Machinery firm says Japan is 15 years ahead in cake innovation

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Steamed cakes are a strong category in Japan and would prove successful in the US, says Masdac International
Steamed cakes are a strong category in Japan and would prove successful in the US, says Masdac International

Related tags Cakes Baking

North America and Europe can learn a lot about cakes from Japan – a market that is significantly advanced in terms of innovation in the field, says cake machinery firm Masdac International.

The Japan-headquartered machinery manufacturer supplies cake processing lines to bakers in Asia, Europe and the Middle East but is now targeting the US – a market it says could learn a lot from Japan.

“Our customers in Japan are forcing us to think ahead,”​ said Matthijs Sillevis Smitt, sales manager for North and South America at Masdac International.

Cakes have a far higher value in Japan – often five to ten times the price than those found in the US and Europe – and this obliges manufacturers to develop superior and premium products, Smitt told

This premium value is part of a culture, he said, where cakes are considered a high value gift.

“In order to win the market there as a cake manufacturer, you need a product that is superior in taste – with flavors, aftertaste and smell – and bite or mouth feel. All organoleptic properties have to be superior,”​ he said.

“…Japan is absolutely leading in cakes – it’s at least 15 years ahead of the rest of the world.”

What can the US and Europe learn from Japan?

Cake manufacturers in the US and Europe can learn a lot from Japan, Smitt said.

“They can learn formula wise – in terms of taste and smell properties – but also about packaging as Japan is quite ahead in terms of cake packaging execution too. Although with all of this, you have to bear in mind they can withstand higher costs because of the premium nature of cakes in the country. Still, there are some ideas that can be taken without the whole cost,”​ he said.

Steamed cakes are a big category in Japan, he said, and this format could work well for US manufacturers – proving novel as the concept is fairly new for the market. The cakes also retain moisture without the need to add fats, he said.

“For consumers, steamed cakes are an answer to the need of having a better tasting product and softer structure. You get much more natural, intense but not dominating, taste properties that you cannot achieve with normal baking,”​ he added.

Taking on Hostess Brands: Steamed, filled pancakes and ‘fun’ cakes

The machinery manufacturer plans to target the US market with lines for three cake forms that draw inspiration from Japan – steamed cakes, pancake sandwiches and ‘fun’ cakes – a 3D shaped and filled cake.

Smitt said that in light of the Hostess market shake-up, “now is the time to differentiate in the market”.​ He said Masdac International is looking to work with market leaders in the US cake sector.

“The Twinkie has established its sales, it’s justified in the market – it’s successful. But now you need s second Twinkie,”​ he said. 

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