Let them eat cupcakes: Trend hits the region in a big way
Vanilla to red velvet, mini to jumbo — the cupcake craze is going strong in the Mohawk Valley, and for some, baking means big business.
Nationwide, cupcakes have been a hot item. Between 2006 and 2010, cupcake sales increased between 9 and 13 percent each year, according to the Perishables Group, a Chicago-based fresh food consulting firm.
“Cupcakes are thriving because they meet many current consumer hot buttons — indulgence, single-serve and convenience,” said Perishables Group spokeswoman Kelli Beckel. “They make cake an everyday eating occasion and allow shoppers to try new flavors.”
Locally, the confection has not only given rise to new specialty shops but also has increased the sales of established businesses.
Saving time and dough
The emergence of cupcakes began in 2008, around the time the economy started to struggle, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a food-industry consulting and research firm.
Sweet desserts are similar to alcohol in that sales tend to increase with difficult financial times, he said.
“It’s still an affordable luxury,” Tristano said.
In spite of a struggling economy, specialty stores continue to open.
Candies N Cupcakes on North Madison Street in Rome, owned by Liz Davis opened Halloween weekend and had its grand opening the first weekend of December.
Davis, 26, was working out of her home for two to three years, selling cupcakes at farmers markets and for special events, she said.
It wasn’t until she was approached by Rome Mayor James Brown that she thought about opening a retail location, Davis said.
The city’s small business program and a matching loan from the Small Business Administration helped to make her store a reality, Davis said.
“People are purchasing them for weddings, baby showers, birthday parties and holiday parties,” she said.
Davis said she already has several weddings scheduled for this summer.
Cupcakes here to stay
Celebrating its 56th year in business, Holland Farms in Yorkville always has sold cupcakes, but they were made to order, said co-owner Marolyn Wilson.
“Now, we’re putting them out every day,” she said. “We’re probably making four or five times more than we’ve ever made before.”
The trend started ramping up several years ago, Wilson said, but it didn’t hit the Mohawk Valley right away. There is no denying the popularity now.
Wilson said this year the bakery will dub January “Cupcake Month.”
The hand-held dessert is not just for kids anymore, with more exotic and adult flavors such as pina colada and mocha chocolate, Wilson said.
“People can take one home and feel as if they are really giving themselves a treat instead of having to buy a whole cake,” she said.
In many areas of the country, specifically in larger cities, the cupcake market has reached saturation, Tristano said, while other areas will continue to see the trend grow.
Mintel Group, a marketing research firm, also expects the fad to continue.
“I would anticipate we will see the cupcake trend continue to develop, with perhaps more options that are better for you … with products that are customizable and with continued flavor variations,” said Jennifer Ballard, public relations coordinator for Mintel.
Locally, independent stores might continue to crop up.
Sugar Babes Cupcakes, owned by Kelli Grimaldi-Vance and Terri Puleo-Donato, is expected to open on Genesee Street in New Hartford in January.
“It started out through a discussion over a glass of wine where we said, ‘Let’s do cupcakes,’” Puleo-Donato said. “The next week we baked for a friend and it just grew from there.”
The largest growth for the business has been in catering for corporate events, she said.
Sugar Babes has been operating by renting local kitchens, but after an entire year and increasing demand, they will open a storefront.
“We’re very excited because we know there’s definitely a need for it,” Puleo-Donato said. “It’s a fun food. It makes people smile.”