The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has released its latest baking sector report, which showed that consumers turned to baking in 2023 as they continued to “keep an eye on their spending”.

The report explored the shift in cooking behaviours in 2023, and showed that after a “prolonged period of growth”, ready meals slipped into decline, and consumers opted for cheaper choices such as assembled cooking rather than scratch cooking (Kantar Usage Panel, September 2023).

AHDB said that overall, baking occasions increased by 1% compared to the previous year, however sweet baking was up by 29 million occasions. It said this was driven by consumers baking more often, especially among middle families (with children aged five-nine) and older generations (Kantar Usage, 52 w/e 26th November 2023).

Looking at the different categories within baking, AHDB said it could see “differing performances”, with some showing significant growth and others experiencing considerable decline. The trade body said that with prices rising across the industry, it was “no surprise” that total spend on flour increased by 12.9% year-on-year to £124 million.

Chocolate cake was the lead contributor with an increase of 11 million occasions between 2022 and 2023, and pizza consumption rose by seven million occasions. In contrast, savoury pies fell by 20 million occasions over the same period (Kantar Usage, 52 w/e 26th November 2023).

Becky Smith, AHDB dairy analyst, said: “Increased occasions of sweet baking dishes, such as cakes and muffins, are likely to support demand for dairy essentials such as milk and butter.

“AHDB’s recent ‘THIS and THAT’ campaign champions the art of balanced eating, blending a bit of this with a bit of that to showcase the role of meat and dairy in a well-rounded, healthy and nutritious diet.

“Looking forward, it appears we are seeing a new normal level for baking post-pandemic. Movement away from scratch cooking would suggest that savoury baking is likely to continue to suffer. On the flip side, sweet baking fulfils the consumer desire for a treat and maintains its appeal as a relatively low-cost yet fun activity, so may hold its share in the coming year as consumers look to minimise their costs.”