Once upon a time, dessert used to be an end-of-dinner occasion. But as eating patterns shift away from three rigid meals-per-day to anytime eating, sweet treats are finding new ways and times to shine.
A recent report from Think with Google tracked Google searches to shed some light on the snack habits of U.S. consumers—and it’s clear that snacking continues to be a point of focus for consumers, with items such as bite-size desserts trending. For operators, the opportunity for all-day sweets is growing, since smaller items such as these are ideal for different eating occasions.
Just-for-me snacking goes hand-in-hand with portability, a trend that also helps move dessert into new eating habits throughout the day—starting early. Caribou Coffee menus a donut-muffin mash-up described as a cake batter donut accented with nutmeg, dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar. In a similar mashup, Auntie Annie’s offers pretzel nuggets coated with cinnamon and sugar and served in a car-friendly cup.
Whether in the form of iced coffee, frappe or some other frosty caffeine fix, dessert-snacks sometimes resemble drinks, and downsizing is still big. Cinnabon recently launched the mini Chillata, a 10-ounce version of the brand’s blended beverages available in Oreo cookie, cinnamon roll iced coffee and signature Mochalatta flavors. These are billed as “the perfect on-the-go snack to satisfy that ‘just a sip’ craving.”
Lighter in-between eating
Larry Sidoti, chief development officer of Paris Baguette, an international concept that was founded in Korea and is enjoying robust U.S. expansion, says that one thing that makes his concept unique is the way the menu “caters to all day parts and all the in-between eating occasions.”
Despite its name and the full line-up of pastry and baguette sandwiches, Paris Baguette’s Korean roots bring a less-sweet flavor profile and Asian inspiration to the menu.
“Our cakes and pastry look like indulgent sugar-fests, but they taste quite different,” says Sidoti. Some may consider these Asian influences versions of fruit-and-cream bites and cakes an acquired taste, but the concept hasn’t changed any recipes to suit more American tastes. “Our pastry is light, airy and less sweet. People appreciate not feeling so full and heavy after snacking here.”
With a grab-and-go side and a made-to-order side, each Paris Baguette concept serves portable, smaller treats, such as petite jars of pudding and mini-croissants for a take-away crowd. The made-to-order side serves shaved ices, sandwiches and beverages for people taking a little time out.
Google’s research shows that dietary restrictions also play a role in snacking choices. Protein, vegan, paleo, no-egg and gluten free top the dietary search words list. Similarly, the NPD Group’s recent Snacking in America report finds big snack opportunities in functionality, sustained energy, convenience, clean labels and better health.
Another global chain with a growing U.S. fan base, Le Pain Quotidien, caters to specific diets with such snacks as quinoa-spelt scones, brown rice pudding packed with nuts, seeds and superfruits and organic coconut and chia seed pudding.
Google’s report also noted that consumer food choices are increasingly complex, and at the same time, snack choices have become very personalized. Because of that, operators should offer customizable options based not only on flavor, but also dietary restrictions to see success with dessert across dayparts.
This post is sponsored by Sweet Street Desserts