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Consumers Seek Comfort From Familiar Fall Flavors

Pumpkin spice will be back, and handheld options for to-go orders will remain essential.


Seasonal Desserts With Nostalgic Ingredients

Consumers traditionally crave familiar, nostalgic comfort foods and snacks in the fall and winter. In this challenging year, those cravings are expected to be particularly intense.

Mondelēz International offers a range of ingredients that add a twist to traditional comfort food recipes—from pies and cakes to shakes and shareable snack items. Some of the key themes to keep in mind this fall are the ongoing need for portable, handheld items, as off-premises dining is expected to continue to remain in high demand. In addition, operators can expect that consumers will be eager to celebrate all the fall and winter traditions and holidays, including Halloween and Thanksgiving, however they can.

Dessert Burritos

OREO Cookie Pieces and OREO Base Cake Crumbs can be featured in a wide range of autumn desserts, including cakes, pies, shakes, s’mores and other sweet treats.

For a warm dessert that satisfies consumers’ desire for handheld treats they can eat on the go, try Dessert Burritos made with OREO Cookie Pieces. This unique dish begins with an OREO Cheesecake, which is sliced up and folded inside a tortilla with chocolate sauce. Store it in the freezer and deep fry for one minute to order.

Or showcase the ever-popular fall flavor of pumpkin, combined with the great taste of OREO Cookies, in this Pumpkin Cheesecake made with OREO Base Cake. The buttery crust features OREO Base Cake Crumbs, and the pumpkin filling gets a further infusion of seasonal zest from cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

Or try offering your guests this seasonal dessert with a twist: Pecan Pie made with OREO Cookie Pieces.

Gingerbread Cheesecake
Consider other Mondelēz ingredients for innovative, on-trend autumn and winter snacks and dessert treats as well. For example, Gingerbread Cheesecake with Orange Sauce and NABISCO Cookies offers classic fall flavors, highlighted by the use of NABISCO Cookies in the crust. The recipe also includes cloves, cinnamon, vanilla beans and orange sauce.
Pumpkin Pie Pops

For an innovative, portable treat that’s perfect for fall, these Pumpkin Pie Pops offer the perfect handheld solution. They include a NILLA Wafer pie crust and such seasonal ingredients as cinnamon, ginger, cloves and pumpkin puree.

RITZ BBQ Bites

Seasonal snacks made with RITZ Crackers are popular during the fall and winter months as well. One option that works as a shareable appetizer, bar snack, side dish or entree is BBQ Pork Mac & Cheese Bites made with RITZ Crackers. This unique, crunchy take on a comfort food classic includes BBQ pulled pork and mac and cheese that’s been rolled into balls and coated with coarsely crushed RITZ Crackers.

For another shareable, on-trend finger food, consider Mediterranean Polenta made with RITZ Crackers. Simply bread polenta pieces with flour, egg and RITZ Cracker crumbs, then bake or fry and serve with burrata, pesto, tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, balsamic glaze, olive oil, and basil leaves. It’s the perfect comfort food for today’s consumer.

Fudge Fritters made with NUTTER BUTTER Cookies

What says “comfort” more than a warm, gooey, peanut butter and chocolate dessert combo? Fudge Fritters made with NUTTER BUTTER Cookies are coated with funnel cake batter and fried for a classic carnival-style snack or dessert experience.

Mondelēz International has innovative, on-trend recipes for all of your seasonal menu needs, from sweet to savory. Visit the Culinary Center to learn more.

Comfort foods and nostalgia will figure prominently among consumer preferences this fall as restaurant patrons seek to restore a semblance of normalcy to their lives, analysts say.

“In the same way we saw consumers look for comforting, nostalgic favorites when COVID-19 restrictions were first enacted in March and April, we'll see consumers also seek out their favorite seasonal foods and beverages this fall,” says Mike Kostyo, senior managing editor and trendologist at Datassential. “It will be another indicator that things can be a little normal again.”

Familiar fall flavors such as pumpkin, chai and s'mores “will be big again,” he says, adding that fans of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte have been clamoring for the company to release the perennially popular menu item even earlier this year.

“Last year, we saw more than 70 pumpkin spice additions to major chain menus,” Kostyo continues. “This year we should expect [another] uptick as consumers look for comforting favorites.”

Other flavors and fall recipes that hold promise for the coming months include:

  • Apple butter, which has been one of the fastest-growing flavors on menus recently — up 26% in the last year alone, according to Datassential’s MenuTrends database. Kostyo predicts the condiment could appear “in a range of applications” in 2021 and beyond.
  • Mexican chocolate, which recorded a 22% rise in menu penetration in 2019, “really fits the fall because of its spiced flavor profile,” Kostyo says.

Fall Traditions Paramount

Consumers will be looking for ways to celebrate fall events and holidays, like Oktoberfest and Halloween, since expectations are that many public events and festivities will be muted or canceled. These occasions in some ways will be more important than ever this year as consumers seek to reconnect with familiar rituals, often through snacks and comfort foods.

“We were [self-isolating at] home for so long that it’s almost as if we have missed a season or two,” says Christine Couvelier, president and global culinary trendologist at research and consulting firm Culinary Concierge. “I think that come fall, it will be more important than ever to think about seasonal eating, seasonal taste and seasonal ingredients.”

Other analysts agree that these consumer desires will be especially apparent within the snack and dessert categories.

"Consumers rely on desserts and confections for comfort and relaxation,” explains Alyssa Hangartner, customer insights analyst, flavor and ingredient trends at Mintel. “Dessert flavors for the fall revolve around nostalgia. S’mores, cookie dough, and birthday cake channel delightful childhood memories and add playfulness to an indulgent experience.”

Hangartner also expects to see bourbon trend on U.S. dessert menus as the weather cools. “Bourbon is perfect for fall,” she says. It elevates the simplicity of classic flavors such as vanilla or pecan and “has captured significant consumer interest, especially among younger demographics.”

Datassential’s MenuTrends confirms that bourbon’s menu penetration rose 16% in 2019. And Kostyo expects to see that continue, citing bourbon’s increased use in barbecue sauces as an accompaniment to snack items such as chicken tenders or sliders.

Let’s Do the Twist

Fall is also an ideal time for operators to offer what Kostyo calls "comfort with a twist” — items that consumers know and love, but with a new flavor or ingredient added.

Young consumers in particular are continuing to seek bold and spicy flavors in both foods they’re familiar with and in new creations.

According to Jill Failla, senior foodservice analyst at Mintel, early 2020 data from Mintel Menu Insights showed strong growth for spicy ingredients such as zhug (a Yemeni green hot sauce), boom boom sauce (usually mayonnaise mixed with chili sauce), baharat (Middle Eastern and Turkish spice blends) and harissa. “This presents a great opportunity to spice up simpler or more indulgent comfort foods with bolder flavors both at restaurants and at home in the months ahead,” she says.

In the snacking space, meanwhile, “consumers are looking for adventure,” Mintel’s Hangartner says. According to Mintel research, nearly half of all consumers enjoy experimenting with new flavors in this category. “Consumers ranked sweet and spicy as a preferred snack flavor combination, creating an opportunity for sweet chili flavor innovation,” she adds.

Consumers are also interested in herbal flavors such as rosemary and basil. Hangartner suggests that operators consider offering “a unique twist to popular snack options” with combination flavors such as rosemary-cheddar or garlic and basil.

Culinary Concierge’s Couvelier cites popcorn as another popular comfort food snack that can be combined with a range of unique flavor profiles — from savory spice blends to better-for-you add-ins such as turmeric to sweet treats such as popcorn mixed with OREO Cookie Pieces or other treats like OREO cheesecake.

Eating on the Go

Portability and single-serve autumn desserts and snacks on-the-go will remain important, and consumers will likely remain focused on off-premises consumption, whether through takeout or delivery. “We'll see delivery continue to be an important part of the dining landscape this fall, along with curbside pickup, which means we'll see a lot of [menu] options that travel well,” Kostyo explains.

Ingredients that work well on sandwiches, tacos, pizzas and burgers, for example, will be important, so operators should experiment with ingredients such as horseradish mustards, cheese sauces, cranberry chutneys, apples and roasted squash in their fall recipes.

“We'll also see more options that can be eaten in the car,” Kostyo adds. “Instead of a slice of pie, we'll see handheld pies; instead of a full pizza, we'll see snackable pizza sticks.”

Small bites also lend themselves to today’s on-the-go way of life. According to Mondelēz International’s State of Snacking™ report, 53% of adults surveyed (including 66% of millennials) find their lifestyles more conducive to small bites enjoyed on the go than full meals. Snacks and appetizers are also a great way to satisfy consumer demand for a range of new and interesting culinary experiences.

Whatever your fall and winter menu plans, Mondelēz International can provide the expertise needed to help you navigate the current consumer environment. From innovative recipes that feature classic ingredients consumers love to research and insights that guide your operational planning, Mondelēz is your year-round culinary partner.



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