What Were They Thinking? The Little Cupcake Holder That Lost Its Way

How much time have you spent this week wondering how to transport a single cupcake in your kid’s lunchbox without the frosting getting all smushed? Not much? Sounds about right. The second in a series about the absurd ideas and products that actually made it to market–and what we can learn from them.

I don’t know about you, but I was just wondering why no one has come up with a way for me to transport a single cupcake when I’m on the go. But wait, it’s true! The Cup-A-Cake Single Cupcake Carrier is here to save your sweet tooth from starvation. It is touted as “Protection for the cupcake and icing during transport, eliminating the mess.” Wow, where do we even start evaluating all the ways this product runs afoul of business and marketing logic?


Where They Went Wrong

1. The Consumer’s Unmet Need The site states that this product solves an age-old problem of sending cupcakes to school or outings with our children. Interesting, but I never realized before that transporting a single cupcake was a problem, did you? It seems fairly obvious that they never talked to their target audience–moms of elementary-aged children–to understand what snack items they regularly put in their child’s lunchbox, and IF a cupcake was a top item, then they really might have something here.

2. The Positioning I also guess the inventor misplaced that school bulletin promoting healthy lunches and snacks in lieu of the sweet treats that have led to a national obesity epidemic. Positioning is everything when it comes to introducing a new product. Encouraging the intake of a sugary sweet, fattening cupcake is considered a no-no in mom’s world.

3. Price/Value Equation At a cost of $2.99 each plus shipping, I would much rather buy a box of Ziploc baggies to handle the cupcake and not buy yet another item I have no room to store in my kitchen cabinets.

4. The Commonsense Gut Check Sending just one cupcake? Cupcakes are usually for sharing–not hoarding for yourself. 

The Takeaway


Entrepreneurs can sometimes fall in love with their new product ideas and lose sight of the practicality of the idea. Corporations are no different. The big lesson here is to never cut corners in the new product development cycle and to never, ever forget to talk to your target consumer. If they had, they may have saved themselves some time and money.

Just by talking to other moms, they would have quickly realized that 1) sending an unblemished, single cupcake to school with their children isn’t a high priority 2) positioning the product as a way to transport a healthy, homemade muffin might have made the product more appealing to moms, and 3) capitalizing on the green trend and using a less durable/more disposable (yet recyclable) material would have lowered the cost and eliminated the need for storage. 

Read more from the “What Were They Thinking?” series. 

About the author

Sandstorm inc. is an innovation firm specializing in the upfront insights and innovation process.