Premium offerings — both decadent and better-for-you — are helping the frozen desserts category outpace the department as a whole.
Thanks to above-average price inflation, dollar sales of frozen desserts/toppings jumped 13.1% during the 12 weeks ended Jan. 29 to $281.6 million (versus 8.5% for the frozen department as a whole), reports Chicago-based market research firm Circana (circana.com), formerly IRI and The NPD Group. However, units were down only 5.4% — less than the department’s 5.8% decline — suggesting shoppers are willing to pay a premium for sweet treats.
“With more people working at home…snacking [provides] an essential break in their busy day,” says Carol Devine, vp of marketing for Kenilworth, N.J.-based Taste It Presents. And higher-end desserts in particular offer an affordable indulgence that consumers are happy to splurge on.
To meet that need, manufacturers are rolling out a wide range of high-end cakes, puddings and parfaits that go beyond the everyday, offering premium ingredients, distinctive flavors and elegant packaging.
‘Consumers’ appetite for high-quality, indulgent desserts has exploded in recent years.’
ADDING SOME EUROPEAN FLAIR
Taste It Presents’ new Bonta Divina (“Divine Goodness”) lineup, brought to the U.S. via a partnership with sister company Emmi Dessert Italia, includes six varieties of premium Italian desserts in glass jars (Tiramisu, Barista Caramel Macchiato Mousse and four varieties of Italian Cheesecake) that meet growing demand for more eco-friendly, reusable packaging. Made by Italian pastry chefs, the collection also includes Mini Desserts that capitalize on the dessert flights trend. Each six-count package includes two mini servings of Tiramisu, Panna Cotta and Dark Chocolate Mousse, so diners can sample a variety of desserts.
The company did a soft launch in 2022 and plans a full launch this June at the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) show. “Consumers’ appetite for high-quality, indulgent desserts has exploded in recent years,” says Devine. “People are reverting to the simple pleasures in life and are more likely to indulge. They’re also hungry for something new — with exquisite taste and texture — to satisfy their cravings. And when you think of the best desserts known throughout the world, you think of Italy.”
Premium quality is also a priority for Chester, N.J.- based Wholly Wholesome, which introduced its Wholly Gluten Free Chocolate Chunk Skillet Cookie at Expo West last month. The big cookie, which is expected to hit supermarkets in Q3, is nestled into its own mini skillet and comes out of the oven gooey, spoonable and shareable.
“It’s so good,” claims Wholly Wholesome founder Doon Wintz, who says skillet cookie dough was the No. 1 request of the company’s customers. Made with oat flour and organic cane sugar, the restaurant-style dessert is gluten-free and contains no dairy, eggs, soy, or nuts, so it’s safe for those with food allergies and other dietary concerns.
“You’re much better off if you’re able to give people something that’s clean label and tastes great so they can feel good about what they’re eating,” Wintz says.
Another new gluten- and allergen-free option comes from New York-based Fabalish, which debuted chickpea-based vegan Brownie Bites made with hidden whole veggies and no refined sugars at Expo West last month. Sold frozen, they’re offered in three flavors: Bombshell Blondie, Classy Chocolate and Rich Raspberry.
JUST SAY CHEESE!
Another new bite-size treat comes from Schuman Cheese, Fairfield, N.J., which recently introduced refrigerated Mascarpone Truffles under its new Delve brand. Schuman focuses on “only the highest quality ingredients,” says chief development officer Allison Schuman, who calls Delve “the epitome of our efforts.”
The cheesemaker crafted the new truffles in four flavors: Sea-Salted Caramel Crème, Raspberry, Lemon and Chocolate Ganache. Each offers Italian-style, creamy Mascarpone cheese wrapped in 100% pure, sustainably sourced chocolate.
In the refrigerated cheesecake segment, meanwhile, Chicago-based Eli’s Cheesecake Co. developed three new flavors for its Chi-Town collection of bakery cheesecakes and desserts: Cranberry Orange (orange cheesecake topped with tart cranberries and buttery streusel on Eli’s all-butter shortbread cookie crust), Pumpkin Caramel (pumpkin cheesecake topped with golden brown streusel and a drizzle of buttery caramel) and Strawberry Swirl (with house-made strawberry topping). Set to roll out in August, they’re made with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives and are certified kosher.
“Holidays are a peak sales period for cheesecakes, and offering a new twist on holiday flavors like Pumpkin Caramel and Cranberry Orange enhances the shopping experience for the consumer,” says vp of marketing Debbie Marchok. “These are unique flavor combinations not currently offered in stores. We also completed our product line offering by adding a classic loved by consumers, Strawberry Cheesecake.”
Another company looking to reinvent the cheesecake is category newcomer Wonder Monday, which offers a low-carb, high-protein, gluten-free version made with allulose, a naturally occurring sugar. The Boston-based company debuted five varieties at Expo West last month as it gears up for a Q2 retail rollout. Its snack-sized desserts come in Classic, Strawberry Bliss, Double Chocolate, Salted Caramel, and Key Lime Pie flavors, all gluten-free and made without artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors or preservatives. Each contains just 2 grams of sugar but offers 10 or more grams of protein.
“It’s clear that consumers want healthier and snackable dessert options, says Wonder Monday co-founder Candace Wu. “We offer a snackable, better-for-you indulgent dessert that fits every lifestyle — prediabetic/diabetic, celiac, gluten-intolerant, health-conscious, low carb and/or keto.”
‘DECADENT YET CLEAN’ A WINNING COMBO
While wellness is increasingly important to consumers, healthy doesn’t always mean low cal or reduced sugar. Sometimes shoppers just want real, recognizable ingredients and nothing artificial.
“Consumers continue to look for simple, clean ingredient decks, even when purchasing a dessert,” confirms Eugene Lin, chief marketing officer for Emeryville, Calif.-based Petit Pot, which just added three new varieties to its line of “decadent yet clean” restaurant quality refrigerated desserts. Crème Brûlée can be enjoyed as is or torched to transform its sugar into a crackly crust. Strawberry Cheesecake is made with a strawberry compote topped with creamy cheesecake. And the Original Cheesecake is topped with French butter cookie crumbs. All three are all made with rich, real dairy, including whole milk, heavy cream and cream cheese.
‘Consumers continue to look for simple, clean ingredient decks, even when purchasing a dessert.’
When Petit Pot sampled its new desserts for fans before their February rollout, “I can’t tell you how many times I heard them say something along the lines of: ‘Oh wow, this dessert is so yummy! I love it because I don’t have to go to a restaurant to enjoy it!’” says Lin.
Another company offering French-style desserts, Hoboken, N.J.-based Paris Délice, is also hoping to give consumers a high quality product they can enjoy at home. “Our goal is to make premium European mousse here in the U.S…. because we care about sustainability,” says a spokesperson, citing a dearth of gourmet options that aren’t imported. Available varieties include Dark Chocolate and Mango Passion Fruit, both made from an authentic French recipe with premium ingredients and no artificial colors or flavors.
A healthy appetite for a fancy indulgence can also be satisfied by Bon Dévil’s new plant-based ganache pots. These thick and creamy creations let dessert lovers “sin a little without feeling guilty,” says Wintz of Wholly Wholesome, whose parent company Run-A-Ton markets and distributes the new brand in North America. “The plant-based market is growing so dramatically, as is the upscale, better-for-you refrigerated dessert segment,” says Wintz. “This product is the intersection of that.” He adds, “The consumer is not only willing to, but does pay more for plant-based.”
Bon Dévil comes in four varieties: Vanilla, Chocolate and Salted Caramel Ganache plus Rice Pudding. New, larger size packaging debuted in March.
REUSABLE GLASS ADDS CLASS
Another desserts trend popping up now is the use of eco-friendly or reusable containers, such as glass pots or jars. Petit Pot’s desserts come in them. So do several items in Taste It Presents’ new Bonta Divina line.
‘Innovative packaging that is recyclable and/or can be re-used and re-purposed is important to millennials and other generations. Promoting the added value of these items will encourage first-time buyers and loyal repeat business.’
Reusable packaging adds value for the customer, and “glass is considered one of the most trusted forms of packaging for health, taste, and environmental safety,” says Taste It Presents’ Devine.
Industry watchers say packaging is increasingly important to consumers, with many preferring earth-friendly options.
“We are seeing more dessert brands using recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable packaging to appeal to eco-conscious consumers,” confirms Wu of Wonder Monday, which uses bioplastic, which contains a certain amount of plant-based content.
“Innovative packaging that is recyclable and/or can be re-used and re-purposed is important to millennials and other generations,” Devine says. “Promoting the added value of these items will encourage first-time buyers and loyal repeat business.”