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Sweet desserts come in smaller packages

3 min read


Pricey cupcakes may not be the hot trend they were a few years ago, but Americans are still sweet on desserts and they’ve got a growing selection of individual and shareable options at restaurants and at the grocery store.

Seventy percent of Americans eat dessert at least once a week, up from 57% three years ago, according to US Foods. Nine out of 10 households regularly buy ice cream and other frozen desserts, according to Packaged Facts, and retail sales of frozen desserts are on track to hit $11.7 billion by 2018, up from $10.9 billion in 2013.

Sales of packaged sweet snacks and desserts were also on track to grow, with smaller package sizes and new single-serve options, according to a separate Packaged Facts report. By 2010, 46% of food companies were working on single-serve packaging such as 100-calorie cookies and other snacks, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

Traditional chocolate and vanilla treats are perennially popular with U.S. consumers, but they’re also getting more experimental when it comes to flavors and seeking out smaller portions to avoid overindulging.

Some restaurants have been downsizing desserts to give patrons the sweet after-dinner treats they crave, without piling on the calories. Seasons 52 is becoming known for its shot-glass sized desserts, which let guests taste a variety of sweets or just a little bit of the specific kind of cake they crave.

But only about half the desserts restaurant patrons eat are eaten at the restaurant, according to Packaged Facts, with the other half eaten at other establishments or purchased for consumption at home.

As packaging changes to include more single-serve options and consumers focus more on health, the definition of dessert is also expanding. Dessert might be a serving of Tastykake Mini Cupcakes or a cup of savory yogurt from Dan Barber’s Blue Hill Farm.

Packaged dessert brands are doing more to get noticed, from promoting their smaller portions on social media to offering tips on serving up smaller portions.

For example:

  • Sara Lee’s website includes a step-by-step primer on serving “One Bite Delights,” single-bite desserts you assemble right on the spoon from larger packaged cakes, fruit and toppings.
  • San Francisco-based Just Desserts brand sells single-serve cakes including carrot and chocolate bundt cakes, as well as individually packaged cupcakes and 12-, 16- and 24-count packages of brownie bites and coffee cake bites.
  • Duncan Hines has introduced Perfect Size cake mixes, which come with a six-inch pan in the package and serve two to four people, with flavors including Red Velvet and Chocolate Lovers.
  • Nabisco offers 100-calorie packs filled with mini-versions of favorite cookie brands including Oreos and Nutter Butters.
  • Kraft has long sold its Jello brands of gelatin and pudding in single-serving snack cups.
  • Entenmann’s sells bite-sized doughnut holes called Pop’ems.
  • Edy’s and Haagen Daz both sell popular ice cream flavors in single-serve cups
  • Magnum-brand ice cream bars now come in Magnum Minis.


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