Published this month, the report suggests that these three approaches could help companies sharpen their portfolios in order to better meet consumer desires. Overall, Mintel forecasts that sales of cakes and pies in US retail outlets, in-store bakeries and independent bakeries will reach almost $6bn by 2007. This represents a 15 percent increase since 2001 in current terms, but only a one percent increase in constant terms. The figure includes a significant surge in sales in 2004 with the release of a number of 'low carb' products, but sales flattened out again the following year. In fact, Mintel said that Simmons data show a significant decline in the household usage of snack cakes, down 10 percentage points between 2001 and 2006. In households with children, usage of snack cakes has dropped 15 percentage points since 2001. Cakes and Pies - US - October 2007 suggests that if manufacturers improve the nutritional profile of their products they will appeal to mothers looking for healthier options for their children, as well as to baby boomers, who are generally more health conscious. Healthier products could be lower sugar or all-natural varieties, as well as products made with whole grains and superfood ingredients, such as nuts and fruits that are high in antioxidants. According to Mintel's research, 63 percent of cake and pie eaters say they would like to see healthier options on the market. The remaining 37 percent say they believe "cakes are for indulging so there is no need for more healthy versions on the market". This highlights a second avenue of opportunity: the indulgent and gourmet market. According to Mintel, manufacturers could look to innovative packaging in order to attract adults to indulgent products, for example crush-proof containers with a fork for convenience and portability. "They could be positioned as a sophisticated and delicious pair for afternoon coffee or as a self-treat, much like Dove chocolate is positioned," said the report. The third suggestion put forward is the development of products with indulgent and unique flavors. Some 61 percent of cake/pie eaters that participated in a survey by Mintel said they would like to see more of these products with new and unusual flavors. "Consider the success of BC Bundt cakes (sales up 50 percent in FDM channels from 2004-06) after launching cakes with popular soda flavors (Dr. Pepper Cherry Vanilla, 7UP, Orange Crush, and Hawaiian Punch). Additionally, sales of Twinkles increased 20 percent in 2006, following the return of Twinkles with banana crème filling," stated Mintel. Other opportunities identified by the market researcher include special portion-control or 100-calorie pack products, in keeping with the latest trends for healthy eating. In addition, Mintel suggests an emerging market for cakes and pies specifically targeting men, as male consumers report enjoying cakes as much as women do. The US market for cake and pie products is currently led by three main players: Interstate Bakeries Corporation (IBC) and McKee Foods Corporation, which both maintain a 13.2 percent share of the market. George Weston Baking is the third largest supplier, with a 7.4 percent share of the market. IBC and McKee both saw sales decline from 2004-2006, and Mintel points out that these companies have "not offered much" in way of premium or healthy choices - although both firms recently launched 100-calorie packs. George Weston saw cake sales improve almost four percent since 2004, attributing its growth to its focus on premium products.