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The Real Deal: Better-for-You Desserts Surge, Naturally

The Real Deal: Better-for-You Desserts Surge, Naturally

Better-for-you desserts could consume more market share as wellness-conscious millennials demand a balance between great taste and wholesome nutrition. Innovative flavor profiles and premium ingredients are important, but better-for-you appeal is the cherry on top to help drive sales. And an important way to inspire confidence in a dessert’s nutritional value is by avoiding artificial additives and preservatives.


Nearly half of consumers surveyed equate “real” or “natural” ingredients with better-for-you desserts.1

According to the foodservice market research firm Technomic, dessert consumption is reaching new heights, with 63% of consumers partaking at least once a week.1 Wellness concerns, however, can deter consumption. And though only a small segment adheres to a strict diet, the vast majority of Americans adopts some form of well-being-oriented eating.

In a survey from Datassential, another prominent research firm for the foodservice industry, 41% of participants said that while they don’t follow a specific diet, they are very careful about what they eat, while 44% said they generally try to eat healthy.2

Real Ingredients

Given the importance of wellness and taste, “better for you and better tasting” may be the new buzzword for foodservice providers who want to get the most out of their dessert menus and attract the growing number of consumers who want nutritious desserts that don’t skimp on flavor.

Being good for the planet is another big plus. Nielsen reported that 66% of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable brands.3 62% cite brand trust as the top sustainability factor that influences purchasing.3 Using ingredients from trusted brands, providing small portions and applying wellness-oriented terminology like “real” and “natural” can help foster an overall better-for-you perception of dessert offerings.

With younger consumers eating dessert more often than older consumers and more likely to visit restaurants because of a specific dessert,1 the opportunities for sales growth are great. Technomic advises foodservice operators to match the product mix with the customer base and promote their establishments as dessert destinations with special promos or custom programs. Make sure the mix includes better-for-you options that satisfy the millennial hankering for bold and diverse flavor profiles with simple, traceable ingredients.

What’s more, while evening remains ideal for dessert consumption, younger consumers are less likely to restrict it to any daypart, and more likely to enjoy desserts as snacks and meal replacements.1 Small, portable portions that are big on flavor may be the right offering for daytime snacks or lunch add-ons; more substantive, filling-rather-than-fattening options could hit the mark later in the day.

As consumers increasingly demand a balance between hanker-worthy taste and better-for-you nutritional content, it becomes more important than ever to apply trusted brands when creating dessert concepts. As Pamela Oscarson, consumer insights manager for flavor development company FONA International explained, while they are still interested in rich and satisfying dessert experiences, “consumers also want to know that the ingredients in their desserts are top-notch, which means ‘premium’ claims are rising.”4

Datassential reported that foodservice operators are becoming more and more engaged with wellness-driven menu innovation. 37% surveyed consider making sure wellness concerns inform menu design very important, while 46% deem it somewhat important.2 Debbie Marchok, vice president of marketing for Eli’s Cheesecake Co., explained, “consumer focus on the integrity of ingredients and desserts made with better-quality ingredients continues to gain momentum. From clean ingredient statements to gluten-free to GMO-free to dairy-free, the focus on ingredients continues to create demand for transparency by the consumer.”4 Menu design driven by demand for wellness dessert options that don’t compromise on flavor yet trim down costs is a recipe for success. In the end, desserts made with natural ingredients may be better not only for the consumer, but also for your bottom line.

1 Technomic, Dessert Consumer Trend Report, Q3 2015

2 Datassential, New Healthy report, April 2016

3 Nielsen, Consumer Goods Brands that Demonstrate Commitment to Sustainability Outperform Those that Don’t, October 12, 2015

4 Schafer, Romy, “State of the Industry 2016: Desserts get real, healthier and small,” Snack Food and Wholesale Bakery, June 13, 2016

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