Luring Diners to indulge in decadent desserts

According to thefoodpeople’s latest ‘Desserts’ report, “deliciously indulgent desserts continue to hold mouthwatering appeal despite concerns around too much sugar hitting the headlines”.

However, consumers’ wants and desires are changing when it comes to sweet treats, so how can caterers persuade them to plump for a pud?

Classic and retro puddings, such as meringue and cheesecake, continue to dominate, with many familiar favourites being deconstructed and re-imagined.

“Childhood favourites and classic combinations with a modern twist is the key to striking just the right balance on a menu, advises Robert Whittle, managing director at Pidy UK. “For example a lemon tart is timeless but it’s all about elevating this classic format to give it the wow factor. Why not upgrade the traditional zesty lemon tart and add the feisty flavour of gin?”

Rhubarb and custard is a key flavour combination for this year, and it’s cropping up in a range of formats from soufflfflés to éclairs.

Similarly, reinvented versions of Black Forest gateau, carrot cake, panna cotta and Eton Mess are proving a big hit, whilst 90s-inspired rice pudding, artic roll and upside down cake are getting a makeover. Boozy desserts such as 70s inspired red wine poached pears are also making a comeback. As well as enjoying the limelight in the profit sector, desserts from ‘yesteryear’ also evoke nostalgia for people living in care homes. This can be particularly rewarding for people living with dementia.

Roulades are also back in fashion, says Gordon Lauder, MD of frozen food distributor Central Foods.
“Sales of our top three Menuserve meringue roulades soared by more than 23% in 2019 versus 2018,” he continues. “Raspberry and white chocolate seems to be the nation’s favourite. It’s a classic combination and one that we now offer in individual portions – perfect for banqueting or when tight cost
controls are in force.”

“Savoury flavours are coming into the category in a big way bringing a different kind of sweet,” according to thefoodpeople’s Desserts report. Vegetables are also appearing on desserts menus – think beetroot meringue and carrot sorbet!
Floral flavours such as rose, chamomile and lavender are growing in popularity too, and herbs such as rosemary, thyme and lemon verbena, are being used to infuse creams, ice cream and sorbets. The techniques of smoking, fermenting and pickling are creeping onto desserts menus too, whilst matcha, ginger and turmeric with their accompanying health claims are taking puddings in a new direction.
Robert Whittle explains: “Although matcha has in fact been around for an incredible 800 years, it’s been impossible to ignore the trend that’s hit our Instagram feeds. Matcha has been incorporated i into all kinds of treats such as macarons and tarts because it adds an intriguing flavour as well
as a fantastic vibrancy. There are a whole host of exotic flavours like yuzu, miso and black sesame that are traditionally used in Japanese and Chinese culture and are set to become even more popular.”

55% of consumers say they would be more likely to choose a dessert if calorie information was available and lower sugar options are of interest for a third (35%) of dessert consumers (Callebaut Desserts Report). Fruit-based desserts tick the healthier option box and puddings overloaded with fresh fruit make a regular appearance on Instagram feeds. Kiwi with its vibrant colour is currently on trend, being added to tarts, pies, panna cotta and compotes.
Sarah Lesser-Moor, brand manager for Lion sauces at AAK Foodservice, comments: “For a winning combination of health and indulgence, it’s all about the compotes. “Crammed with real fruit, new Lion compotes are perfect for turning even the most basic pudding into a treat. Spoon peach and maple compote on to pancakes with crispy bacon for a savour sensation, or layer red berry compote with ice cream and serve on hot waffles.”
The School Food Standards have strict guidelines governing the amount of sugar allowed in school meals with a complete ban on confectionery. However, this doesn’t mean tasty sweet treats are off the menu. Fruit-based desserts such as jelly, fruit compote, crumbles, and sponge puddings, are a great option, and schools should be offering fruit-based desserts containing at least 50% fruit two or more times a week.
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“Fruity flavours work well in desserts but try ringing the changes with more unusual fruit flavours, like lemon-yuzu,” suggests Marie- Emmanuelle Chessé, international development project manager at Tipiak, which supplies frozen, authentic French pâtisserie to the hospitality sector. “With last year’s rugby world cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, interest in Japan and Japanese cuisine is growing and yuzu is now a popular citrus choice when it comes to flavouring.
“It’s one of the flavours in the new Tipiak range of gluten-free Pop Macarons Fruits, along with blackcurrant, morello cherry, coconut, passionfruit and apricot. Macarons are a darling of social media, with more than five million photos posted on Instagram alone. This has helped introduce a whole new generation to these authentic delights, and Brits have really been bitten by the macaron bug now. “So versatile, macarons can be used as decorations, toppings and inclusions for other desserts or freakshakes, or even be served pick ‘n’ mix style, popped in a bag or box and sold as a takeaway sweet treat.”

3% of consumers identify as vegan and, whilst this is only a small proportion of the population, there is wider consumer interest in these options when dining out of home. According to the Callebaut Dessert report 2020, 15% of today’s consumers say they would be more likely to order a dessert that is vegan and 69% of consumers would be neither more or less likely to order a dessert if it was vegan, proving that these options can appeal to the majority of diners and mean that caterers can suit many requirements with one dish. Anna Sentance, gourmet marketing manager, Callebaut UK and Ireland, comments: “Veganism remains an important consideration for caterers and continues to influence consumer dining habits. With more than two fifths of consumers purchasing a dessert, cake or pastry when eating out, to maximise sales opportunities and satisfy consumers, dessert menus also need to include vegan options.”

N-ICE IDEAS The ice cream category has been innovating to keep up with the trend for sophisticated flavour profiles. Christina Veal, director at New Forest Ice Cream, advises: “As well as updating desserts to suit the seasons, offering high quality, innovative new ice cream flavours to complement desserts will ensure the dish delivers on every level. Whether served as the perfect accompaniment, a delicate palate cleaner, or as a refreshingly light dessert in its own right, using a quality manufacturer and including the latest trends, flavours and serving ideas is key. New Forest Ice Cream’s newest launches are Honey & Fig ice cream and Candy Floss ice cream, which contains strawberry sugar crunch pieces.