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Non-Traditional Dessert Flavors: From Old to Bold

2018 Dessert trends from old to bold

Foodservice may be in a state of perennial flux, but there’s one thing that seems to stay constant: consumers favor flavor. That constant may apply now more than ever—and younger consumers tend to be the most flavor-obsessed.

According to the 2017 Flavor Consumer Trends Report from the global research firm Technomic, which focuses on the foodservice industry, 53% of millennials surveyed said they are more interested in trying new flavors now than they were a year ago, and 43% said that compared to two years ago, they are ordering more drinks with unique flavors.1 Across demographics, 37% of survey respondents strongly agree that they’re more likely to visit a restaurant that offers new flavors.2

Based on the report’s findings, Technomic concludes that new flavors can act as a catalyst to drive traffic and increase spend.2 Consumer expectations run high, however, with half of millennial survey participants saying that restaurants should offer signature flavors and 47% agreeing that they should frequently introduce new flavors.3 To accommodate rising demand, 47% of restaurant operators introduce new flavors, including menu items and limited-time offers, once a month at a minimum.3

Flavor Frenzy: The Lowdown on What’s Trending Up

With bold flavors trending up, Technomic foresees dessert menus incorporating more savory flavors and cites the growing popularity of cappuccino, ricotta and peanut.4 Dessert flavors are diversifying, as reflected in growth of bold flavors at both limited service and fast service restaurants.

Technomic’s MenuMonitor, an extensive database of menu trends, revealed that among dessert flavors, cappuccino has perked up the most growth at LSRs (57%), while ricotta leads the pack as the big cheese at FSRs (33%).5 Ice cream varieties are driving flavor growth and diversification, including peanut, salted caramel, mango, coconut. And ricotta, salted caramel and toffee are also on the rise as popular flavors in baked goods.5

A Barrage of Blends to Help Boost the Bottom Line

Among the trending desserts identified recently by Nation’s Restaurant News are a few flavors that topple traditional expectations.

The brainchild of Swiss chocolatier Barry Callebaut, ruby chocolate is “reportedly the first new natural chocolate flavor since white chocolate was introduced more than 80 years ago.”6 Known for its berry, fruity notes, the distinctively rose-colored confection is free from artificial coloring or flavoring. “I would like to use this possibly in some mousses or truffles,” said Marisa High, pastry chef Citizen Rail in Denver. “I would also like to test how it pairs or complements other flavors that are more common to a pastry palate.”6

Honey vinegar and cherry blossom are two other flavors Nation’s Restaurant News cited as worth watching. Executive Pastry Chef Thomas Raquel of Le Bernardin in New York City sang the praises of both as dessert ingredients, saying: "Cherry blossom is a great representation of spring and I love the subtle, fragrant flavor. Separately, I’m working on a honey dessert and think honey vinegar will add an interesting acidity to the dish while reinforcing the honey profile."6

From sea salt and green tea ice cream topped with chocolate shavings to thick, crispy waffles bulging with bacon bits, peanut butter and mixed fruit, watch for dessert menus to step up their emphasis on flavor experimentation throughout 2018. Fresh twists on old favorites and a balance between the new and nostalgic are key components of menu innovation. But as flavor trends take desserts beyond the traditional, “out with the old, in with the bold” could be the rallying cry for operators with a robust appetite for the millennial market.

1 Technomic, Flavor Consumer Trends Report, 2017, p. 67
2 Technomic, p. 75
3 Technomic, p. 77
4 Technomic, p. 11
5 Technomic, p. 47
6 Glazer, Fern, “Pastry chefs reveal 4 dessert trends for 2018,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Nov. 29, 2017

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