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The future looks sweet

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It’s a new year, which means it’s peak trend forecasting time for the foodservice industry. Projections about flavors and concepts abound, but one thing is certain: When it comes to desserts, the new year holds both something old and something new.

Name-dropping hits

Often, dessert trends are not a matter of total innovation, but rather, they add new twists to long-standing trends or extend existing trends. According to Technomic, 63 percent of consumers indulge in dessert at least once a week. Today’s most preferred desserts are brownies (67 percent), apple pie (65 percent) and chocolate cake (59 percent), making these treats the perfect platform for trying something new.

Considering that 58 percent of desserts are purchased on impulse, adding a well-loved branded ingredient can be an easy way to grab attention. “Using best-selling brands in desserts, like Oreo cookies or Hershey’s chocolate is a sure hit,” says Lizzy Freier, editor of menu analysis at Technomic. “Operators keep finding new ways to do this, either with one-off specials, or by using lesser known brands, like Andes mints, or a branded spirit, such as Bailey’s Irish Cream,”

Upscale twists are becoming mainstream, too. “Another way we see operators presenting new takes on classics is by deconstructing and reconstructing them,” Freier says. “For instance, fine-dining pastry chefs are taking apart classic desserts such as bananas Foster into different pieces and variations.” This relatively simple dessert can be updated with add-ons such as banana ice cream, brown sugar crisps, spiced nuts or flavored whipped cream.

The same treatment works for a deconstructed pie, with shortbread cookies serving as the crust and fruit dips as the filling, served with ice or whipped cream on the side.

DIY treats

Deconstructing also brings “do-it-yourself,” interaction to dessert, which is a trend consumers want in other meal parts, and can add appeal to desserts such as dessert nachos, with sweet pieces of pastry and trios of dips.

“People want more hands-on experiences in restaurants, like build-your-own-burritos,” Freier says. “We’ve started to see shareable desserts emerge, but there’s plenty of room for growth here. Shareable plates allow people to finish a restaurant meal with just a little sweet and not commit to a full dessert.” These customizable options can also appeal to the 34 percent of consumers who say they are more likely to order dessert if a smaller portion is available.

Merging menu parts

Dessert hybrids gained a lot of traction in the past few years, with doughnut-croissant variations and “brookies,” or cookie-brownies, becoming two new classics. The hybrid trend is taking on new life as operators blend dessert ideas with best-selling meal ideas, such as dessert pizzas or breakfast standards that sound more like desserts.

“Things like French toast and waffles are showing up as desserts,” Freier says, noting that variations on comfort breakfast dishes are great places to layer fresh fruit, toppings and on-trend sauces such as butterscotch. “People want premium touches in the form of house-made signature sauces, real fruit and branded spirits or confections.”

This post is sponsored by Sweet Street Desserts

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