"Indeed, they are being pitched as affordable luxuries. In an age when discretionary, feel-good spending is at a nadir, cupcake bakeries are trying to persuade people to trade up from cheaper sugar-delivery vehicles (such as, say, a doughnut)."He feels that most Americans are not in a mood to upgrade. Yet, America is all about affordable luxury. That's why Starbucks exists today and Walmart advertises its genuine Steak House Steaks as something you can afford without a special occasion. In a culture of individuals, we want our food purchases to make us feel unique -- and a fancy cupcake sits perfectly in that niche.
At the same time, doughnuts and cupcakes are not analogous. One represents
celebration, while the other symbolizes a ready escape of corporate
drudgery and the State Fair's equivalent of bread. Nobody eats cupcakes
daily -- which is perhaps Gross' point -- however, I wish he had
simply said that.
While cupcakes used to be made by every mother (and occasional father), today they're more likely to come from a pallet at Costco or a specialty bakery. With food allergies and parents sensitive to how much sugar their kids eat, there's a wide open market of cupcake consumers. So maybe gluten-free and chocolate-chocolate versions will be as successful as the old standards.
Just in case the
cupcake crash is coming, it makes sense to stockpile some reserves.
Alas, cupcakes don't keep well, so you're going to have to eat all you
buy. And remember no matter what, we'll always have doughnuts.
[Image via Flickr: clever cupcakes]