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Ready, Set, Bake!

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Nov 11, 2021

Consumer trends on the Instacart marketplace can act as a good barometer for the growing online grocery segment. In fact, with Instacart available to over 85% of households in the US and 80% in Canada, partnering with more than 600 retailers to deliver groceries across more than 5,500 cities in North America, these trends can be indicative of broad grocery consumer trends, wherever the purchases are made.

The Instacart Ads team produces these insights articles to inform and educate the industry on the interesting trends and insights gleaned from our aggregated and anonymized data source. These high-level looks into specific product categories and seasonal topics are also a way to ‘set out our stall’ and highlight the kinds of insights available to brands that partner with us. 

With the holiday season approaching — and the return of pumpkin-spice-everything reminding us constantly of pumpkin pies — we wanted to take a look at the sales of baking supplies on the Instacart marketplace. So dust off your aprons and grab your rolling pin, we’re looking into the baking super categories. 

’Tis the season — Baking sales in Q4

Given how often pie shows up at Thanksgiving dinner and shortbread and gingerbread cookies make an appearance over Christmas, we expected baking supply sales to be big during Q4. And it was! Consumers buy more baking supplies in Q4 than in any other quarter. 

In fact, last year 37% of baking sales occurred in Q4! For the purposes of this article, ‘baking’ means the aggregate of the following super categories— Baking Mixes, Baking Staples, Baking Supplies, Dough & Batter Products.

*Baking = Baking Mixes, Baking Staples, Baking Supplies, Dough & Batter Products Super Categories  

And while during the pandemic everyone seemed to be taking up baking, the sales growth in Q4 wasn’t limited to 2020. We looked back at baking sales over the last three years, comparing Q4 sales to Q3 sales, and found an average increase of 71% quarter-over-quarter. 

Consumers are very occu-pied in November

Americans like their pies. Especially pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving— around 50 million pumpkin pies are consumed each Thanksgiving, according to one source. In a survey conducted by YouGov Direct, 35% of the respondents who celebrated Thanksgiving named pumpkin pie as their favorite with pecan in second place with 16%. That same survey found 37% of Thanksgiving pies were made from scratch.

With that many pies being consumed, and over a third made from scratch, we expected to see an impact on baking sales. Here’s what we found— 

Looking at sales growth in the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, there were many baking categories with triple-digit growth. Of the top growing baking categories, four were pie-related. Nuts, pie filling, pie crust, and baking crumbs all grew over 100% with pie crust growing close to 350%.

Another sign that consumers shopping from their favorite grocery retailers on the Instacart marketplace are digging pies during November is all the searches they’re performing. We took a look at which baking search terms grew the most week-over-week (WoW) and found eight of the top 15 terms included the word ‘pie’ and five more were pie ingredients or just relatively pie-related (pecans kirkland, chopped pecans, pecans halves, libbys pumpkin, and cool whip). 

Baking doesn’t just happen

An interesting aspect of all the data we have on baking sales on the Instacart marketplace was how far in advance of each holiday consumers were preparing. We can see for the two biggest baking holidays — Thanksgiving and Christmas — the spike in sales occurs before the week of the holiday— 

There was an 80% increase in baking sales and a 106% growth in the Baking Staples super category in the two weeks approaching Thanksgiving. While in the two weeks approaching Christmas, baking sales saw a further 50% growth and 88% in the Baking Supplies super category.  

Similarly, we see searches for baking spike for Thanksgiving and Christmas; The week before Thanksgiving (11/15/20) we saw a 2.2x increase in baking searches vs the previous 52-week period and a 2.4x increase in baking searches during the week before Christmas (12/13/20) a 2.4x increase in baking searches vs the previous 52-week average.

Graphing the search themes, the spike before these two holidays is quite apparent— 

This type of foresight is not always the case in the consumer trends we see on the marketplace. As our recent article on wine trends pointed out, sparkling wine has its largest day in volume on New Year’s Eve, and it’s second-largest day in volume the day before. 

New year, new… cake?

Speaking of New Year’s Eve, one of the more surprising (at least to us!) insights we discovered in our deep-dive into baking sales on the Instacart marketplace was a big spike in sales around New Year’s for a particular baking supply product. Did profiteroles become the must-have NYE party staple when we weren’t looking? Is it not a party without sourdough?

Maybe. But what we actually found in the data was a notable sales growth for… gelatin mix. Jello shots anyone? Last year, gelatin mix sales grew 48% day-over-day (DoD) on Monday, December 28th, the first weekday before NYE. To put that into perspective, the largest DoD sales growth we saw on the 23rd last year, the last weekday before Christmas Eve, was for pie crust, which grew 28% DoD.

More insights on any category

If you’re interested in learning more about how consumers shop online in categories relevant to your business, consider partnering with us

Instacart

Instacart

Instacart is the leading online grocery platform in North America, partnering with more than 700 beloved national, regional and local retailers, including unique brand names, to deliver from more than 65,000 stores across more than 5,500 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

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