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Flavor and fun on the 2019 dessert menu

Outlook for snacks and desserts calls for more experimentation and functionality including more gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan options.


Snacking and Dessert Trends to Watch in 2019

Operators will place more spicy, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, portable and globally influenced dessert items on the menu in 2019. Consumer interest in great-tasting snacks and dessert items, which also offer some health benefits, will take center stage.

Spicy Mango Gelatin

Chamoy sauce

This Mexican sauce, often made from apricots, brings sweet-and-sour flavors, along with mild spice, to dessert options such as this Spicy Mango Gelatin from Sweet Cannela.

Empanada Mama

Dessert empanadas

Empanada Mama in New York offers a Belgian milk chocolate empanada with bananas. Dessert empanadas offer portability and lend themselves to a range of exotic flavors.

Guajillo Chili Chocolate Cake

Spicy chocolate

El Roy’s Tequila Bar + Kitchen, Coronado, Calif., menus guajillo chili chocolate cake — a spicy and sweet dessert --- a flavor combination expected to accelerate in 2019.

Photo credit: Blue Bridge Hospitality

Turkish Delight

Rose water

Turkish delight is a Middle Eastern candy made with rose water, a flavorful ingredient with broad appeal which is expected to appear in more snacks and desserts in 2019.

Gingered Golden Milk Cone

Vegan ice cream

Frankie & Jo’s ice cream shop in Seattle features on-trend ingredients such as turmeric, which is included in its Gingered Golden Milk recipe, which also includes spices, black pepper and ginger.


Photo credit: Frankie & Jo's.

Snacks and desserts are a playground where foodservice operators and consumers can let go and experiment with new flavors and concepts.

But that doesn’t mean that there are no rules to follow or boundaries to maintain. In 2019, those rules are being defined by ongoing consumer interest in health and clean ingredient labels as well as the shift toward anytime snacking and snacking on the go.

“Snacking has changed so much,” says Montina Filice, strategist at The Culinary Edge, San Francisco. “It is almost its own daypart.”

Foodservice operators are seeking to leverage that trend, she says, by offering more portable snacks or dessert items — dessert empanadas are one example — which can serve as between-meal fillers and can help to drive traffic during traditionally slow periods.

When it comes to flavor profiles, the boundaries continue to expand as consumers become increasingly receptive to cuisines and ingredients from around the world.

“I think the biggest trend is that people are willing to take risks,” says Allison Rittman of Austin, Texas-based consulting firm Culinary Culture. “In the snacking arena it is much easier for operators to take chances, and experiment outside their comfort zone and outside their customers’ comfort zones.”

New dessert flavors to watch

Exotic and unusual flavors will continue to crop up in desserts in 2019. These include more heat and spice, as well as salt and herbs.

“Dessert is a lot less sweet than it used to be,” says Filice. “There’s a big push toward this mix of savory and sweetness, or a mix of salty and sweet. This idea that dessert is a sugar bomb is going away.”

Formulations which incorporate these disparate elements add welcome complexity to desserts, she says.

Combining spicy chili flavors such as guajillo chili with chocolate is another snacking and dessert trend that is expected to continue in 2019.

Rittman of Culinary Culture notes that beyond the trend of adding chilies and spices into snacks and desserts, chefs are increasingly incorporating hot sauces such as chamoy sauce, a sweet-and-sour Mexican fruit-based preparation which has a kick.

Hot sauces can impart a variety of flavors and properties into desserts, she says, including acidity and saltiness, in addition to flavor and heat.

Rittman also cites increased interest in harissa, the North African sauce which has gained more widespread acceptance in recent years. While most of the focus has been on red harissa varieties, she suggests keeping an eye out for green harissa formulations, which are usually made with jalapeños and incorporate “a lot of bright, fresh flavors,” she says.

“I haven’t seen it outside of fine dining, but it is a flavor I hope will pop up more often,” says Rittman.

Christine Couvelier, global culinary trendologist at research and consulting firm Culinary Concierge, cites several other flavors which are primed for more widespread distribution in snacks and desserts in 2019, including:

  • Banana in both breads and cakes.
  • Floral flavors including hibiscus, orange blossom and rose water. The latter in particular is fresh and light, says Couvelier, and offers a flavor that both chefs and consumers “are not afraid to try.”
  • Bourbon as an ingredient in desserts such as blueberry or pecan pies.
  • Cider in a variety of dessert applications such as frostings or glazes, baked into banana bread or muffins, or as a flavorful addition to snack or granola bars, Couvelier suggests.
  • Brown butter, which can impart a nutty flavor to desserts and can be used in combination with a variety of other ingredients.

Clean and natural ingredients for snacks and dessert items

Clean ingredient labels will continue to be important to consumers in 2019, and operators will offer snack and dessert options with fewer refined carbohydrates and refined sugars. Filice of The Culinary Edge says they will opt instead for natural sugar sources such as:

  • Maple.
  • Agave.
  • Coconut sugar.
  • Date syrup.

At that same time, consumers have also come to accept fat as an important, and even healthy, element of their dietary intake.

“You are seeing a lot more full-fat dairy desserts, and things like triple-cream yogurt,” says Filice, citing yogurt parfaits as a prime example of an afternoon snack item poised to gain traction in 2019.

She also cites buffalo-milk soft-serve ice cream as an example of an emerging high-fat dessert trend.

“Part of it is satiation — you are eating something that keeps you full,” says Filice.

Functional snacks

One of the driving forces of the snack category in the foreseeable future is what Filice refers to as “permissible indulgence.” This describes the trend toward incorporating healthful or functional ingredients into snacks so that they provide both immediate gratification and lasting peace of mind.

“A snack is really supposed to be a pick-me-up, but what’s the point of having a pick-me-up if you are going to feel guilty about it later?” says Filice.

In 2019, snacks will continue to gravitate toward formulations that offset indulgence with healthful ingredients that help assuage consumer guilt, such as protein, antioxidants or ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties.

“That is the mark of the snack of the future,” says Filice. “They still pick you up; they still give you a bit of emotional comfort, and a bit of indulgence, but you don’t have to feel bad about them because they also give you that one healthful ingredient.”

She cites ingredients such as turmeric, saffron, cumin and cardamom as examples of beneficial additives.

In addition, functional snacks will continue to be offered in familiar flavor varieties, says Filice, citing salt-and-vinegar-flavored pea-based chips as an example.

Hold the gluten; hold the dairy

Product developers and chefs have become increasingly adept at creating gluten-free and dairy-free desserts, and those items will proliferate on menus in the year ahead, says Couvelier.

“I am really looking forward to seeing the development next year of gluten-free and dairy-free dessert and snack options which have great taste, because there’s so much room for growth,” she says. “Gluten-free is not a trend, and it’s not a fad — it is a way of the industry.”

The use of plant-based dairy ingredients, such as nut milks, in snack foods and desserts will also continue in expand in 2019, particularly in ice cream, Couvelier says.

In fact, vegan ice cream made with interesting or exotic flavors could be poised for a breakout year, some observers say.

The ice cream category in particular has proven to be a fertile testing ground for new flavors and formulations, says Couvelier.

“You can try in-and-out flavors; you can have seasonal flavors; you can make small batches to test, and customers will try all kinds of ice cream,” she says. “It’s fabulous to watch.”

Thanks to consumers’ ever-expanding palates, dessert and snack opportunities in 2019 are limited only by the creativity of chefs and restaurateurs.



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