Build Dessert Sales with Sweet Insights from Dianne’s Fine Desserts
Give dessert lovers what they seek by staying ahead of the trends and demands that drive today’s dessert sales. Make your dessert menu a surefire success with insights from the expert insiders at Dianne’s Fine Desserts.
Key Flavor Trends and Seasonal Ingredients
With the onset of a new year comes those short-lived resolutions of eating healthier – and thank goodness they are short-lived, because the trending winter dessert flavors in 2017 are all about indulgence.
Chocolate is, overwhelmingly, the most popular flavor popping up on limited-time-offer dessert menus this winter – and it’s definitely being used in excess. LTOs are featuring menu items titled with phrases like “Double Chocolate,” “Superfudge” and “Truffle Decadence,” tantalizing diners with dessert applications that feature chocolate on chocolate on chocolate (like a five-layer chocolate cake with chocolate silk filling, topped with dark chocolate ganache and a drizzle of chocolate sauce). Datassential’s Seasonal Dessert Index lists chocolate hazelnut, dark chocolate, chocolate ganache and milk chocolate as the most popular dessert flavors for winter, so the abundance of chocolate comes as no surprise.
The use of chocolate truffles as an ingredient is especially common this season, and it’s not just limited to the chocolate varieties. Toffee and salted caramel truffles make an appearance as textural mix-ins for ice cream and other frozen treats. Two other recurrent winter ingredients (perhaps because they pair so well with chocolate) are cherries and strawberries. Both are starring in cookies, tarts and lots of different sauce and topping varieties for cakes.
The seasonality of red velvet in still holding out, as well, though its frequency has diminished a bit since January. Red velvet–flavored cakes and cheesecakes are still seeing demand. Mint and peppermint, however, have nearly vanished completely from winter dessert menus, despite their white-hot popularity back in December, flavoring everything from pies and cheesecakes to brownies and milkshakes.
As spring approaches, chocolate desserts will slowly swap out for fruit applications, especially desserts that feature citrus and berry flavors.
Consumer Insights and Data Points
There’s been a lot of chatter in the dessert world surrounding “healthy halo” language and how important it is to create and market healthier desserts to consumers. Though there are data that suggest that diners find clean labels (ie. all-natural ingredients with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives) important when deciding whether or not to eat dessert, indulgence is the top priority in their decision-making process.
At the end of the day, consumers want dessert to be a satisfying experience, which means taste has to be king. Consumers aren’t willing to sacrifice taste for health. According to Datassential, “great taste” ranks as the most important factor for consumers who choose to eat cake, cheesecake, cookies, pie or cobbler away from home, at a whopping 84%. Dessert being described as “rich, decadent” ranks between 52% and 63% in importance, depending on the particular application. But the importance of a dessert being a “healthier option” ranks quite low, less than 30% for all dessert applications.
In addition to caring most that the dessert has great taste, consumers also care that the dessert features loved flavors, including seasonal ones. Though trending dessert flavors vary by dessert category, there is one flavor that is almost always a stand-out: Chocolate. Datassential reports that in the cake and milkshake categories, chocolate ranks #1 as the most menued item. Additionally, chocolate ranks #2 as the most menued item for the cheesecake category.
Consumer demand for more chocolate desserts is also expected across the cookie and pie categories. Specifically, Datassential reports an anticipated +56% 4-year growth for the chocolate tart and an anticipated +91% 4-year growth for the chocolate cookie.
Besides being beloved by consumers, the nice thing about chocolate is that it is extremely versatile for operators to work with. It pairs well with so many flavors and can be showcased in every dessert category.
Menu Spotlight & Dessert Menu Trends
With indulgence being a top priority among consumers who enjoy dessert, and winter seemingly being the season when most people are comfortable slacking on their diet, restaurant operators are taking advantage. Many of the current trending seasonal menu items are tagged with phrases like “Fully Loaded,” “Overload” and “Kitchen Sink.” These items often combine a variety of different ingredients into one or offer a variety of different dessert applications mashed together.
Currently, cookies are trending on menus in these “overloaded” forms. Panera Bread’s seasonal “Kitchen Sink Cookie” is a thick chocolate chip cookie composed of semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate, caramel pieces and pretzels, and finished with flake salt. It totals 800 calories! Maverick, the convenience store chain, is offering their seasonal “Fully Loaded Cookie” made with cherries, walnuts, pretzels and butterscotch chips.
It doesn’t stop at cookies, either. There is a desire among consumers to see more over-the-top dessert mash-ups, especially with cheesecake. Datassential reports that consumers want more things like ice cream cheesecakes and cheesecakes blended with traditional cakes (think strawberry cheesecake combined with chocolate cake). These dessert applications would feature multiple layers inspired from several different desserts to make the ultimate layered tower of deliciousness.
Milkshakes are also being featured as an over-the-top dessert application, with “insane” or “extreme” versions popping up on all sorts of menus. These opulent forms of the classic frozen treat also incorporate other dessert applications, such as slices of cake or cheesecake, candies and sauces, to make the ultimate sweet treat.
A great example of these milkshakes can be found at Sugar Factory in Las Vegas. The restaurant features appropriately named “Insane Milkshakes,” such as the Caramel Sugar Daddy Cheesecake Milkshake, which comes complete with caramel sauce, whipped cream, a slice of NY-style cheesecake, a piece of Sugar Daddy® candy and a rainbow lollipop in a chocolate-covered mug with crushed graham crackers.
The chefs at Dianne’s Fine Desserts also recently had an opportunity to design several iterations of “extreme” milkshakes for a popular chain restaurant. Take a look at some of our concoctions below!
Coffee milkshake poured into a glass that has been striped with chocolate sauce, then topped with chocolate ice cream, piped dark chocolate mousse and topped with a square of fudge brownie. The outside of the glass is garnished with mini chocolate chips and walnuts.
Mango milkshake poured into a glass striped with strawberry sauce, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, piped white chocolate mousse and topped with a dulce de leche bundt cake. The outside of the glass is garnished with mini white chocolate chips.
Birthday-cake flavored milkshake poured into a glass that has been striped with caramel sauce, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, piped with cotton candy mousse and topped with a square portion of funfetti cake. The outside of the glass is garnished with caramel popcorn.