While some retailers have added new varieties and new decorating touches, the most common addition this year for most of the retailers is smaller cake sizes.
One bakery executive at a large Eastern chain said his company is about to add six-inch-round cakes to it repertoire.
Another Eastern chain, Acme Markets, based in Malvern, Pa., added 5-inch-round, double-layer, decorated cakes earlier this spring, according to an industry source in the Philadelphia market.
The chain ran a full-page ad in a local paper to tout the new cakes. Selling at $3.99 each, they were referred to as "cakes for all occasions." Officials at Acme, which has some 200 units, could not be reached for comment.
Steele's Markets, Fort Collins, Colo., has scaled down its cake sizes in the past year, said Barb Harner, director of bakery at the four-unit upscale operator. The retailer makes its own cakes at a central facility.
"We introduced six-inch rounds, which now are very popular. Families are getting smaller and some people just don't want a bigger cake because they say it will go to waste. So, with a smaller size, you get sales you probably wouldn't have had," Harner said.
The 96-unit Atlanta division of Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla., recently launched "a very strong half-cake program," according to Charlie Van Pelt, bakery-deli merchandiser. The layer cakes, often decorated, are packaged in half-dome containers, he said.
Some retailers SN talked to are offering one-eighth of a sheet and promoting that size for the first time. The half-cake idea was vetoed by some other merchandisers, however, mainly because they were concerned that customers would wonder if the other half had already been eaten by somebody else.
"I think a double-layer cake cut in half looks like it's already been to the party," said Dan Courser, vice president of perishables and bakery-deli director at six-unit Busch's Valu Land, Ann Arbor, Mich. "Instead of a half cake, we decided to decorate some single layers."
Steele's Harner shared that assessment of half cakes. "We tried half cakes unsuccessfully. The value perception just isn't there. I think people wonder if it's left over and you're cutting it up to get rid of it."
Harp's Food Stores, Springdale, Ark., has opted for decorating a single layer in order to offer less cake for those who want less. Dan Kallesen, bakery director at the 28-unit chain, added that he's also looking into adding a 5-inch round to the lineup.