Bakers Journal

Romantic Cravings

November 7, 2007
By Michelle Brisebois

It’s never too late for love, according to marketer Michelle Brisebois.

heartsIn the movie Chocolat, actress Juliette Binoche opened a patisserie and turned an uptight French town into a romantic hotbed.  The delicacies she concocted were a metaphor for the passionate yearnings of the other characters. The more they indulged in her sweets, the more the townspeople embraced their wild side.  In the same way, baked goods have always played an important role in our courtships, and with Valentine’s Day upon us, it’s worth taking a good look at how the bakery industry can play Cupid for consumers. 
Named for a Roman Catholic priest who was beheaded for marrying young lovers against the wishes of a general who preferred his warriors unattached — Valentine’s Day is celebrated with gusto in North America.  It’s a particularly important date for the baked goods sector because sweets are a traditional means of expressing one’s affection. However, it’s not just for lovers anymore – and herein lies huge opportunities for the Bakery industry.

A survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF) entitled, “2006 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey,” reported the average consumer planned to spend $100.89 US on Valentine’s Day. Most people do observe Valentine's Day, with 60.9 per cent of consumers planning to celebrate the holiday. Men are the biggest spenders on Valentine’s, with the average male spending a total of $135.67. The figure clearly illustrates that the pressure is still on the males to come to the table with displays of affection — almost twice what females will spend.  Fewer men are buying flowers, and more are buying jewelry for their sweetie.  Best of all, chocolate and candy remain popular Valentine’s gifts. According to the NRF, they account for 32 per cent of all gifts on February 14.   In fact, Valentine’s Day is the single biggest day of the year for chocolate sales.

The National Confectioners Assoc-iation asked consumers what type of candy they preferred on Valentine’s Day, and found some interesting gender differences.  Both men and women chose chocolate as their preferred gift, but men cited specialty chocolates, such as truffles, in first place, while women mentioned milk chocolate as the sweet they’d like to receive.  Both men and women chose in front of a fireplace or after a nice dinner on February 14 as the sexiest place to receive the chocolate.


Lisa Bunting, co-owner of Sweet Rage in St. Catharines, Ont., definitely sees more men revelling in the lure of the sweet treat.  “One of the biggest surprises for me has been to see that our customer base is only slightly skewed towards females,” says Bunting.  “Men definitely love  good quality baked goods.”

Valentine’s Day isn’t just for lovers, as the survey also revealed that 84 per cent of Canadians plan to give a Valentine’s Day gift to their significant other, and treating other family members — including children — is also very popular, with 43 per cent of Canadians doing so.  In fact, 38 per cent of those Canadians who were not in a romantic relationship still planned on showering those they love with gifts. “We offered some cupcakes last Valentine’s Day that were iced in festive colours and packaged in a small Chinese take-out box,” says Lisa Bunting.  “They proved to be very popular for teacher’s gifts.”

The statistics illustrate that the first target should be men, ages 25 to 45.  Chances are that a good number of these men will be scrambling at the last minute to arrange for a Valentine’s gift for their significant other.  Look at ways you can make it easy for them to get organized ahead of time, or react quickly at the last minute.  Consider sending out a postcard or electronic reminder (if you have permission-based, e-mail addresses).  A quirky message inviting guys to “Not Spend Valentine’s in the Doghouse Again” with a picture of a morose dog might just get them to pre-order, via phone or web.  You may also print a pre-order form on the postcard allowing the men to send in their e-mail or phone number to your shop for follow-up.  Offer to call them to confirm their credit card number on February 13, along with their personalized message for the enclosed gift card. 

Sweet Rage utilizes a “take the mountain to Mohammed” approach in targeting men.  “Last Valentine’s, we created a package that included chocolate covered strawberries, along with a bouquet of flowers we obtained by partnering with a local florist.  We drafted a flyer to promote the collection, and then teamed up with a lunch truck operator who visits local manufacturing companies.  This lunch truck is mostly frequented by men and the flyers were distributed a few weeks prior to February 14.  The men called us to order and we delivered the gifts to the recipients,” says Lisa Bunting.   

Valentine’s Day is that magical time when love is celebrated — be it self-love, romantic love or brotherly love.  Expand your definition of love and reach new markets.  Romance isn’t simply relegated to Valentine’s Day — it’s a year-round opportunity.  If you get in on the courtship, they may just invite your cakes to the wedding.

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 email at:

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