The Food Channel® presents its Top Ten Dessert Trends for 2010. The list is based on research conducted by The Food Channel in conjunction with CultureWaves® and the International Food Futurists®, with additional insights provided by the Mintel International Group.
We’ve included some CultureWaves insights with these trends – so you as operators can better understand the consumer behavior that drives them. We’ve offered some suggestions along the way, too, but you’ll obviously have your own ideas that fit your menu and concept. See how many of these trends you find going on in your operation. Hopefully, you’ll find a bit of inspiration in this forecast, as well.
Click here to view a video presentation that looks at four key dessert trends and offers insights and ideas with foodservice operators in mind. You may wish to view it first, then come back to read the full top ten.
Here’s what we see happening in the sweets arena for the next 12 months.
1. The Unexpected Complement. Who knew that bacon and chocolate went so well together? This trend is all about the non-traditional, about shaking things up and being a little, well, shocking. And don’t creative chefs just love to “shock and awe” on occasion? For diners, it’s Sensory Appeal to give yourself something new to shake up the taste buds a bit. These days consumers are all about trying something new to get out of the everyday routine. So restaurateurs and confectioners are pairing sweet and savory in new ways, and it’s not just about bacon, although bacon in unexpected places undoubtedly inspired some of these ‘strange bedfellows’ combinations.
Part of the reason diners go out to eat is to be adventurous and try something new. To some extent, they expect the unexpected and desire it. Mintel Menu Insights found Bacon Ice Cream on the menu at Nola’s in Chicago and Lemongrass ice cream at the Coyote Café in Santa Fe, N.M. Our Food Channel chefs created an incredible Candied Bacon Fudge. Never be afraid to menu something a little shocking on your weekend dessert menu—it just might generate some watercooler talk on Monday, or better yet, a flurry of tweets about those unexpected sweets—with pictures!
Here’s something that sounds a bit daring: Caramel Apple with Crushed Wasabi Peas. It’s offered by Cake Supplies Depot and is a take off on the traditional caramel apple, which is then dipped in dark chocolate and coated with spicy wasabi peas and nuts. Of course, if you are still thinking about how bacon and chocolate go together, check out our trend-come-to-life recipe for Candied Bacon Fudge. Any way you slice it, it’s unexpected.
For further evidence, read:
860 Flavors of Ice Cream Including Beef-Cheddar and Cream of Crab
Sweet on Bacon
Men Love Meat, Even in Their Chocolates
Break Me Off a Piece of That Veggie KitKat
Sweet New Trend for Sweet Corn: Desserts
Total Chocolate Sensory Experience Available for a Price
Chocolate Meets Peppers for Cinco de Mayo
2. You Say Macaroons, We Say Macarons. The hottest trends, whether fashion or cuisine, often begin in big cities. In Paris and New York, dessert right now is all about macarons. Not macaroons, that are traditionally encased in coconut. No, we are talking about the very French macaron, which is like a colorful little sandwich made by a pastry chef. It’s a soft, airy and chewy pastry that holds a layer of something flavorful and rich, like a chocolate ganache, or a flavored buttercream.
For consumers, this could certainly be a Power Play, to be the one who is in-the-know enough to know the spelling, the flavor, and the importance of these tiny pastries, particularly because the food pundits are saying the macaron will topple the cupcake in the food popularity game. The macaron combines the best of all the trends—it’s a small bite, with a lot of flavor, and it is unusual enough (not to mention pricey enough—one little macaron can cost $4) to be a special occasion dessert.
The macaron, which not long ago was mostly sold in high-end French patisseries and virtually unknown outside France, has recently been featured on film and television and in a new book written by a French pastry chef, called ‘I Love Macarons.’ Macarons can now be purchased at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Starbucks. It’s even available at McDonald’s McCafes in France, and earlier this spring there was a Macaron Day benefit event in New York City. We wonder, if the macaron gets too mainstream too fast, will it lose some of its French cache? Will we suddenly revert back to macaroons? Nah. Not for a while anyway. The macaron is just too darned cute—and delectable.
3. Dessert Meister. We’ve had dessert wines for years. But what we’re seeing now is beer coming into play both as a dessert ingredient and as a pairing option when the dessert cart is wheeled out. ‘May we recommend a nice stout to go with that lovely chocolate bread pudding?,’ is something a server is more likely to suggest today. While dessert in general feels a little naughty, at least to perpetual dieters, this trend brings it into full-scale Barely Legal, where a diner can step over the line in a short burst of wheat beer or Belgian ale.
It’s part of the trend that has identified beer as the new wine, but it’s also about adding flavor to the meal occasion. After all, beer-battered onion rings offer a different experience than any other batter. It stands to reason that adding an earthy beer, or a sour beer, or a dark chocolaty ale would give a diner a new flavor experience. We found this trend in action when we visited Big Dog’s Draft House in Las Vegas and tasted their bread pudding paired with dark stout.
This trend is probably the natural outgrowth of the rise in microbreweries, because any restaurant willing to brew its own beer just has to be a fan of trying new things. Once they’ve conquered some great beer flavors, it stands to reason they’d go out and conquer some new applications as well. So, while right now there is an increase in beer and dessert pairings, we’re also seeing it in ice cream and sorbets. It’s begun to spill over, so to speak, into other desserts as well.
The beer-as-dessert has really taken hold in Southern California, where “real beer floats” have become popular, as have beer-laced shakes and popsicles. We’ve even seen dark beer floats in minor league ballparks, where the fare doesn’t typically get much beyond hotdogs, burgers, nachos, pretzels, and of course, beer.
Mintel Menu Insight:
Add desserts to bar menus. Sweet treats can be just as appealing as salty snacks outside of regular meal periods. Pair cocktails, wine and even beer (think chocolate cake with Guinness) with dessert too.
For further evidence, read:
Belly Up to the Beer Dessert Bar
Celebrate with Style has a nice list of beer and dessert pairing recommendations adapted from the Brewers Association that you may want to check out.
Samuel Adams Hops On Beer-Infused Dessert Trend
4. Transformers. This trend is really about deconstruction. It’s the use of common, everyday foods combined with familiar flavors then reassembling them in a new way. Waffles, for example, are a common food. So is ice cream. So is fruit. Put them together for dessert, and, even more—serve them out of an ice cream truck—and you have a dessert fit for a carnival king. After all, this trend is a comfort food that is pure Pacifier, and is reminiscent of our favorite foods from the State Fair midway.
We’ve seen it with Burger King’s Funnel Cake Sticks, and in the use of donuts in more desserts. Like donuts made with a myriad of unusual ingredients or used as a foundation for building and stacking more exotic desserts—like at Mexican burger chain Burguesa Burger, where every milkshake comes straw-skewered with a donut. Homer Simpson’s favorite treat has been getting transformed into something you might find on the dessert cart at Pierre’s. We’ve talked before about street food becoming upscale and this trend takes it just a little further, and onto our everyday plates.
For further evidence, read:
“Gourmet Donuts Becoming New “It Treat
Sweet Tooth Trend Report: Sophistication and Comfort Lure Consumers Today
5. Tweet! Here Comes the Dessert Truck. The Kogi taco trucks and other maindish nomadic vehicles paved the way, and now the sweet treat trucks are merging into the traffic of urban life. It’s part of the Pop-Up Lifestyle requirement that consumers want their food to be where they are, and they’re no longer sure if they’re following it, or it’s following them.
Dessert trucks are part old-fashioned ice cream truck, part Twitter-enabled, and part indulgence…and people like the desserts even more because they are flavored with a touch of eccentricity. This year’s National Restaurant Association show is devoting a major section of the Show Floor to the mobile food truck trend.
Enterprising operators may want to consider taking a limited number of the most popular items from their menu and “taking it to the streets.” Desserts could be one way to stick a toe into the water with a few special sweets that travel well.
6. Darwinist Desserts. This trend is about the evolution of desserts and the human desire to make them what we want them to be. That could mean gathering up odds and ends of leftovers and turning them into something, and it usually means trying to deliberately create something that no one else has thought of—what chef or restaurateur doesn’t do that on a regular basis? Got something left over from the breakfast daypart? Slide it on top of that cupcake and cover it with raisins for a lunchtime dessert. Some pudding in the fridge? Add pretzels, popcorn, and peanuts for a triple header dessert special for the dinner rush! For consumers, chefs and foodservice operators alike, when it comes to creating desserts, there’s a little bit of Deity Complex in us all.
Restaurant operators, of course, have been onto this idea for years. Wendy’s turns unsold burger patties into tasty chili, while the local frozen custard emporium crumbles up Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies into its concretes for an LTO to treat sweets lovers (not to mention the sweet deal it is for the little girl that made the sale).
Caramel Corn Cupcakes
7. Freshly Baked. Here’s what’s coming out of culinary school these days: bakers and pastry chefs. If your town is typical, odds are good that you have some young entrepreneur opening up a cute little bake shop tucked away on some little street where they are baking amazing confections and selling them like hotcakes—er, cakes. And cupcakes, pies, whoopie pies, turnovers, cream puffs and more. It’s become a specialty business.
Of course, those of us who have frequented Italian bakeries over the years know it’s not entirely new, but the trend is about finding that Inner Balance between work and life. While no one would ever say the pastry chef doesn’t work hard (does rolling dough at 4 a.m. sound easy?), it’s the perfect job to point to and say, ‘I’m doing what I love.’ This trend is about job satisfaction as well as culinary delight, and it’s turning desserts into more of a destination, and less of an afterthought.
Read our story about Amy McGehee of AmyCakes, who dreamed of baking cakes in her own bakery since she was about six-years-old. Now, at the ripe old age of 24, her tiny bake shop is thriving.
For further evidence, read:
Pastry Chefs Getting Their Just Desserts
Black & White Whoopie Pies Becoming a Nationwide Hit
8. OK, Just a Bite. It doesn’t take much convincing to get a restaurant guest to try just a bite of dessert. It’s like eating dessert standing up—the calories don’t count. This trend is the amalgamation of several others all rolled up into the smallest possible confection with the biggest possible burst of flavor. If you thought cupcakes were the downsized cake, well, they’re still shrinking. Now it’s the smaller mini cakes, cheesecakes, and candy that are gaining popularity. They aren’t single flavor bites; no, the desserts in this trend combine soft centers with hard shells, crunchy topping with meringues, and creamy melt-in-your-mouth flavors with chewable additions to give you the biggest flavor sensation possible.
The National Restaurant Association’s annual survey of the chefs/members of the American Culinary Federation ranked bite-size/mini desserts at number 4 in its What’s Hot top 20 overall menu trends for 2010. And according to Mintel, 24% of consumers said they’d like to see more bite-sized desserts on fine dining menus.
While all desserts may smack of Private Pampering, this one more than others is about being worth it. There’s something about the richness and decadence of a single piece of perfection that is giving this trend toward bite-sized a giant advantage.
Restaurants stand to benefit if the trend stays hot. Operations offering tempting small-bite desserts (at an attractive price) have a better shot at getting two or more dessert orders where before they felt fortunate to get a single dessert purchase that gets split by the entire party. The impact of small desserts can be big.
Mintel Menu Insight:
Small desserts do not have to be individually portioned; they can be sharable and interactive like a plate of warm donut holes with dipping sauces, deconstructed ice cream sandwiches or s’mores.
9. Soda Fountain Fizz. Last year desserts were all about ice cream, and we’re still seeing it mixed in here and there. Literally. It’s mixed with beer for a ‘real beer float.’ Sorbets are scooped into fizzy drinks for a refreshing take on dessert. The usual dessert drink of port or a hot latte is getting some competition from some of the new floats, shakes, malts and coolers.
Nostalgia is certainly part of this trend. Sweets connect us to pleasant childhood memories, and those of us old enough to remember fondly the old drugstore soda fountains will enjoy the new twists on these old favorites. And, in true DVR Lifestyle fashion, it doesn’t matter how old you are—we all enjoy bellying up to the bar and sticking a straw in a tall glass of goodness. It’s as though you could float your troubles away…
Mintel Menu Insight:
Sippable desserts like milkshakes and floats make for portable retro desserts and can appeal to consumers on the go. Casual dining restaurants can spike their milkshakes for an adult treat and offer them alongside a burger for a retro combo. Milkshakes and floats can be listed on dessert and beverage menus to increase their presence.
10. The Sandwich Generation. There is an art to creating a great dessert. This trend speaks to the artisan within—the one who wants to build something, to put something together that is greater than the sum of its parts. We see it come to life in the traditional ice cream sandwich, as it evolves into something new. Make it with cookies? Sure. But those cookies have new flavors, shapes, and fillings—and, instead of cookies, they could be brownies, cake, even mini brioche rolls, all sandwiched around ice cream that has been blended to make the insides new, too.
Think artisan ice cream made fresh with new flavor combinations. Think chunky berries, tangy-sweet lemon, artisan chocolates, fresh mint, espresso, honey, or fresh herbs. You get the nostalgia of a cookie and the freshness of specialty ice cream. The sandwich generation just got handed something quite sweet.
For further evidence, read:
Ice Cream Sandwich Giving the Cone Some Competition