How Are Food Trends Faring? |

How Are Food Trends Faring?

When economic times are good, most people don’t think twice about laying down a five-dollar bill for a warm, fluffy cupcake or cool cup of yogurt. And over the last two years, indeed, cupcake stores and tangy frozen yogurt have been two of the hottest food trends—with specialty bakeries and shiny soft-serve storefronts opening from coast to coast. At Pinkberry or Magnolia, it wasn’t unusual to see a line stretching out the door. But will customers start to think twice before shelling out for a snack?

Six months ago, Pinkberry and its closest competitor, Red Mango, seemed to be opening a shop on every New York and Southern California block. Their tart frozen yogurt, with fresh fruit and sweet toppings, drew yogurt-crazed hordes and spawned numerous imitators. But the seemingly unstoppable chains have been slowing down—Pinkberry’s openings have been fewer and farther between, and Red Mango closed four stores in January. It also introduced an incentive program—letting repeat customers earn points towards future purchases—while Pinkberry gave away free toppings on cold New York winter days. While both chains still have a loyal following, their lines have shrunk, and business slowed, in the wake of the current economic downturn.

But what about the cupcake? Equally trendy, high-design, and nutritionally worthless, the cupcake has been another rampant craze—starting with New York designer cupcake store Magnolia, soon triggering dozens of New York imitators, and leading to pink-painted bakeries from coast to coast and beyond. Cities from Provo to Beirut now have their own cupcake stores. And despite the recession, the cupcake trend shows no sign of slowing. Magnolia’s lines are as long as ever and chains like Sprinkles Cupcakes and Crumbs Bakeshop continue to spread. According to cupcake shop owner Faulkner Brown in a recent interview, cupcakes help her customers to step outside their current worries, and business has never been better. “Sure, maybe no vacation to Hawaii, but they’ll pay $2.25 for a cupcake.”

Which is good news for bakers around the country.


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