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A Salute to Sales: The Buzz on Alcohol-Infused Desserts

The Buzz

44% of consumers surveyed would consider ordering a frozen sweet cocktail as a dessert.1

Millennials have been stepping up to the plate as a powerhouse segment of the foodservice market for a while. Now they’re stepping up to the bar. These daring dessert adventurers on a quest for buzzworthy flavor experiences are poised to be the toast of operators and chefs in 2018.

The foodservice research firm Technomic has found that millennial survey participants are especially interested in over-the-top, social media-worthy dessert concepts.2 They’re also more likely than older consumers to enjoy desserts with a touch of alcohol.3 So liquor-tinged treats may be the ticket to generate social buzz and boost sales.

Alcohol’s appeal as a dessert ingredient isn’t limited to millennials. Across demographic groups, 36% of consumers surveyed would consider ordering a dessert beverage with alcohol added.1 In fact, the definition of dessert has stretched to include regular cocktails, which 35% of survey participants (46% of younger consumers) would find appealing as a dessert item.1

Drinking in the Data: How Bottom’s Up Can Help the Bottom Line

According to Datassential, another leading food and beverage-focused research firm, 36% of consumers surveyed splurge on dessert, while millennials are more likely to splurge on alcohol.4 As a result, dessert and alcohol combos may be a potent mix to help spike sales and keep foot traffic flowing, particularly during evening hours when alcohol consumption tends to peak.

It’s also noteworthy that Datassential survey data determined that 50% of women favor trying new alcoholic beverages instead of sticking to old favorites.5 This could present foodservice operators with opportunities to experiment with inventive dessert cocktail concepts for female consumers.

As Dee Ann Quinones, head bartender at Westbound in Los Angeles, put it: “Personally, I'd drink dessert over eating one, especially if it has alcohol. Westbound’s spiked shakes are like not needing to pick between a dessert or cocktail — you’re getting the best of both!”6

While alcohol-infused desserts may seem suited for higher-end menus, Technomic survey results show that alcohol beverages are more popular at casual dining restaurants (44%) than at fine dining establishments (40%).6 Both locations far surpass at-home consumption (21%).7

Liquor Moves Quicker into the Foodservice Market

Fresh, alcohol-added takes on classics like floats or milkshakes have been popular on menus for a few years, picking up a momentum that earned booze-boosted dessert concepts a place among this year’s 11 key trends identified by international food and restaurant consultants Baum+Whiteman.8

From red wine slushies flavored with strawberries to gin and tonic popsicles brimming with nearly 10% booze, restaurants around the world are finding the idea of alcohol kicking up sales intoxicating.8

Major brands are betting on booze too. Haagen-Dazs recently stirred things up in Canada with the introduction of boozed-up ice cream pints, including vodka-key lime and whisky-chocolate truffle. And Taco Bell plans to open dozens of spiked slushie “cantinas” in major cities across America.9 Think margarita, pina colada and lemonade flavors with infusions of tequila, rum, vodka or whiskey.9

Keep in mind that a splash of liquor instead of a soaking is more favorable to enhance rather than overwhelm a dessert’s flavor profile. Foodservice operators should also be aware of their area’s laws regulating alcohol-infused foods. Prudence, moderation and innovation are key to uncorking the sales potential of dessert concepts with a liquor-tinged kick.

1 Technomic, Dessert Consumer Trend Report, 2017, p. 91.
2 Technomic, p. 14.
3 Technomic, p. 12.
4 Datassential, Foodbytes: Dessert Keynote Report (Sept. 2016), p. 7.
5 Datassential, Foodbytes: Blueprint for LTO Success (Aug. 2017), p. 7.
6 Glazer, Fern, “Drinkable desserts are growing on menus,” Nation’s Restaurant News, July 29, 2016.
7 Technomic, p. 60.
8 Baum+Whiteman, Food & Beverages Report, 2018, p. 21
9 Baum+Whiteman, p. 22



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