Bakers Journal

Having Your Pastries…

December 5, 2007
By Michelle Brisebois

and Eating Them Too

11As a young student working with a dietician, I once referred to pastries as food that was fattening. My boss gently corrected my observation by pointing out that all foods are fattening – if you eat enough of them. Ten oranges, she continued, contain more calories than a slice of cake. Sweets need not be fattening – if you savour them in small amounts. How much more product could you sell if your customers weren't worried about getting fat? The good news is that with some targeted marketing strategies and consumer information, chances are your customers will respond to the
de-guilting of pastries.

The most accurate gauge concerning consumer trends on food consumption is often the bestseller list. It’s no secret that the top selling books the last few years have all been about low carbohydrate dieting. We’ve waited patiently while consumers tried the diet – most of them a few times – before concluding that it
wasn’t an effective way to lose and keep the weight off. That’s why the timing is perfect for the launch of the “undiet.” Enter Mireille Guilliano, CEO of a French champagne company and author of the bestselling book “French Women Don’t Get Fat.” In her book, she recommends bread, champagne, chocolate and romance as key ingredients to a balanced diet and lifestyle. This mantra has captured the attention of an overweight world tired of yo-yo diets.


In less than six months, well over 1-million copies of the book were printed, and it landed at the top of the best seller charts. The book has been translated into 28 languages and as of summer 2005, it still sits firmly on the New York Times bestseller list. The fact that this book has been such a success points to a consumer desire to incorporate some treats back into their diets and that’s good news for pastries. Here are a few ways that bakeries can tap into the “French Women Don’t Get Fat” positioning and encourage consumers to make such treats a regular part of their weekly routine.

Compare Calories
Many consumers consider a bagel with cream cheese or a muffin to be a healthier choice than a frosted donut or pastry. Depending on the size, a bagel with cream cheese easily contains more fat and calories than a standard glazed donut.

Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter reports that a plain bagel with cream cheese from a large donut chain contains 550 calories and 13.5 grams of saturated fat. The chocolate frosted donut, on the other hand, has just 200 calories and only 2 grams of saturated fat. Consider investing in some nutritional analysis of your products to be able to quote analytical results based on science. Consumers will likely be very surprised to find out that their “healthy” choices may not be helping their waistlines.

Smaller Portions
A major theme around the “French Paradox” (why French women don't get fat) is the belief that those who seem to control their weight, yet still consume pastries, value the quality of the product over the quantity. Have a small portion, savour it and then get on with your day. The theory behind this strategy is that we tend to overeat when we feel deprived so, don’t deprive yourself! This is definitely worth a second look because consumer trends are suggesting that smaller portions are making cash registers sing these days. The Washington Post reports that Balducci’s (formerly Sutton Place Gourmet) in the U.S. has seen their sales of mini-muffins and pastries zoom from five per cent of their sales to 40 per cent of their sales in just two years. Take a look at your product line and see which ones could be tested as mini portions. Smaller portions may also appeal to parents who are concerned about their children’s caloric intake.

Savour the Consumption
The quality-over-quantity approach to eating pastries recommends that one eat slowly to really savour and celebrate the taste of the food. Make consuming this treat a special experience. Look for ways as a retailer that you can enhance the romance of the purchase. Consider offering some small attractive pastry boxes with ribbons that will make the customer feel as though they’re buying a gift for themselves. Have in-store “tastings” as you develop new products to give customers a “sneak peek” at your latest creations. If space allows, offer a nice spot to sit and enjoy their purchase right on premise. Look at music to enhance the experience – perhaps some jazz or Parisian music might do the trick. We eat less but remember the sensation of the food more when we take our time. Anything you can do from a merchandising standpoint to help patrons slow down and savour your products will help them to eat less and remember how wonderful your pastries were. That should translate into repeat business.

France has one of the lowest obesity levels in Europe: 12 per cent of the population, compared with 23 per cent in Britain, the same for Canada, and 30 per cent in the U.S. It’s widely accepted that the French are able to enjoy baked goods (and keep their waistlines intact) by choosing small portions of fresh, quality bakery products and by eating them slowly. This, along with a naturally active lifestyle, allows them to truly relish all life has to offer. We in the food industry need to look closely at this trend – judging from book sales, consumer are telling us they believe that they can have their pastries and their waistlines too.

Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in helping companies grow their brands. Michelle can be reached at OnTrend Strategies by e-mail at:

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