Adding that ‘something special’ to products to encourage consumers to indulge has featured within the new product development process with the addition of alcohol or alcohol flavour. The Product Intelligence (PI) team at Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association registered a wide range of products containing alcohol to the PI new products database. These included soups and sauces; ice creams and sorbets; desserts and dairy products; high class confectionery; gourmet ready meals or recipe dishes and, of course, cake and bakery products.

A study of the data revealed that new product developers were offering exciting, culinary creations, and within the sweet bakery and cakes sector, alcohol was used to transform a standard product in order to appeal to the luxury market, enabling them to:-

  • make the most of seasonal opportunities, the most obvious being Christmas.
  • use famous brand names to firmly position the product within the premium sector in order to increase sales and profit potential.
  • capitalise on increased consumer travel overseas and the heightened awareness of international and regional recipes that use alcohol.

Seasonal opportunities

Festivals like Christmas or the New Year celebrations lend themselves to luxurious seasonal products. In the sweet bakery sector, the ‘Luxury Mince Pie Selection’ from Marks & Spencer and the ‘Finest – Celebrate 2000 – Mince Pie Selection’ from Tesco both featured nuts and dried fruits laced with brandy and port.

‘Finest – Celebrate 2000 – Mince Pie Selection’ – Tesco

Cakes flavoured with seasonal ‘winter cheer’ were introduced, like the ‘Mulled Wine Fruit Cake’, bursting with spiced wine plump fruits’,  from ASDA or the ‘Luxury Mulled Wine Cake which was an all butter, rich and spicy fruit cake, laced with mulled wine and decorated with glazed oranges from Safeway.

The traditional recipe Christmas cake has always included alcohol to improve both the flavour and keeping quality. In order to encourage consumers to buy their ‘Luxury All Butter Brandy and Rum Fruit Cake’ ASDA promoted their Christmas cakes by offering consumers the opportunity to buy one pre-packaged slice in order to sample the flavour before purchasing the larger family sized version. As well as adding brandy and rum to the recipe for ASDA’s ‘Luxury Fruit Cake’, they also incorporated a bottle of miniature Port into their attractive golden packaging in order to appeal to the gift market.

‘Luxury Fruit Cake’ – Asda

Savoury finger buffet nibbles, taking full advantage of the party season, have been available for some time and the PI team are now seeing more sweet bakery and cakes entering this area. For example the ‘Bitesize Champagne Truffle Cakes’ from Sainsbury’s featured individual sponge cakes topped with a Champagne flavoured buttercream covered in real milk chocolate. ‘Champagne cocktails’ and ‘Bucks fizz’ were the inspiration for the Tesco  ‘Celebrate 2000 – Luxury Party Cakes’ which were sponge cakes with either champagne and orange flavoured filling or brandy and champagne flavoured filling, which were both covered in milk chocolate.


Branded and own label products use famous names to position products within certain sectors. Character branding using characters from the movies and the media is often used to promote children’s products and similarly, well known alcohol brands can promote products specifically designed for the adult market.

Whisky from Scotland and Ireland were used in a variety of different products. For example ‘Black Bush Finest Irish Whiskey®’ was used by Tesco for their ‘Whiskey Fruit Loaf’ and R. Mathieson & Sons used ‘Tobermory Single Malt Scotch Whisky®’ for their ‘Rich and Succulent Fruit Cake’

Popular liqueurs added a touch of indulgence to the ever evolving, popular, cake bars. ASDA produced ‘Orange Cake Bars with Tia Maria®’ which were coated with thick milk chocolate and filled with the coffee liqueur, chocolate and orange flavoured buttercream and decorated with white and milk chocolate petals.

‘Orange Cake Bars with Tia Maria®’ – Asda

Tia Maria® was used in the buttercream filling and the topping for Tesco’s ‘Finest – Celebrate 2000 – Mocha and Tia Maria® Gateau’.

The orange liqueur, Grand Marnier® and the cherry liqueur, Kirsch were used in the fillings of the luxury American style muffins by Tesco, which were both covered with chocolate.

International and regional recipes

As consumers increase their travel overseas for both work and pleasure, they experience very different taste sensations that many want to repeat when they return home. The sweet Italian dessert wine Marsala in combination with coffee was the inspiration for the filling of the ‘Tiramisu Sandwich Cake’ by J Battersby’s from their Crossroads range.

Stollen, the traditional Germanic festive cake was reduced in size to mini bite sized pieces by both ASDA and Somerfield and then dipped in either rum or brandy to add a little extra luxury. On a more traditional note The Authentic Bread Company used organic regional Herefordshire Cider for their cider cake.

This article has provided you with a brief overview of sweet bakery and cakes with the added value of alcohol. The information has been extracted from one of the ‘Category Reports’ published by CCFRA which contains a complete list of new branded and own label bakery products purchased from leading UK retailers during 1999. The report also contains a review of the key trends seen throughout all sectors and year on year comparative figures for new introductions in the bakery sector.

If you would like to be added to the mailing list in order to receive more details, or for information about the PI data base, please contact:

Daphne Llewellyn Davies
Tel: +44(0)1386 842040
Fax: +44(0)1386 842100