Just like other trends, food trends have natural peaks and then quickly fade away as the new fad comes into focus. The cupcake trend is no exception. It slowly grew from 1997 when Carrie Bradshaw introduced Magnolia Bakery and then exploded about ten years later. Now, after it has lasted a number of years, will it decline?
The Wall Street Journal has everyone thinking so. In April, the journal reported that Crumbs, a major New York based cupcakery, is in decline with sales dropping 22 percent. The journal’s report is on every food and news blog, and OC Weekly takes a look at the stats given by The Wall Street Journal, questioning whether or not the trend is in decline or this is just the effect of poor business management.
OC Weekly and other blogs consider it to be an effect of poor business on Crumbs part. On the Forbes website a journalist questioned Nick Setyan, a restaurant analyst. He told Forbes, “with Crumbs, their expansion strategy was too quick, disorganized and franchise-heavy.” It is a plausible theory, as Crumbs grew from one location to 67 locations within a a matter of ten years. Another problem noted is price. At $3.50 – $4.00, the justification for buying a cupcake that expensive is declining. It’s just not worth it anymore, and as Setyan told Forbes, “a cupcake can cost $4. You can still get a donut for 40 cents, and a cup of coffee.”
Another theory provided for the decline of the cupcake trend is that cupcakes can be baked at home. Why buy $4.00 cupcakes when you can buy them at home? On Eater.com, they asked a spokesperson for industry number crunchers Technomic why cupcakes are declining. The spokesperson was blunt, stating that “demand is flat. And quite frankly, people can bake cupcakes.” But some don’t agree with that argument since Faith Popcorn, a marketer who spoke to Forbes, “doesn’t see price as part of Crumbs’ problem, nor the ease of baking cupcakes (‘Eighty per cent of women work,’ she said. ‘Do you know any women who have time to bake?’). She cited market over-saturation, but also the contents of the average gourmet cupcake.”
Popcorn’s theory is that the average gourmet cupcake is extrememly unhealthy and in this health crazed time, society has realized it’s time to move on. She even notes that Carrie Bradshaw, the character that sparked the cupcake trend, would be gluten free and watching her weight today instead of eating cupcakes. According to Popcorn’s theory, health concerns (like diabetes) is more important.
So if fatty cupcakes are declining, what is going to take their place? Many people have guess that other sweets, like cake-pops or donuts will take the cupcake’s place. But if society is concerned with health issues, those other calorie packed sweets won’t be on the rise. Popcorn’s guess is juice bars.
In the Forbes article about the cupcake decline, it brings up that The Wall Street Journal also released a trend piece on the rise of the juice bar. “There’s this aura of health in juice,” Popcorn told Forbes. And it’s true, the acai berry has grown in the public’s eye as a super healthy, anti-oxidant rich berry that should be included in every healthy diet. It’s commonly found in juices and smoothies at Jamba Juice and other small juice bars, but it’s becoming a thing of it’s own. Acai bowls, which are smoothies packed with acai and other fruit and topped with fruit and granola, are becoming a trend of it’s own. In Orange County, there is the famous Bonzai Bowls, which has three locations in Southern California. There is another store (Acai Republic) in Tustin, CA that is similar to Bonzai Bowls with only one location but just as good acai bowls. Having been to both Bonzai Bowls and Acai Republic, I fully understand the juice craze. The acai bowls are packed with fruit but taste sweet. It doesn’t feel like I’m eating healthy food, but I don’t have the guilt that comes along with eating a donut or cupcake.
Unfortunately, acai bowls are expensive. While people may think $4.00 cupcakes are expensive, acai bowls top that. For a medium sized bowl, I pay anywhere from $8.00 – $9.00, and these bowls aren’t that big. I don’t know about you, but if I had to choose between an acai bowl and a cupcake completely based on price, I would choose a cupcake.
But whether or not cupcakes and acai bowls are fatty, healthy or expensive, both trends will still get business from me even if they are on the decline or the rise.