The smell of something freshly baked out the oven was a familiar sensory delight in the initial stages of lockdown.
People were finally trying their hands at making fresh breadand plenty of banana bread to mastering other cooking skills in the kitchen.
With some forms of normality returning a year since the pandemic, having extra time to do fun hobbies or spending hours baking are no more. The busy lives have returned, routines are slowly getting busier and making that special birthday cake or cupcakes for loved ones and friends can be time-consuming.
But a local startup has met the growing need for baking kits for any occasion. uBaked founded by passionate baker Carey-Anne Robson was already teaching pastry classes in 2019 when online classes were booming and also her baking business, Finchly Bespoke Bakes.
Realising she needed to adapt as quickly as possible due to the change in the market she noticed a gap for home bakers.
“To simplify the process by having premeasured ingredients because having experience baking through the whole process with my kids I understood how fussy and difficult it would be. This would be a great idea for people who want to bake but not confident enough to do so.
“You can make a cake that looks like you bought it from a bakery, you can personalise it your way, all for under R300.”
The concept of the brand developed during the hard lockdown when companies such as baking businesses were most affected.
The kits are pre-measured ingredients of recipes, which include flour, chocolate, baking powder and a detailed recipe card. Other staple pantry ingredients, like eggs and butter are not included.
“I learned baking from first-hand experience, so what I have done is provide quite detailed documents that are downloadable links when you order. They give you an extra insight of what you can do to make the process easier with some special techniques.”
They started with four boxes of tea time treats (cookies) as well as desserts, bread and cinnamon rolls. Some of these techniques seem intimidating but the kits are quite streamlined and can be made by anybody wanting to bake, no matter what level you are. Robson says some of the recipes are 40 years old and very simple.
Opening a business in 2020 was daunting. Robson was honest in saying it has been slow to start. Having experience as a brand manager for luxury perfume brands, she wanted to sell at least 100 boxes a month.
“I still think we are living in quite a conservative market in terms of online ordering. People want to order from trusted brands. We have been forced to look at other channels for driving sales such as Takealot where you do a lot of volume. But it does mean it takes a lot out of your profit margin.”
The boxes are affordable, at around R200, maintaining the balance of a premium product at great value. They noticed that special kits for celebratory moments such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Easter do increase, at times selling out.
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uBaked is launching a celebration box soon. “It is going to have ingredients to make your own birthday cake or a celebration cake for a special occasion, ” she says. With the option of either a chocolate or vanilla cake, it can be made into a cake or cupcakes, with a variety of toppings to put on the cake.
The health-conscious era of the food industry is still very much influencing the market. Desserts are associated with decadence and sugar. Healthy eaters are requesting sweet treats that are less guilty, with fewer calories but still taste just as nice.
“Our chocolate cake is our top seller but I love making cinnamon rolls and I think they are better than Cinnabon in my opinion.”