From bread to brownies, baked goods are favorite treats for people around the world. Statistics show that artisanal and gourmet baked goods occupied approximately 51% of the overall baked goods market in 2013, proving that when consumers go to the shelves, they want the highest quality (1).

To see what is driving these sales in the natural gourmet baked goods category, WholeFoods Magazine interviewed Laura Stanton, director of marketing at Dancing Deer Baking Company. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Dancing Deer offers all-natural and kosher cookies, cakes and brownies.

  Laura Stanton, Dancing Deer Baking Co.

WholeFoods: You have a wide variety of unique flavor offerings, like Molasses Clove Cookies and Deep Dark Gingerbread Cake. How did you come up with some of these more uncommon recipes?

Stanton: Our Molasses Clove Cookie and Deep Dark Gingerbread Cake were two of our original recipes and are still very popular today. They came from the grandmother of one of our founders, Suzanne Lombardi. Our company name, in fact, came from an antique store in Maine operated by Suzanne’s grandmother.

Our current master baker, Jennifer Shelley, has kept the Dancing Deer flavor tradition going with new introductions like our line of six Sweet and Savory Shortbread Cookies. Not just for dessert, these sophisticated cookies can also be served as hors d’oeuvres with everything from cocktails to coffee to cheese. Consumers can choose between something traditional like Pure Vanilla or enjoy our Rosemary Sea Salt or Tangerine Swirl flavors.

WholeFoods: Those are some really unique flavors for cookies! Do you see any classic flavors making a comeback?

Stanton: Consumers still love vanilla and chocolate, but are also experimenting with new flavors and ingredients as well. We have been accenting flavors lately with pink sea salt and exploring other healthful ingredients like whole grains and coconut oil. Our Cappuccino Brownie based on our award-winning Chocolate Chunk Brownie adds a kick of espresso, perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up. Sweet and salty flavor profiles are more popular than ever as evidenced by the popularity of our Caramel Sea Salt Square.

WholeFoods: How do you find that using all-natural ingredients affects taste and quality in the gourmet baked goods channel?

Stanton: When you produce a cookie, brownie or cake with ingredients that are minimally processed, you can see and taste the difference. Our real creamery butter and cage-free eggs allow us to make a product that is clearly high in quality and tastes like it’s homemade. This sets us apart because the small batches of fresh dairy ingredients shine though in the final baked product.

WholeFoods: Retailers have so many dessert options from which to choose. Does having a wide array of baked goods help drive sales? Or, is it better to streamline the choices?

Stanton: Variety and innovation both help to drive sales. While consumers have their favorites, they also like to change it up and try new things. Cookies, brownies and cakes are all closely related and by offering them all, we provide a simple solution for retailers.

WholeFoods: If a retailer was trying to create an endcap display of baked goods, what do you feel would be the best way to put it together?

Stanton: The basic rule of thumb is to make an impact. It’s important to stop a consumer as they walk by the aisle with a display that is visually arresting. Neatly arranging a certain product or family of products will often do that.

Consumers are almost trained to stop and look there since the endcaps are always changing and usually feature products on sale, but it never hurts to give them a focal point. Because of this, an endcap is great real estate to launch new products, feature a collection or run a sale.

WholeFoods: Dancing Deer created the Sweet Home Project, which donates 35% of its Sweet Home Gifts line’s profits to families in need. What advice can you offer retailers trying to get involved with non-profits?

Stanton: We have enjoyed a longstanding partnership with One Family Inc., whose goal is to end homelessness in Massachusetts through education. I would recommend keeping things local and personal. Select a focus for giving and get everyone involved. Here at Dancing Deer, our employees participate in a number of events with One Family that bring us all together. As an example, we support One Family’s annual fundraiser, Families of Inspiration, by hosting a cookie-decorating table staffed by our employees. We all have a great time and raise money for a good cause.

WholeFoods: Thanks, Laura, for your insight into the world of gourmet baked goods. WF

1. Euromonitor International, “Baked Goods in the U.S.,”, accessed 6/10/14.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, August 2014