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A sneak peak at consumer dessert behavior, trends

4 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

From red velvet to pumpkin, croissant hybrids to savory sweets, desserts have showcased a huge number of changing trends over the past few years. But what are consumers actually eating? And what do they want to eat? For Datassential‘s upcoming MenuTrends Keynote report, which combines survey data directly from consumers with menuing and trend data from our MenuTrends database, we are taking a look at the current state of the dessert market, from cakes to pies to cookies. Here’s a sneak peak at some early results from this extensive report.

(Photo: Flickr user Tim Pierce)

Chocolate reigns supreme

Consumers’ love of chocolate almost can’t be overstated. Chocolate cake — any variety — was not only the most eaten cake variety by the percentage of consumers who chose it within the last two weeks (26%), but it was also the most loved cake variety — in fact, over half of consumers said they love chocolate cake. Chocolate was also the most loved pie or tart variety, and tied for the most loved cheesecake variety with New York-style.

So it’s no surprise that chocolate can be found on more restaurant dessert menus than any other flavor — by a long shot, with over 65% of restaurants that serve dessert offering a chocolate item. Vanilla is a distant second, menued on 39% of restaurant dessert menus, according to Datassential’s MenuTrends database. With such popularity, chocolate is often paired with growing dessert trends and flavors like salts, blood orange, pomegranate and olive oil, all of which grew by double digits on dessert menus over the past year. At Boca restaurant, a Cincinnati, Ohio, restaurant that combines Italian and French cuisines, the pastry chef serves a signature chocolate terrine with toasted pistachio, olive oil and smoked salt.

Dessert at home

Where are customers buying and eating the majority of their desserts? In many cases they are enjoying their desserts at home, choosing to make cakes and pies themselves or purchasing them from a retailer. Sixty-six percent of consumers, for instance, reported that their last-eaten cake was at or from home (scratch, made from a mix, or purchased from a grocery/retail outlet), while 59% said the same for pies. In fact, 36% of consumers said the last pie, tart, or cobbler they had eaten was made completely or partially from scratch, and another 19% had a frozen option.

The most eaten pie variety is all-American apple, which is also the top menued variety at restaurants, followed by key lime, pecan, and lemon. But a number of new pie trends have been increasing on restaurant menus over the past year, from fillings like cranberry (+128%) to extensions like crostatas (+64%). The influence of Southern cuisine continues to impact menus as well, with buttermilk growing 96% on pie menus over the past year, with options like buttermilk custard, buttermilk chess pie, or a la mode options served with buttermilk ice cream. At Husk, in Charleston, South Carolina, the pumpkin buttermilk pie is served with sorghum anglaise and chestnut granola.

Classic cookies continue to dominate

Of the dessert options we asked consumers about, respondents were most likely to have had a cookie within the past week — over three quarters had eaten a cookie, while under half had eaten a brownie or dessert bar, and just over a quarter had eaten a cheesecake. And, again, classic varieties are dominating restaurant menus — chocolate chip, oatmeal, and sugar. Many of the fastest-growing cookie trends over the past year are variations on a chocolate chip cookie — cookies baked and served in cast iron skillets are up 251% over the past year, while dark chocolate or double/triple chocolate options continue to grow.

This is just a small taste of the insights we uncovered in this soon-to-be-released report detailing consumer behavior, motivations, and preferences, detailing cakes, pies, cookies, bars, brownies, and so much more.

Maeve Webster is the senior director of Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis and concept testing for the food industry. For more information about ordering the MenuTrends Keynote Dessert Report, contact Brian Darr at [email protected] or 312-655-0594.


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