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
The arrival of sunnier seasons means that brighter, fruitier flavors are trending in the dessert space. Indulgent, rich flavors like chocolate and mocha take a backseat as seasonal berries, fruit and citrus flavors come out to play. Additionally, with the onset of summer, the most menued dessert applications shift from the decadent cakes and cheesecakes that were so common in winter to lighter pies, tarts, bars and cobblers.
The top fruit flavor for spring and summer is undoubtedly strawberry. According to Datassential’s Seasonal Dessert Index, strawberry flavors are three times more likely to be menued in the spring and summer. And LTOs at major chains everywhere support this fact, as many of them are featuring the sweet red berry on their menus. Strawberries are penetrating nearly every dessert category possible, too.
From cakes to pies to frozen desserts and minis, some of these seasonal applications include traditional strawberry shortcake, fresh-baked strawberry-rhubarb cobbler, strawberry passion ice cream cake (red velvet cake with strawberry puree, strawberry ice cream and graham cracker pie crust, covered in strawberry frosting), strawberry-rhubarb mini cakes, strawberry custard concrete, strawberry-banana crème pie and strawberry milkshakes.
Other leading fruit flavors right now include lemon, berry and peach. Datassential reports that peach is actually 5 times more likely to be menued in the warmer seasons and is the second most popular pie /cobbler flavor among consumers. Lemon and mixed berry are 2 times more likely to be menued in spring and summer. Peach and berry are most likely to be featured in cake, pie and cobbler applications, while lemon is being showcased in cakes, tarts, cheesecake and sorbets. Lemon cake in particular is the fastest-growing cake flavor alongside chocolate torte, both having a +57% 4-year growth, according to Datassential.
Interestingly, fruit tarts and seasonal pies are menued nearly three times as often at limited service restaurants today as four years ago, showing a +175% growth over that time period, according to Datassential. Strawberry tarts saw a +50% 4-year growth at LSRs, while lemon curd tarts saw a +110% 4-year growth at FSRs, as well. Whichever way you slice it, fruit is definitely popular right now, and this trend will continue until the harvest season.
Consumer Insights and Data Points
The most in-demand dessert applications among consumers couldn’t be more disparate this season. The top two types that are trending? Floral and fried. Perhaps this makes sense, since flowers and herbs are at their peak during the spring and summer months, but so are festivals and cravings for deep-fried sweets.
Technomic reports that diners are seeking out more floral, savory flavors to temper the sweetness of desserts. Floral accents, savory herbs and Asian citrus flavors are trending upward due to this demand. Hibiscus has especially seen growth in the dessert segment, up 300% according to Technomic. Other notable flavors that are making appearances in dessert include yuzu and rosemary.
For those consumers who aren’t interested in mellowing out sweet flavors (or cutting down on fat), fried desserts are highly preferred. According to Technomic, ethnic fried desserts are growing fast at both LSR and FSR chains, with LSRs specifically seeing +15% growth, due to consumer demand. Items like churros and dessert empanadas and wontons are perfect applications that are feeding consumer desire. Fried cheesecake has experienced a +30% 4-year growth at chain restaurants as well.
Dianne’s Fine Desserts recently got to test out a fried-dessert application during the 2017 National Restaurant Association Show, where we had the pleasure of co-hosting a Culinary Competition. Using our scoopable cheesecake product, the chefs created a deep-fried cheesecake-stuffed wonton, served with a raspberry dipping sauce that had our guests coming back again and again – so we can assure you, the trend is true.
Menu Spotlight & Dessert Menu Trends
It’s not Halloween, but the use of candy is definitely proliferating on dessert menus this spring and summer (with an extra-special focus on Reese’s®), as is the use of Oreo® cookies and popular breakfast cereals. Some of these applications feature these sugary favorites directly, while others simply take inspiration from them (peanut butter and chocolate-flavored cake or cookies and cream-flavored pie, for instance).
Candy-themed desserts are most likely used for ice cream, custard and shake applications, as warmer weather means consumers want to indulge more in frozen treats. However, this menu trend is also apparent among other applications like cakes, brownies and cheesecakes, especially among chain business.
Checkers, for instance, recently featured a Caramel Cheesecake Crunch Stacker LTO that alternates vanilla soft-serve and cheesecake filling that’s topped with Twix® pieces. Chili’s did a spring LTO heroing America’s Favorite Cookie: their Oreo-Topped Molten Cake featured a crème-filled chocolate cake topped with vanilla ice cream, Oreo® pieces and chocolate sauce. And Dairy Queen showcases Reese’s® through their Reese’s® Extreme Brownie a la Mode, topping their traditional brownies with Reese’s® peanut butter cups, Reese’s® pieces and peanut butter and chocolate sauces.
Independent restaurants are more likely to take inspiration from the popular candy bars, making their own riffs. For instance, Abigaile, a trendy New American restaurant in Hermosa Beach, California, serves its own take on a Snickers® bar. Their dessert bar is made with peanut butter cream and nougat layers that are encased in a milk chocolate ganache and topped with a peanut caramel sauce.
Whether you mix candy pieces into a popular dessert item or take inspiration from these favorite childhood treats to make your own signature creation, you’re sure to nail that sweet tooth craving for your guests!