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
Unsurprisingly, the obvious flavor trend this fall has been the return of the seasonal flavor, pumpkin, as well as the other traditional autumnal flavors, like cinnamon, pecan and apple. The use of pumpkin in desserts, however, keeps evolving year after year, going beyond just pie and cheesecake (though pumpkin certainly holds strong in these two categories, ranking the third most popular pie flavor and one of the top 10 most-desired cheesecake flavors, according to Datassential).
Pumpkin is a rapidly growing flavor in dessert bars and coffee cakes. It’s also been a star flavor of the whoopie pie at many establishments. Other foodservice operations have used this popular seasonal ingredient to experiment with familiar dessert applications, like Longhorn Steakhouse’s innovative Pumpkin Spice Lava Cake or Au Bon Pain’s Pumpkin Blondie Bar. Additionally, pumpkin has been featured in many cold dessert applications — Steak and Shake released a new Pumpkin Spice milkshake this year. It also pairs well with savory ingredients — Auntie Anne’s created a sweet and salty dessert by coating their traditional soft pretzel nuggets in a blend of pumpkin spice and sugar.
In addition to the pumpkin flavor trend this fall, the use of savory ingredients in desserts has also thrived. Ingredients like bacon, olive oil, basil, avocado, beets and chiles have made their appearance on menus across the country, as well as the use of ancient grains, like quinoa. Bacon and olive oil in particular have increased drastically in menu penetration, up 137% and 154% respectively, according to Datassential. As consumers become more open to experimenting with food flavors, operators have a strong opportunity to get creative and go beyond the typical sweet desserts.
Consumer Insights and Data Points
Consumer snacking occasions have surged in 2016, so much so that it is becoming its own daypart. According to Technomic, 54% of consumers snack 2-3 times between meals. And consumers aren’t just demanding savory, appetizer-like meals to hold them over between main meals, either. They want snacking options in dessert formats, too. According to Datassential, cookies, brownies, and dessert bars are top of mind snack options, with consumption centered around afternoon or late night snack times for over 45% of consumers.
Desserts that are popular for snacking lend themselves well to being portable. Consumers often snack on-the-go, and the desserts they will choose as snacking options won’t require an eating utensil. This is why many foodservice establishments find success with cookies. Not only are they the most popular dessert choice among consumers (75% of them eat cookies at least once a week, according to Datassential), but they are easy to eat on the go and quite versatile.
Macarons have been especially popular this season, as they are small enough that consumers can get a few and sample several flavors while also being easy to carry and eat on the run.
Dessert bars are also becoming quite commonplace, as they are easily adaptable based on the season. Pumpkin dessert bars are popular now, and with winter quickly approaching, peppermint dessert bars will begin to make an appearance.
Other good dessert snacking applications that foodservice establishments have found successful include dessert pizzas, mini ice-cream sandwiches and cupcakes.
Menu Spotlight & Dessert Menu Trends
When it comes to food experiences, the under 35 crowd has expressed a strong desire to explore unusual or uncommon flavors. Because of this demand, dessert chefs are finding that they can be much more exploratory with their menus. They can feature desserts that are tried and true favorites (think cake, cookies and cheesecake) that showcase unique flavors.
The exploration of savory flavors in desserts is one way operators are trying to be innovative with their dessert menus. Take the dessert menu at Maurice: A Pastry Luncheonette in Portland, Oregon — Kristen D. Murray uses savory ingredients in many of her desserts, like the black pepper cheesecake. This dessert is the typical, miniaturized cylindrical cheesecake application, so it still feels familiar, but it gets a savory twist with hand-cracked black pepper that’s folded through the cream cheese filling. The innovative use of pepper gives the dessert an unexpected bite that make consumers think twice!
The use of herbs in desserts is another way chefs are getting creative with savory flavors in desserts. Murray’s menu also features a currant and rosemary créme scone, creating an aromatic, sweet and savory twist on a traditionally sweet pastry.
This season, try highlighting autumnal herbs and savory flavors on your dessert menu – customers are looking for some adventure!