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Retro desserts make a comeback

While some sweets snag those looking for likes, nostalgic treats attract diners who just want dessert.

In the age of Instagram, there’s no shortage of over-the-top treats meant to attract likes and attention. But diners are increasingly shifting toward desserts from another era, putting nostalgic desserts in the spotlight.

According to Technomic’s recent Generational  report, a majority of diners (62%) say they like trying new flavors of food from time to time, while only 28% say they prefer sticking to their favorite flavors and rarely try new ones. With that in mind, it makes sense that there’s an array of different desserts available these days. While new flavors might be a novelty for older generations, the same goes for nostalgic desserts—younger generations may not be as familiar with desserts such as icebox pie, trifle, Baked Alaska, bananas foster or pineapple upside-down cake.

Old favorites are new again

On-trend retro desserts include the treats consumers had as desserts in their packed lunches at school or at special occasions with family—crispy rice treats, lemon bars or cookie cakes—and they’re all making a comeback. For instance, Dairy Queen has reintroduced its popular Treatzza Pizza dessert. This dessert was popular in the mid- to late-1990s, and was discontinued in 2008, but the chain recently brought it back. Combining a cookie base with delicious ice cream and candy is a no-brainer, and these types of layered indulgences are perfect for adapting to any restaurant’s menu.

Another traditional dessert that’s seeing a resurgence on menus is the ice-cream sundae. Some have upgraded components—Marlow’s Tavern, a casual-dining restaurant in Atlanta, offers its Fried Banana Split featuring phyllo-wrapped banana and panko-crusted vanilla ice cream. But others are sticking to the basics—Miller’s Ale House, a traditional casual-dining chain with 83 locations around the country, recently added its All-American Sundae to the menu, calling it their take on the classic ice-cream sundae with all the favorite flavors of hot fudge, strawberries, whipped cream, almonds and a maraschino cherry.

Why nostalgic treats are re-emerging

Comfort food-type desserts invoke a sense of nostalgia, which can be good for sales, as nearly half of consumers (46%) say they enjoy many of the same desserts they ate as a child, according to Technomic’s 2017 Dessert report. And because nostalgic desserts are craveable, it makes them an easy rollout for operators—unlike new formats or flavors, there’s no worry that these classic desserts won’t perform well, since people have already loved them in the past. These familiar desserts inspired by consumers’ youth are likely to be successful because they tend to trigger happy memories.

Menuing familiar flavors on the dessert menu is a great way to increase dessert sales, particularly among groups of diners who are looking to get a taste of the past.

This post is sponsored by Sweet Street Desserts

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