Trend Report: Dessert Directions

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Andrew Wardlaw

30 Jun, 2022 | 2 minutes

When life gets challenging, we’re hardwired to choose something naughty from the supermarket – and desserts have been a prime target. And as long as stress and uncertainty continue to dominate daily life, there will be further opportunities for manufacturers to deliver feelings of happiness, comfort and relaxation.

Consumers' love of desserts continues to grow, and despite health being at the forefront of many shopper’s minds, balance is still key. As a marker, 70% of U.S consumers are extremely or very likely to purchase a favorite nostalgic food or beverage. Meanwhile, the percentage of social media influencers creating and interacting with posts about nostalgic desserts is on the rise.

Our friends at thefoodpeople are reporting a further wave of nostalgia in the desserts category as consumers seek respite from high stress situations.

To kick off our tour, the Woolworths chain in Australia has expanded its baking range with this Tiramisu Brownie baking kit. This indulgent fudgy tiramisu brownie is topped with sweet, sticky coffee syrup and is typical of so many launches in 2022: a new twist on an established format.

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Brands with ‘ultimate’ or ‘grown up’ versions of old-school treats include the Great Spirits Baking Company in the U.S, who have created this Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey Cake.

The company, which aims to make any occasion just ‘a little more special’, has seen phenomenal sales growth by fusing together adult liquor with sweet treats.

Booze-infused is a trend manifesting in ice cream too. In the U.S, ‘adults only’ Tipsy Scoop has created a range of cocktail inspired desserts made with local and seasonal ingredients. Flavors include Cake Mix Vodka Martini and Tequila ‘Hot’ Chocolate Ice Cream.

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Flying east, we encounter White Rabbit Blancmange Cake from Singapore’s heritage bakery, Gin Thye. This creation draws upon a Chinese childhood candy staple. It’s an Angle Cake filled with whipped cream and blancmange (a type of custard pudding.)

And when it comes to nostalgia, can there be anything more sentimental than apple pie? Food service chefs are dreaming up exciting new flavors, adding dimensions such as burnt banana custard that are reminiscent of childhood memories.

Beyond Nostalgia

Moving beyond nostalgia, foraged fruits are helping cafes and restaurants offer something new and different. While the elderflower season is upon us, bringing lighter floral touches, innovators are looking further and harnessing hogweed, artichokes and wood sorrel to bring new flavors to familiar classics, such as trifles.

The splendidly named 2am Dessert Bar in Singapore offers a Rosella Hibiscus Mousse, with a center of peach elderflower jelly, almond sponge and served with green apple sorbet.

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Chapters Restaurant in Wales, U.K, offers this curious Rhubarb, Hogweed and Apple Trifle.

Coffee Crossing

The migration of coffee into desserts is gathering pace and is now being executed in more nuanced ways. From smaller espresso style jars to single origin and regional beans. Chefs and innovators are proving that there is plenty of scope for variations on the coffee theme.

For starters, the truly exquisite Koi Dessert Bar in Sydney, Australia now offers Espresso Mascarpone Jars.

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At Sepia in Chicago, you can order this Tonka and Coffee Bean Semifreddo with salty almonds, burnt honey caramel and crème fraiche ice cream.

And at the ASDA chain of supermarkets in the U.K, you can buy these Columbian Coffee Sundaes!

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Flavors, forward

According to thefoodpeople, we can expect five flavor types to trend in the short to medium term. These are FRUITY (such as mango, dates, apple, dates and peaches), EARTHY (such as coffee, almond, pistachio, vanilla and miso), GREAT OUTDOORS (such as rosemary, hogweed, sorrel, thyme and orange blossom), SOUR (such as sumo orange, rhubarb, lime, sea buckthorn and yuzu) and RICH (such as chocolate, honey, brandy, whiskey and maple.)

Trend activation

Trend spotters are clear. People’s desire for comfort, fun and a chance to relive happy childhood memories continues to drive demand for nostalgia laden desserts. So, put emotion at the center of product development, packaging design and branding.

But go beyond simple re-releases and create new, reimagined products that offer a twist on the past.

And don’t ignore opportunities for better for you versions of classic treats. Focus upon sugar and salt reduction and consider adding hero ingredients that have health associations. Consider local sourcing, plant-based ingredients and ‘clean label’ to appeal to midweek mindsets.

Right, we’re off for seconds.

If you’d like a copy of our 12 page Dessert Trends report, in association with thefoodpeople, get in touch today!