Candy is trending on the sweet side of the menu, as operators try to create Instagrammable items that also push diners’ nostalgic buttons. Desserts that combine young consumers’ interest in retro sweets with their interest in brand-name ingredients have particular appeal, according to Technomic’s Dessert Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite. From shakes blended with toffee bars to ice cream enveloped with cotton candy, here are some sweets tapping into the candy trend.
1. Clouds of sugar
Cotton candy has drifted onto the dessert scene in a big way this summer, wrapped around ice cream and billowing on top of desserts. At Wu Kong, a dessert bar in New York City’s Chinatown, ice cream cones come enveloped in a halo of cotton candy, available in a rainbow of colors. Although fans say it’s delicious but difficult to eat, the whimsical item has turned into an Instagram hit.
2. Gummy’s the word
Gummy candy is currently seeing unprecedented growth, as reported in this year's Category Management Handbook from CSP magazine. At CREAM (Cookies Rule Everything Around Me), a dessert chain featuring handcrafted ice cream and cookie creations, gummy candies are available in several shapes to add on to ice cream tacos and cones. Customers can also dig into colorful licorice, crushed sour candies and other confections to feed their sweet teeth and elevate the photogenic rating of their treats.
3. A tower of sweet power
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer, a five-location gastropub based in New York City, has a separate menu section called Crazy Shakes, featuring its towering candy-enhanced creations. Here, cotton candy tops a strawberry shake, which also includes a garnish of rock candy and a pink lollipop; sour gummy poppers, a rainbow lollipop and several branded hard candies star in the black cherry shake. These over-the-top drinks sell for $15, while limited-time boozy shakes are available for a few dollars more. New for summer is Black Tap’s frose with a candy-coated rim and candy garnishes.
4. Give me s’more
At Chicago’s XO Marshmallow, a dessert cafe dedicated to marshmallows that opened in May, guests can build their own s’mores, choosing from a dozen flavors of handcrafted marshmallows, housemade graham crackers and other bases, and a variety of candy garnishes. Espresso, hot chocolate and other beverages are also available for sweet embellishment.