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Frozen Desserts Hit Sweet Spot

Mini cheesecakes and novel refrigerated SKUs lead frozen desserts innovation.

Thanks to strong growth in the cheesecake (+27.6%) and sweet goods (+20.0%) segments, the frozen desserts category enjoyed some sweet success during the 12 weeks ended Feb. 21, registering a 14.9% gain, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI. The frozen pie category posted a respectable 10.4% jump, while refrigerated desserts saw a 9.9% advance.

“At the onset of COVID-19, we saw grocery items used for baking and desserts rise dramatically. [But now], we’re seeing consumers look for easy ways to indulge in desserts,” says Nicole Kulwicki, general manager for desserts at Kraft Heinz, Pittsburgh and Chicago. She adds that the company’s “easy indulgent desserts” category grew 7.2% during the past quarter.

“People are looking for easy ways to liven up their everyday,” explains Jaylon Rosenblum, director of marketing for Marshall, Minn.-based Schwan’s Consumer Brands, owner of the Edwards brand. He adds that consumers view indulgence as a form of self-care.

Lending further credence to the growing popularity of frozen desserts, Target’s new Favorite Day lineup includes two frozen dessert offerings: Cheesecake Bite Collection and Frozen Macarons.

“Now more than ever, guests are prioritizing snacks and treats that help them recharge and connect — whether during ‘me time’ or with loved ones,” says the company in a press release. “Target saw an opportunity to introduce this new food and beverage brand that brings together all the snacking items we know guests love to make life’s little moments of indulgence even sweeter.”


Although cheesecake was 2020’s biggest frozen dessert gainer, much of the growth was driven by new single-serve and “bitesized” products. In fact, demand for Sara Lee’s new Sara’s Selections Mini Cheesecakes, launched last fall, was so strong that the Oakbrook Park, Ill.-based company decided to focus on supplying just the top two flavors: Creamy Classic and Rich Caramel Truffle. “We look forward to bringing Sensational Strawberry back to market in July,” says Mike Mitchell, senior brand manager, retail marketing.

Kraft Heinz’s new Colliders refrigerated desserts feature some of consumers’ favorite candies.

“Our consumers often crave cheese-cake, but they don’t want to buy or prepare a whole one just for themselves,” he explains. “Mini cheesecakes are perfectly portioned for one and they’re also great for sharing.”

Kraft Heinz is answering the same need from the refrigerated section with its new single-serve Philadelphia Cheese-cake Crumbles. Available flavors include: Strawberry with Graham Crumble, Original with Graham Crumble, Cherry with Graham Crumble, and Chocolate Hazelnut with Cookie Crumble.

“The Kraft Heinz team identified a huge opportunity to reinvent the refrigerated desserts set and transform it into a dessert destination,” says Kulwicki. “We were also seeing tremendous growth in sweet treat consumption pre-COVID, which has only increased with stay at home behavior as a result of the pandemic.”

Schwan’s is also expanding its cheesecake offerings with two new flavors — Berry and Chocolate — of its Edwards Original Whipped Cheesecake, available in both slices and family size. Company executives are also noticing strong interest in fruit and citrus flavors after the launch of Edwards Caramel Apple Crème and Peach Crème pies last fall, says Rosenblum. As a result, it’s got a Lemon Crème Pie “in the pipeline” that offers a unique twist on a classic flavor.


Minis and single-serve desserts are making news outside the cheesecake segment as well, thanks to the portion control they offer, says Josh Helland, senior vp of sales & marketing at Battleboro, N.C.-based Delizza (delizza.us) “We built off of the success of our Mini Eclairs, which are the top item in the category, with our new co-branded Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Mini Eclairs,” which launched last fall, he says. If it does as well as the company expects, there may be other items behind it, he adds.

Another newcomer to the mini segment, The Maine Pie Co., Biddeford, Maine, recently launched gluten-free mini pies in Maine Wild Blueberry and Apple flavors. “Whether you bake, deep fry, or air fry, our ‘minis’ are perfect for midday snacks, late-night desserts, or anytime celebrations,” the company says.

Frozen cookies are another manifestation of the mini dessert trend, and macarons in particular are finding their way into many retailers’ frozen dessert sets. “Macarons are here to stay,” says Helland, who calls them a very “Instagram-worthy” dessert. “The assortment of flavors lends itself to not only colorful photos but a variety of uses,” he continues. “They can be stacked high in a tower for a wedding, or plated straight from the box at home. However you serve them, they’re a fun, elegant dessert.” Delizza offers a 12-count variety pack, already available in chains like Publix, that includes something for everyone.


Sara Lee will bring back its Sensational Strawberry Mini Cheesecakes this summer.

In addition to its Philadelphia Cheesecake Crumbles lineup, Kraft Heinz recently unveiled a new type of dessert for the refrigerated set called Colliders “that allows consumers to experience their favorite candy flavors in entirely new and exciting ways,” says Kulwicki. The line spans 12 different flavors in three distinct formats — twisted, chopped and layered — that combine popular candies like Hershey’s, Kit Kat and Reese’s with a creamy, vanilla-flavored dessert.

“Consumers are increasingly looking for indulgent desserts that are multi-sensory and deliver unique textures and flavor,” says Kulwicki. “They’re also seeking variety when it comes to dessert offerings. We saw a phenomenal opportunity to bring an innovative, indulgent treat to the highly coveted refrigerated section of the grocery store, ultimately transforming it into a chilled dessert destination,” she adds.

Another unique entrant in the refrigerated set comes from Delphos, Ohio-based Lakeview Farms (lakeviewfarms. com), which recently debuted three Señor Rico flavored rice puddings: Dulce de Leche, Chocolate Hazelnut, and Mango.

“Consumers are looking for multiple flavors and textures in desserts and snacking, so we paired the highest-ranked indulgent flavors with our current rice pudding for a unique version of something they already know and love,” says Señor Rico brand manager Jennifer Yunt.

Latching on to the rapid growth of plant-based foods, Lakeview also launched Señor Rico Horchata Pudding, a plant-based dessert made with almond milk. “We created a plant-based pudding with the same smooth thickness of a traditional pudding that’s naturally flavored with vanilla and cinnamon for a creamy taste of warm spice inspired by the Hispanic beverage Horchata,” Yunt says.

Christine Blank

Christine Blank

Christine Blank is a contributing editor for Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer.

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