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Daring Desserts: Interactive Experiences Upload Customers

Daring Desserts: Interactive Experiences Upload Customers

60% of millennials surveyed find interactive dessert experiences appealing.1

When it comes to desserts, today’s consumers are boldly going where no other generation has gone before: their own way. With three of every five Technomic survey participants between the ages of 18 and 34 citing the appeal of desserts that feature an interactive element,1 millennials seem to hanker after concepts that engage them and make them active participants in their creation.

Data from the global foodservice market research firm underscores variety and customization as key ingredients in a successful approach to dessert menu innovation. From dessert carts (60%) and topping bars (58%) to dessert flights (47%) and mashups (45%), millennial survey participants stand out in their preference for daring desserts that encourage their involvement and capture their imagination.2

In keeping with the build-your-own foodservice trend, diverse dessert formats and flavors that lend themselves to varying degrees of customization tend to be the way to the millennial heart—and wallet. Bear in mind that among the four dessert user groups Technomic has identified (Heavy, Moderate, Light and Lapsed), the largest are Heavy Dessert Users (32%), who tend to be affluent millennials with small children.3

Expect Millennials to Build Out the Build-Your-Own Trend

With its emphasis on innovative flavor combinations and wow-factor concepts, mashup mania seems well suited to Heavy Dessert Users. Given the millennial preference for customization and interactivity, we can expect to see young consumers take the build-your-own phenomenon to the next level and blaze their own trail of self-made mashups.

The greater the variety of toppings, mix-ins, textures and flavor profiles to choose from, the better able foodservice operators will be to meet millennial expectations of new and exciting dessert experiences.

Sixty-five percent of consumers surveyed express a desire to try new flavors from time to time, with 20% of millennials and 22% of Generation Xers actively seeking out new flavors on a regular basis.4 Dessert concepts that invite interaction and customization may be especially appealing to these key demographics.

Catching Zs: Gen Zers and Trending Interactive Desserts

Generation Z, which spent $78 billion in restaurants in one year alone,5 seems to share a keen interest in food concept involvement and interactivity with their millennial and Gen X predecessors. Nearly a quarter of Gen Zers surveyed stated a preference for building a meal of appetizers or snack foods.5 And dessert definitions are shifting away from the post-meal pigeonhole to become broader and less defined by any daypart.6 As a result, opportunities are opening up for greater flexibility in developing dessert menus.

The nationally expanding chain Freezing Moo has turned Thai-rolled ice-cream desserts into an interactive spectacle, where customers watch their order being prepared by hand and participate by choosing from a wide variety of flavors and toppings. Alinea, a Michelin 3-star restaurant in Chicago, has created an edible balloon made from green apple taffy and filled with real helium. Both examples elevate desserts to fun, Instagram-worthy forms of interactive performance.

Savvy foodservice operators will continue the interactive trend, engaging consumers’ imaginations and taste buds at the same time. By inviting the consumer’s active participation, operators are better equipped to meet the market’s demand for unique flavors and formats that dare to cross the line from conventional to customizable.

1 Mills, Anne and Yonke, Brett, Dessert Consumer Trend Report: Custom Webinar, Technomic (2017), at p. 29
2 Technomic, Dessert Consumer Trend Report (2017), at p. 79
3 Technomic, Dessert Consumer Trend Report (2017), at p. 116
4 Technomic, Flavor Consumer Trend Report (2017), p. 66
5 Navarra, Theresa, “Generation Z Wants New Food Trends for 2017,” Restaurant Insider (2017, July 1). Retrieved from
6 Technomic, Dessert Consumer Trend Report (2017), p. 52

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