited, so Jessica Pastries is completely SEO-driven, advertising through their website. They are using online marketing and social media to reach new potential clients.

The company’s existing clients are very loyal. Jessica Pastries reached a fandom with their Bûche de Noël cakes, (or known as Yule Log cakes in English). Gamboa says that while they are not as popular in the rest of Canada as they are French-speaking provinces, people still buy them for “seasonal purposes;” many companies still buy them for staff holiday parties.

Jessica Pastries is using this unexpected downtime to plan their winter inventory and make connections for placing December orders, going into production and also making arrangements for holiday cake deliveries. “Even if this is not the best time for us now, Christmas is always awesome,” smiles Gamboa. “We’ll start producing in September.

“We do all the Christmas logs for the luxury line and a line of 8-inch fruit cakes. The Christmas log is very popular in Canada; I know that in the United States it’s not as popular, but still, people buy it.”

Jessica pastries makes both a luxurious and lower-end buttercream versions of their cakes to meet all ranges of clients’ budgets. The frozen pastry company uses a seasonal approach in marketing their cakes, but adds a modern twist to traditional creations. Gamboa states that liqueur is having a moment in the frozen cakes division. “We are working with the Bailey’s brand. We now have the license for Canada in order to produce Bailey’s [flavoured] cake. We just launched Bailey’s Brownies in Canada for Father’s Day. And the goal is to continue having more Bailey’s offerings in different types of cakes.” Irish Cream is a very popular flavour, either on its own or paired with chocolate, says Gamboa.

“It’s without alcohol, so it’s going to be a family option.” Gamboa feels that this Irish Cream cake backed with the brand recognition of Bailey’s will make it a holiday favourite. Jessica Pastries will be offering Bailey’s Yule log cakes this year. “People are getting very, very interested in Bailey’s-flavoured cakes,” adds Gamboa.”

In preparation for the nation’s re-opening of businesses, and to keep their product line in-the forefront of the minds of their clients, Gamboa is on top of current flavour trends. To keep their factory ready for summertime celebrations, there are red and white cakes for Canada Day flavoured with raspberry, and cakes that appeal to anyone who wants a cake to soothe quarantine-riddled nerves. “The vegan cakes are very strong with social media. We sell over 10, 000 units by Christmas.”

The brand is adding plant-based and vegan options to their line of cakes, though Gamboa admits creating a vegan option for their fruit flavoured line presents a challenge. The company has noticed that there is an increase in request for vegan cakes for younger consumers, and Jessica Pastries has created a private label line for that demographic. “It’s called, Vegan But Not Boring!” laughs Gamboa. (In French it’s called “Végane Mais Pas Plate!”)

The plant-based movement is gaining ground, noticed Gamboa, and the company is ready to provide holiday and luxury cakes to meet client demand. This presents another revenue stream which helps keep the factory running during these economically challenged times.

Gamboa notes that the summertime favourite is the same as last year: Passionfruit Coconut. “This summer it’s also popular again: it’s still passionfruit coconut. Another favourite is the raspberry mascarpone cake.” Gamboa adds that within the next four or five months the company is going to start providing these cakes to Sobeys. “We also sell to Ottawa, to Farm Boy supermarkets and Longo’s in Toronto,” she adds.

Bakers Journal asked if more plant-based options would be available in the next year on account of their consumer research. Despite it revealing this growing demographic, Gamboa replied, the company is not yet ready for that change. “But for next year, why not? I’m going to talk to the chef. With vegan options, it’s very complicated…for example, our Christmas vegan cake is a chocolate vegan log in hazelnut. Yes, it was a challenge, but it’s not as hard as a fruit flavoured vegan option. With chocolate, it’s easier because of the texture of the chocolate.” Gamboa addes that the fruit presents some difficulty in achieving a uniform but pleasing mouth-feel. “For vegan cakes, dark chocolate is a good ingredient – with vegan cakes you can not use eggs or milk, which we usually use in the pastry.”

“Here in Quebec, we are the first supplier for Sobeys … it’s a very successful business model for all Sobeys bakeries in other provinces. However, the problem is that ‘favourite flavours’ are not the same everywhere. For example, here, in Quebec, hazelnut is very popular, it’s our best seller, but in Toronto it’s more about fruit flavours. Unfortunately, we cannot a have a uniform flavour profile for all of Canada.”

The company experiences the age-old dilemma of providing ‘tried-and-true’ traditional favourites while still finding edgy, up-to-the minute trends, or at the very least, finding a unique flavour profile with international flair. “I will say the challenge is that it doesn’t matter what is trending on Pinterest, or what is trendy in Europe. Unfortunately, the buyers for the supermarket – more so in the U.S. than in Canada – are not ready to try these types of cakes. They will say, ‘I’ve already tried it – my clients like the four or five flavours that they are used to.’ They love it, but it won’t sell, and supermarkets need volume.”

Gamboa adds that they still test more unique flavours out with smaller markets, like cafés where they tested a honey-sesame cake and a matcha cake with success. She adds that buyers are more likely to be swayed with a new flavour if it is endorsed by an influencer or a local celebrity with some pull. “It helps if there’s a name or a face attached to the brand that they can trust,” suggests Gamboa.

Jessica Pastries plans to expand into the rest of Canada with their cakes, and the gateway to other provinces’ hearts lies with finding a favourite flavour. “With the Bailey’s cakes, we have the opportunity this year to be in all in Sobeys national stores, for all of the western provinces, the Atlantic and Maritimes, too: It is the only cake that is approved, across the board.”