Archive for the ‘Market Research’ Category

Making Fun Products

Monday, April 17th, 2017

The enhanced donut. (Image courtesy of Strange Donuts and Bake Magazine.)

Bake Magazine shows us a fun idea for new bakery offerings – incorporate colorful and familiar breakfast cereals to create your own unique products.

“Cereal adds a crunch to something sweet, and cereal flavors can be paired with dessert flavors to find scrumptious combinations. Additionally, they look visually appealing as many breakfast cereals have unique colors and designs. Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, Captain Crunch, Frosted Flakes, and Golden Grahams are just a few of the options at your disposal.”

Read the full story, Breakfast Cereal: The Prize on Sweets

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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New Year 2017!

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

It’s a new year, and quite a new one for those who live in the United States.

We started the new year off with a bakery tour at the Danish Pastry House near Boston and Tufts University. We arrived early, while they were setting up, and thoroughly examined the pastry cases.








I was quite surprised to see these tarts dusted with gold glitter.


We placed our order

with a box for home.

We took our coffee and a Kringle brioche to the seating area.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Visiting retail bakeries is a pleasant way to do market research and develop ideas for new products.

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Thinking Outside the Dinner Kit, part two

Friday, April 15th, 2016

In the last post we talked about mail order meals. The concept is a combination of take-out and delivery updated for the lifestyle and income of a market segment. As Hello Fresh explains, “We do it all for you; from creating the recipes and planning the meals, to grocery shopping and even delivering all of the pre-measured ingredients right to your door!”

Meals in a box is not a new idea. Many eateries have had it on the menu as boxed lunches. My bakery & café sold these very popular items for business meetings. We also delivered individual boxes during lunch time so workaholics didn’t have to leave the office. Over time, our boxed lunches expanded to include breakfast and dinner take-out.


For hometown businesses that would like to capture some of this business, the concept can be adapted to your local customers and economy. If your cottage food law regulations allow, this meal delivery idea is truly home-made, local, and super fresh. And less work, since the customer will put together their sandwich from your ingredients. Everyone wins!

Other mealtime options: Some businesses send meal delivery to office buildings. Sourdough Stacy, a small hometown business, made sandwiches on fresh homemade sourdough bread. She piled the sandwiches in a large basket along with cookies and brownies, and made the rounds in a few office buildings. People knew when she would be there; they could order ahead or pick from what she brought that day.

Another meal delivery idea is catering to market segments, such as kids’ lunches for busy parents. In a local Arlington Massachusetts newspaper, Lisa Farrell, owner of Red Apple Lunch said, “There is this whole idea around kids and food and that having healthy food is so important to them. But it’s not easy to get healthy options, especially having parents invested in their careers and family. It’s hard to make it all meet.”

Home-Based Baking at its Best! With thought and creativity, and a good business plan, some of these concepts may work for you.

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Thinking Outside the (Mail Order Dinner Kit) Box

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Next week we’ll talk about adapting this concept to your local area.

Have you seen the current food rage? Meal kits in a box, delivered to your door from far off businesses with names such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Green Blender, and Peach Dish.

Now that we have this mailed-to-your-door convenience, why should anyone bother thinking about a menu, making a shopping list, trudging to the store, fighting the crowds, dragging groceries back home, then prepping a meal – all this before we even eat? And then we have to clean up when we’re finished! Makes no sense, right? Especially when we now have this meal-in-a-box alternative.

Why bother shopping and preparing your meals when there's a new easier way to plan, purchase, and fix dinner?

For those of you who haven’t seen the latest fad in food preparation, here’s an article from the New York Times,   It’s Dinner in a Box. But Are Meal Delivery Kits Cooking?

“Some analysts say meal kits show classic signs of a bubble that may already be leaking air. They [analysts] make comparisons to the rise and fall of the grocery delivery service Webvan in the first wave of the tech boom, or meal assembly storefronts, where cooks pick recipes online and then show up to put together what are essentially fancy casseroles from precut ingredients. Such companies once opened at a rate of 40 a month in the early 2000s but have faded from view.”

Sometimes odd or unusual ideas take hold and turn from fad to long-term trend. It’s definitely too early for us to know. The Times article goes on to talk about past “new” innovations (frozen foods, microwaves, bagged lettuce) that initially appeared as fads but have become solid parts of our culture. With this new business idea, we’ll have to wait and see.

Overall, the meal kit delivery venture has received some good press. But positive press or not, my first concern is with the PR spin from respected, outspoken chefs and authors who are promoting this new business model. They might be more interested in encouraging the trend because of their own business possibilities, than with the long-term impact mail order meals have on our lifestyle and communities.

If you’re interested in this concept, think it through and document ideas in your business plan. Think about the cost for putting together this kind of venture. Who is your target market for buying mail-order meal kits? Think about the competition. It’s not just from businesses already in the game (plus new ones that will appear soon), it’s also the businesses adversely affected – businesses such as take-out shops and local supermarkets that will come up with their own in-store response to easy meals.

For businesses like yours: with a commitment to buying local, supporting other home-town businesses and local farmers; keeping a small footprint; and avoiding too much packaging; there can be ways for you to create a local version of meal delivery.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Next week we’ll talk about some innovative ideas for creating your own meal delivery business.

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National Cookie Day

Friday, December 4th, 2015

Just in time for the holidays! Today, December 4, is National Cookie Day. If you haven’t already planned out your holiday trays, start thinking about it now.

Use basic cookies

and colorful holiday designs.

Your customers will appreciate purchasing tasty and memorable holiday gifts.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Don’t forget your market research. This is a great time to look around at all the new products on the market.

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Bakery Tour, Clear Flour Bread

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

Yesterday was overcast and chilly, a harbinger of things to come. We bundled up and headed to Clear Flour Bread in Brookline, MA, a residential neighborhood near Boston. We hated the traffic, but had heard too many great things about this bakery to stay away.


We bought the cute flower loaf, a cinnamon oat bread, and several pastries.

Production area is directly behind the very small retail space.


Customer service was exceptional.

Home-Based Baking at it’s Best! Visit bakeries often. Market research is the best part of owning a baking business. You never know what can inspire you!

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Bakery Tour: Importance of Customer Service

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

On a chilly fall morning, we set off for two bakeries in West Concord, MA.

First stop, Nashoba Brook Bakery. There was a huge construction area in front of Nashoba so the shop and parking lot were not visible from the street. I parked several blocks away and had to ask directions; it surprised me there was no sign to direct customers to the front door. Although a good share of their business is wholesale, a sign would have been a nice gesture for their retail business.

Hidden entrance to Nashoba Brook Bakery.

Inside the entrance is a large window where customers can look down on the production area.

I visited this bakery five years ago and loved it. There are several display cases, self-service displays, and numerous tables and chairs.

During my last visit the counter clerk had been a bubbly gem who answered questions and dutifully promoted their products.

This morning, however, although it wasn’t very busy, service was quite different. Three counter clerks were chatting with each other about personal issues and ignored customers. I stood in front of the cases for five minutes and none of the clerks acknowledged me. I stood under the sign for customer service, but still nothing. I made eye contact with two of them but they chose to ignore me.

My granddaughter had picked out the family treats and still, no one came to greet us.

Eventually, I interrupted their conversation to ask for service. We got a box for home, a loaf of bread, and a Morning Glory muffin to share.

Our not-so-delicious muffin. It was very dry (either overbaked or day old) with a strong chemical taste from too much baking soda. We ate some, and threw away the rest.

Next, we walked down the quaint and lovely main street to Concord Teacakes.

Concord Teacakes

It was fairly quiet inside, with only two customers at the tables. But business seemed good with a slow steady stream of customers, mostly moms with young kids.

In the display cases there were only a few cakes that looked as if they’d been there a while.

But we saw a lot of attractive, colorful cupcakes in different sizes.

And many large decorated cookies throughout the store - on trays in the display cases and individually wrapped, set in baskets around the shop.

This store clearly knew their customer: children! Concord Teacakes is located in a small neighborhood community and clearly understands that children have a central role in purchasing baked goods. My grandaughter picked out an Elmo cupcake for after lunch, and we split a bagel while sitting at a table.

But the customer service was simply okay, nothing remarkable, no smiles, no friendliness. The clerks just moved on to the next customer.

Elmo was a ring that kids could keep long after the cupcake was gone. Nice!

Think about your own customer service. At both bakeries, the lack of good customer service really impacted our experience. Shoppers will remember how they were treated, long after they remember if they liked your products.

And do your market research. Who are your target customers? Concord Teacakes, located in a small family-oriented community, clearly understands that children have a central role in purchasing baked goods.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! We can learn a lot by visiting other bakeries. Do your market research and think about your customer service.

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Bakery Tour, La Cascia’s Bakery & Deli

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Congratulations, 35 years in business! Wonderful products, terrific customer service. I can see why they are still thriving.

I’m in love!! I visited La Cascia’s Bakery & Deli in Burlington, MA. This excellent bakery, located in a small shopping strip off a neighborhood road, has a deceptively unawesome storefront. But wow! A real Italian bakery with high standards for their products and their customer service.


La Cascia's has a long refrigerated case

and a shorter dry case for butter cookies.

The display trays were clean, neat, and beckoning. Everything looked delicious.

Fresh breads and rolls are on shelves behind the counter.

Clockwise from bottom left: carrot cake, walnut sweetbun, blueberry pocket, lemon mini-pocket, almond paste cookies.

My only disappointment was not finding product signs or prices. But the sales clerks were cheerful, friendly, and knowledgable – the best customer service I’ve had in a long time.

If you live anywhere near this old-fashioned scratch bakery, please stop by. I highly (highly) recommend the almond cookie varieties.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Visiting bakeries for product ideas is part of your market research. Enjoy this aspect of running a business!

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Cookies! Do You Make Cookies?

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Variations of the same basic sugar cookie recipe.

October is National Cookie Month. Regardless of what you think about national food holidays, from a marketing standpoint it’s always smart to take advantage of anything that promotes your products.

A few of the best-selling cookies: chocolate chip, sugar, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, snickerdoodle, shortbread, and brownie cookies. When deciding the type and flavor of cookies, keep in mind some practical issues such as shelf life, packaging, storage, and handling.

Chocolate chip cookies, always a winner.

I suggest you keep a few basic flavors in your repertoire, then rotate other flavor(s) weekly or monthly. Have at least one cookie that is non-dairy and can be eaten by vegans. Be aware of your market. Sizing can vary depending upon venue – make large handheld cookies or small ones sold in packages. And having too many similar varieties (chocolate chip and chocolate chip with walnuts, for instance) can be counter-productive. You don’t have to make both; unless you’re selling at a very busy marketplace, customers may buy one or the other which leaves you with unsold cookies.

Think about your current recipes and how they can be adapted for change.

Sugar cookies sandwiched together with jam and dipped in chocolate and sprinkles.

Double chocolate cookies. Instead of adding chocolate chips to the recipe, these have chips melted and added as a topping.

Raisins and walnuts added to a basic sugar cookie recipe. Cranberries or other dried fruits are good alternatives.

Think twice before following business advice from unreliable experts. Selling Homemade Cookies: Tip #2

“Any burnt cookies should not be sold.  You can throw them away, eat them with your family, or give them away as free samples. You could also donate them to a food bank or food collection if you are into helping people. Plus, then you can say that you donate food. It’s a good advertising campaign.”

Yup, it’s a good advertising campaign if you want to be known for burned cookies.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! For National Cookie Month, be prepared with signs. If you have a home-based food business, this is the perfect opportunity to highlight that your cookies are all-scratch and homemade, not “home-style.”

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Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

On the road again, see you all soon!

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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