Even a casual glance at what’s trending in the current food scene will reveal a surprising truth: We foodies are quite the eclectic mix of contradictions (otherwise known as indecisive). One minute we’re all about complex ethnic recipes, the next we want to simplify with farm-sourced heartland fare. We’re wowed by molecular gastronomy and then romanced by classic culinary techniques. Case in point: the dessert course.
As we might expect in this ever-changing dining landscape, dessert isn’t even “just for dessert” anymore: A 2013 Dessert Consumer Trend Report published by Technomic, Inc., in Chicago reported that 40% of consumers eat dessert twice a week or more often, and it isn’t always enjoyed just as an encore to evening dinner – I often adhere to the old adage “life is short – eat dessert first!”. Sweet treats have made their way into a myriad serving forms (samplers, shots, and small bites—oh my!) and culinary contexts (breakfast, snacking, and cocktail hour all get the sweet-tooth treatment). With our love of variety and a let’s-try-it-all attitude, the choices can easily begin to overwhelm the curious foodie. Yet the desire for quality and diversity in our food experiences is the over-arching theme evident in what’s selling right now. Here are three areas we see dessert gaining chocolate-covered popularity in 2014:
Small is Big—mini pies, mini-cakes, and other small-bite desserts are the amuse-bouche of the moment. There were plenty of smaller-portioned treats on the scene last year that prepared our palates–cupcakes, cake pops, and the Cronut to name a few. Individual portions fit the niche of a treat in moderation for those who want to watch their waistlines or like the idea of trying more varieties without suffering dessert overload. Look for fancy donuts and ice cream sandwiches among the many options for single-serving desserts.
Share the Love—Whether your dessert becomes a community experience through sharing a large portion or collectively indulging in a sampler of mini desserts, getting other diners in on the action is a great way to enjoy dessert that’s more than enough for one.
Scale Down—Choices with less sugar and more healthful ingredients are increasing in popularity. For many, this means seeking out desserts that feature fresh fruit or lower-calorie mainstays like Greek yogurt. Stevia—a natural, plant-based sweetener—has also found a market with calorie-conscious consumers who still want to enjoy a sugary flavor in their after-dinner treats.
The key to understanding today’s dessert trends is to recognize what consumers are interested in—and why. It’s easy to see the emphasis on quality, variety, and customization these popular desserts showcase. It’s the attitude of doing it right—and thus ensuring that you’re getting the most out of your eating experience. If you want to sample small portions, manage big portions by sharing, or choose options with health-conscious ingredients, you are taking ownership of your dessert experience so that you can have your cake—or mini pie, or tiramisu shot—and eat it, too. if you’re going to have a dessert, make sure it’s exactly the one you want!
And of course, as usual, here’s something a little weird: If you haven’t already heard, Dominique Ansel, inventor of the Cronut, debuted the Milk and Cookie Shot at this year’s South by Southwest festival—a bite-sized cookie shot glass filled with milk. Yum! Move over creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookie!