Supermarket wedding cakes have come into their own this summer, with some retailers ringing up record sales.
The economy, increased attendance — both by retailers and consumers — at bridal shows, and the diminishing number of stand-alone bakeries all play into more sales.
Most important is the public’s growing awareness that supermarkets can produce a high-quality cake at an affordable price, retailers said.
In fact, earlier this summer a Wall Street Journal story highlighted growing consumer interest in wedding cakes at Publix Super Markets and Supervalu’s in-store bakeries, likely helping raise the profile of supermarket wedding cake offerings even more.
Still, retailers said they are looking for ways to sharpen this growing awareness.
“We’re working in various ways to promote our wedding cakes — word of mouth, in-store information and bridal shows,” Mike Siemienas, spokesman of Minneapolis-based Supervalu, told SN. “There are a lot of services supermarkets offer that consumers are becoming aware of. Recently bridal shows have been better attended, and people are pleasantly surprised to find us there.”
Supervalu banners that offer wedding cakes include Acme, Albertsons and Farm Fresh.
SN Photo Gallery: Cake of Love: Wedding Cakes Sales Grow
Bridal shows are the way to go, said Patty Smith, one of the managers at Hank’s Thriftway’s Perfection Bakery in Hillsboro, Ore.
“We reach more than 7,000 people through bridal shows in Portland. That’s the only advertising we do,” Smith said.
Stand-alone bakeries are few and far between in her area, and she said people are glad to see Hank’s bakery represented at the bridal shows.
Hank’s also draws customers with its unusual wedding cake offerings.
“We have standard designs that are popular but we’ve made some really unusual cakes that we show off. One was made to look like a stack of books, starting with the Bible, and then the bride and groom’s favorite books stacked next, all done in blue fondant,” Smith said.
Another eye-catcher was one called Topsy Turvy that looked like it was about to fall over. Smith has a collection of professionally taken photos she shows customers.
She gets them at no cost because she tells customers that if they get their wedding photographer to take a photo of their cake and send it to her, the bakery will give them a free first-anniversary cake. “As a result, we have beautiful pictures to show.”
Smith said the bakery’s wedding cake sales have grown gradually over the last seven years, with sales to date up 3% from the same period last year.
Supervalu stores have a standard set of designs, but they can all be customized, Siemienas pointed out.
“Our Farm Fresh stores, near Virginia Beach, get requests for all kinds of creative cakes, often for a beach wedding.”
Siemienas said the rise in supermarket wedding cake sales — which for Supervalu have been up 5% in each of the last two years — is fueled by a combination of “people being more careful with their dollars and still looking to have the wedding of their dreams.”
Supermarkets can offer a one-stop bridal-shopping experience, too. Floral is right there, some offer catering, and some put those together to promote a whole wedding package. Some, including an Albertsons in Las Vegas, have a wedding consultant on board.
Rouses Markets, Thibodeaux, La., posting a hefty, record-breaking, double-digit increase in year-to-date wedding cake sales, gives credit to a number of factors, but mostly to the chain’s newly acquired corner on the market.
Contributing to Rouses wedding cake sales are “the economy and TV, but also that other chains in our area don’t have a wedding cake program anymore,” Chaya Conrad, Rouses’ bakery director, said. “The fact that we still do custom work is a niche we fill in the market.”
Conrad said there’s been a huge shift in what customers want, as they see impressive cakes on TV’s “Cake Boss” and custom designs online. Rouses’ decorators this year for the first time began working with fondant, which is growing in popularity.
Word-of-mouth advertising has worked well for Rouses, Conrad said.
Publix, Lakeland, Fla., long revered by customers for its baked goods, has been in the wedding cake business for decades, growing sales gradually, but has seen sales accelerate in the last three years, Maria Brous, Publix spokeswoman, said.
She, like other retailers, said television has played a major role.
“The Food Network and other TV shows geared around bakery offerings have left couples looking for customized options at a more reasonable price point,” Brous said.
“In addition [to wedding cake sales], we’ve seen decadent dessert sales up … as brides and grooms try to customize their wedding with less traditional cakes and more unique creations, including dessert bars, mini cakes as table centerpieces, cupcake wedding cakes, etc,” Brous said.
It’s no big surprise that Marketplace Food & Drug in Minot, N.D., would see continuing growth in wedding cakes because the store is known for its cakes.
It has had such a booming cake business that it has a cake department separate from the rest of the in-store bakery.
“Our wedding cake business, along with the rest of our cake business, just keeps growing,” Joyce Tudahl, assistant cake department manager, told SN.
“We’ve done some extravagant wedding cakes recently. We just did a four-tier with one layer of orange fondant and the rest of the layers in black and red marbled fondant. The couple had seen it on the Internet.”
Groom’s cakes are coming into fashion all over, too, industry sources said. Once just particular to the South, the idea has spread.
Some of Supervalu’s stores make groom’s cakes, and, not surprisingly, Rouses Markets turns out a lot of them in shapes of everything from alligators to motorcycles.
One industry source said it doesn’t surprise him that young people are buying their wedding cakes at supermarkets.
“They didn’t grow up in a time when there was a stand-alone bakery on the corner. It’s not unusual to them to buy their wedding cake at a supermarket.”
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