New products and packaging have caught the attention of younger consumers and snackers who want to have their cake and eat it ­ now! I f there's one word that sums up the direction of the cake market it is snacking. Virtually all the main players are investing in new snack cake formats of one sort or another which they see as the way to reinvigorate the market and bring new users to the category. McVitie's Cake Company md Garry Biggs explains: "The cake market is huge at £800m, but it's flat at 1% growth, with some of the traditional sectors like Swiss rolls in serious fall. "This is because consumer lifestyles and tastes have changed so much. The traditional teatime cake association is no longer strong. Consumers, particularly younger ones, want products that are relevant and modern, which is why new formats and packaging are being developed to create new usage occasions." These have struck the right chord with consumers, Biggs says, for the eat now' sector is worth £120m and, with growth in double digit figures, he predicts it will soon top £200m. McVitie's is at the forefront of developing this sector with its Baked Snacks to Go, an umbrella range of 10 individually wrapped single muffins and brownies introduced a year ago. The bestsellers are M&Ms Brownie, Jaffa Cakes Muffin and Choc Chip Muffin, while Galaxy Muffin launched in May has already reached the number one position in several national forecourt retail chains. This summer flapjacks, one of the best performing eat now' products, joined the snack range. Biggs says the main market is out of home lunchtime consumption where snack cakes provide a sweet sign off' for sandwiches. "Unlike confectionery, cake has the advantage of being seen as wholesome, which fits in with the consumer trend for lighter, more wholesome snacks, and opens up more eating occasions." The wholesome association has worked wonders for cake bars which have been successful in opening up the lunchbox market for cake. Around 60% of cake bars go into lunchboxes, according to Biggs, who expects the £55m sector, now enjoying 7% y-o-y growth, to maintain a strong performance. Out of McVitie's large portfolio, the Jaffa Cake bar is its bestseller, while the newest is Go Ahead! Chocolate & Orange. Manor Bakeries regards snack cake as one of the fastest growing and profitable categories, hence the introduction of its 10 strong Cake2Go range a year ago that includes muffins, flapjacks, chocolate rolls and cake bars based on its Mr Kipling and Cadbury brands. With sales of Cake2Go growing 96% y-o-y, it took a further step into snacking this August with the relaunch of Mr Kipling Fruit Pies in individual resealable pots in six-pack format. Category development director Will Shaw says the new format makes the pies more portable, significantly increasing their usage occasions by enabling consumers to put single pots in lunchboxes and eat them conveniently out of home. "It's our first step in making Mr Kipling more available," says Shaw, "and we're now looking at ways of moving the rest of the brand into portable formats." Veteran of this market is the Fabulous Bakin' Boys which pioneered cake snacks with its American style wrapped muffins introduced over a decade ago. Md Gary Frank says muffin sales are up 15% over the year, while sales of Lunch Box Cup Cakes introduced in 2000 have more than doubled following the brand's recent repackaging in a six-for-99p pack format. "Next year Lunch Box has a £250,000 licensing and promotional tie up with Ice Age, an animated family movie due for release at Easter. We'll be introducing movie-licensed iced cakes and cake bars," says Frank. It has just launched chocolate and strawberry Chewys for lunchboxes at six for 99p, a low fat Crispy bar and reduced fat flapjacks which are now in Tesco Express. Nestlé has taken its first step into this burgeoning market with three muffins, based on its Rolo, Yorkie and Rowntree brands, introduced in August. At rsp £1.49 for a four-pack, the muffins are only available in the major multiples at the moment. Best known for its ambient whole cakes, Entenmann's is the latest entrant to the snack market with a new range of premium café style 100g muffins at rsp £1.69 for a four-pack introduced this month which it is looking to distribute in impulse and convenience outlets. Marketing director Matt Starbuck says the muffins are one of several developments in the past 18 months designed to branch into new eating occasions. Last year it successfully moved into own label dominated chilled cakes, providing a brand alternative to Cadbury's, and has developed a £4m business. Like the other big players in whole and small cakes, Entenmann's believes this market still has plenty of mileage, provided it gets investment. Entenmann's efforts in the last year include a new range of limited edition cakes to provide the variety consumers seek, and exclusive permanent lines for retailers. "Tesco has toffee pecan Danish twist, for example, which provides them with a point of difference," says Starbuck. This month it is launching a range of everyday celebration cakes at rsp £2.99 for the party season. It has also invested heavily in marketing support with a national field sales team calling on 1,300 stores a week to ensure Entenmann's products are merchandised as specified and to sort out stock problems. These combined activities have resulted in a total brand growth of 41%, says Starbuck. Other manufacturers have made strides in reinvigorating the category. McVitie's has launched extensions to its Homebake range and run promotions on its Jamaica Ginger, which it says is the biggest seller in the whole cake market. Manor Bakeries spent £20m earlier this year relaunching Mr Kipling with a new logo, packaging and TV advertising to give it a more contemporary image. It was also a major sponsor of Comic Relief 2001, with Mr Kipling Cherry Bakewells becoming Red Nose Cakes, achieving a record 19% volume uplift for the product. Manor Bakeries' Shaw says the relaunch has achieved its objective: "We're now seeing the category back in consistent growth." {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}