“One forward-looking trend is ethnically created or infused-type desserts,” says Darren Tristano, president of Technomic, who points to the growing use of Asian inspired flavors and products like Korean jelly. Monitor local menu trends to see which global flavors are likely to please core customers. At Union Square Donuts in Somerville, Massachusetts, the flaky texture of toasted coconut donuts hit a home run with customers. Meanwhile, guava donuts struck out at Federal Donuts in Philadelphia. “It’s a tropical fruit and not something that ever really caught on here,” says Pastry Chef Matt Fein. Test new flavors as limited-time offerings to hype up customers and hand out samples so they can try them without committing to a full donut.
Work with partners outside the industry. Downeast Cider House first approached Josh Danoff, co-founder of Union Square Donuts, about selling donuts in the craft cider producer’s taproom. Then Downeast asked Danoff to incorporate hard cider into a donut formula. Thus, the cranberry spice-glazed donut spiked with Downeast’s seasonal blend was born, and it’s among the bakery’s seasonal specials that have caught local media attention.
Employees understand how products are made, and they interact with customers every day. They know the business, which items are top sellers and what’ll resonate with regulars. Don’t let this knowledge go to waste; ask staff members for their input on new ideas and include them in new product research, brainstorming and testing. In the past, Danoff has kept a clipboard in the kitchen to catch any ideas that strike his staff. Bakeries can also hold annual competitions that put staffers’ best ideas head to head.