As a global Top 10 food and beverage flavor expert, T. Hasegawa stays ahead of emerging trends, to help analyze the latest in what consumers are looking for in packaged foods, beverages and foodservice.
This fall saw the company’s flavorists and insights experts share results of an extensive review on dessert and confection flavor trends, tastes and more. Here are key findings:
• Younger consumers have a strong interest in unusual and international flavors, fruits, spices and ingredients. Millennial and Gen Z consumers in a recent Mintel survey cited interest in diverse, unusual flavors and ingredients – particularly those from Latin and Asian cuisines, such as Red Bean, Lychee, Tamarind, Tres Leches and Churro. Pairing these unusual innovative tastes with well-established flavors may be the most effective approach, as consumers still value nostalgic tastes and seek familiar brands.
• Nostalgic flavors can ground innovation in post-pandemic landscape. During the past two years, nostalgia has played an important role in providing comfort and familiarity to consumers during the pandemic and desserts was the most common category where this trend played out. According to Mintel research, 37% of consumers enjoy desserts that offer a twist on the familiar, while 46% of consumers like desserts that remind them of childhood, such as Birthday Cake and S’mores.
• Economic, environmental and health-based concerns shape attitudes in desserts and confections. Consumers are balancing rising prices of food with concerns related to health, wellness, the environment and broader economics. As inflation rises and consumer confidence falls, consumers may seek not only more affordable desserts, but also high-value options in terms of functionality and nutrition.
• Decreasing portion sizes to appeal to older consumers. While Gen Z and Millennial consumers are more often driven to make purchase decisions influenced by social media, older consumers seek out small portion sizes, which can be promoted as a healthier way to try new indulgences.
• Sales of desserts and confections are declining year over year, following a sales peak during the pandemic. Based on sales data from IRI InfoScan and Mintel, consumer demand for at-home confectionary, ice cream, dessert and baked goods peaked in 2020, before leveling off in 2021 and even decreasing to pre-pandemic levels in 2022. Operators can tap into the heightened health-consciousness that consumers have developed in recent years, offering high-protein, plant-based treats and those with functional, nourishing ingredients.
• The growth of Asian-inspired dessert teas. Milk teas, matcha and boba – all of which originated in Asian cuisine and became a foodservice trend – have also emerged as popular dessert flavors, in ice cream, cakes and even candy.