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Confections and Desserts: Culinary Trend Mapping Report

There’s a new landscape of treats that are at once sophisticated yet comforting. This report explores four overarching themes that are driving trends and new product development in confections and desserts:

    1. Nostalgia - Sweets are connected to positive childhood memories, including family celebrations and holidays. Recent innovative desserts often take familiar American flavors of the past (malt, buttermilk, vanilla, caramel) and diner-classic forms (sundaes, shakes, floats, pie) and re-interpret them in new ways.
    2. Indulgence - In difficult economic times, Americans seek out small pleasures they can afford - and sweets are one of them. We’re seeing interesting combinations of indulgent flavors.
    3. Flavor adventure - Americans may enjoy traditional flavors, but they’re opening up to new taste combinations as well, at once driven by and propelling their increased enthusiasm for global cuisine. In the dessert arena, this trend is manifested in the popularization of savory sweets with international flavors and textures.
    4. Artisan appeal - During a time when many Americans are more preoccupied than ever with eating food that is local, sustainable or organic, consumers continue to develop an appreciation of artisan producers and products. Artisan producers use higher-quality ingredients, more skill- and labor-intensive preparation methods, and traditional product formats that make finesse and freshness de rigueur. These appeal to consumer desires for authenticity - and stirs nostalgic cravings for products from a time before the mass industrialization of sweets.
These four overarching drivers are woven across the confection and dessert trends profiled in this report.
  • Olive Oil Desserts: Sweets that use olive oil as a savory twist or as a healthier fat are showing up in fine dining restaurants nationwide.
  • Micro-batch Chocolate: Small, artisan manufacturers are turning chocolate-making into an art form, with an emphasis on socially conscious, environmentally friendly means of production.
  • Parisian Macarons: These sophisticated sandwich cookies are appearing in bakeries stateside, and taking on unusual flavors like lime-basil and Earl Gray tea.
  • Japanese Sweets: Exotic, colorful candy and cookies from Japan are making their way into the American mainstream, as consumers embrace extraordinary flavors and innovative forms.
  • Salty Sweets: From gourmet candymakers to Starbucks, salted caramel and chocolate bacon sweets are making their mark.
  • Whoopie Pies: An old-fashioned treat hailing from the Northeast, these hand-held cake sandwiches are catching on all over.
  • Caramelized Flavors: From butterscotch to dulce de leche, authentically created caramelized flavors are back on the front burner.
Dive in to this report to find out what’s hot in the confections and desserts arena, and to see how these trends open up distinct opportunities for manufacturers and restaurant operators of all stripes.

• • • • • •

The Culinary Trend Mapping Report is an indispensable tool for those whose job it is to stay abreast of what's hot - and what will be - in the food world.

The reports leverage the Center for Culinary Development’s (CCD) signature Trend Mapping technique, a validated method for identifying which culinary trends are gaining traction and which are simply flashes in the pan.

Each 65+ page journal is packed with trends, data, strategies and insights on the food industry that simply aren't available anywhere else.

Each Issue of the Culinary Trends Mapping Report

  • Identifies the maturity level of foods and ingredients according to CCD’s unique, proprietary 5-stage trend mapping process.
  • Concentrates on a theme that is affecting the food industry, and then looks at the emerging and established trends along the Trend Map that are shaping this theme.
  • Delves into these trends and what they mean for you and the manufacturing, retailing, and foodservice industries.
  • Gives strategic insight into how consumers are thinking of and reacting to new foods and ingredients.
  • Provides business know-how regarding opportunities, challenges, and ways to implement current trends into foodservice, retail, and packaged goods operations.
  • Presents a feature interview with a member chef from CCD’s exclusive 80+ member Chefs’ Council who offers expert analysis and unique perspective on a specific trend.
Trend Mapping

Trend Mapping is guided by the premise that major food trends pass through five distinct stages on their way to the mainstream:
  • Stage 1: The ingredient, dish and/or cooking technique appears at upscale dining establishments, ethnic and popular independent restaurants.
  • Stage 2: The item is featured in specialty consumer-oriented food magazines such as Bon Appetit plus retail stores such as Sur La Table that target culinary professionals and serious home cooks.
  • Stage 3: The item begins to appear in mainstream chain restaurants -- Applebee's or Chili's --as well as retail stores such as Williams-Sonoma that target recreational cooks.
  • Stage 4: Publications such as Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens pick up the buzz.
  • Stage 5: Finally, the trend makes its way to quick service restaurant menus and either starts to appear or gains increased mainstream presence on grocery store shelves.

Published bimonthly, the Culinary Trend Mapping Report is available for purchase as a single issue or a six-issue subscription.

In the News

Confection & Dessert Trends Create New Sweetscapes for American Consumers

New York, March 8, 2010 - America’s sweet tooth has become more sophisticated and demanding as consumers seek comfort and delight in today’s confections and desserts. This love of sweets is steering consumers toward an exciting new sweetscape where flavor complexity, artisanship and nostalgia mingle to create increasingly grown-up, yet still satisfying, treats, according to Confections and Dessert: Culinary Trend Mapping Report from the Center for Culinary Development (CCD) and Packaged Facts.

“It’s time for marketers to notice that consumers are demanding sweets that are as trend-forward, satisfying and as adventurous as the savory foods they love. Butterscotch Toffee Whoopie Pies are more exciting than plain chocolate and vanilla ones,” says CCD CEO Kimberly Egan.

New sweet drivers. Four overarching consumer trends are driving innovative shifts in the sweets market:

  • Nostalgia - Americans seek comfort in the sweets of childhood, yet still want treats that reflect current interest in bold flavor profiles and higher quality ingredients.
  • Indulgence - Americans need a break and are indulging in exciting—and affordable—new sweets to provide escape, reward and just plain delight.
  • Flavor Adventure - Plain old vanilla and chocolate aren’t enough these days. Savvy consumers from Generation Y to Boomers are seeking excitement from sweets that reflect a global palate of exotic and varietal fruits, savory-sweet flavor profiles, and other adventurous tastes. Aged organic Papua New Guinea vanilla ice cream, anyone?
  • Artisan Appeal - Sweet treats that are hand-made with well-chosen ingredients and reflect current values in local and sustainable production are winning over more and more Americans—and now extend to sweets. 

The New American Sweetscape. New and updated confections and desserts create a new sweet vista for consumers. Olive Oil Desserts show off Mediterranean ingredients in more health-friendly forms while offering intriguing new savory-sweet flavors. Parisian Macarons, pastel-colored ground almond meringue sandwich cookies, bring classic French sophistication to the modern American pastry counter. Japanese Sweets transport savvy candy lovers to new frontiers of exotic flavor and texture while American-crafted Micro-batch Chocolate epitomizes the new range of artisan foods that also exhibit a taste of place.

Familiar Favorites Get a Remodel. Americans grew up on salty-sweet Cracker Jack but are ready for something more 21st century. In updated Salty Sweets, bacon, sea salt and savory herbs raise familiar sweets to new adventurous and satisfying heights. Americans from the Northeast no doubt grew up on the stalwart chocolate cake and vanilla cream Whoopie Pie; today, the homey snack appears coast to coast in alluring flavors and colors giving cupcakes some competition. The familiar warm, brown flavor of Caramel has gone glam in the form of homemade butterscotch used in puddings and sauces, Latin-inspired dulce de leche and a candy-box-full of retro confections, like honeycomb, toffee and brittle, that appear as candy bar and ice cream inclusions, dessert garnish and artisan sweets at farmers markets and boutique candy shops.

The report highlights strategic opportunities for both manufacturers and restaurant operators in this exciting new sweet landscape.
The Culinary Trend Mapping Report is co-published by the Center for Culinary Development and Packaged Facts.

About the Center for Culinary Development - CCD is a full-service food and beverage strategic innovation company that successfully blends culinary creativity with consumer insights, trends and marketing expertise.

About Packaged Facts - Packaged Facts, a division of, publishes market intelligence on a wide range of consumer market topics, including consumer goods and retailing, foods and beverages, demographics, pet products and services, and financial products.  Packaged Facts also offers a full range of custom research services. 



Executive Overview
Why Confections & Desserts? - Kimberly Egan
Executive Summary
Trend Summary
Stage 1 - Olive Oil Desserts
Stage 2 - Micro-batch Chocolate
- Parisian Macarons
- Japanese Sweets
Stage 3 - Salty Sweets
Stage 4 - Whoopie Pies
Stage 5 - Caramelized Flavors
Chef Speak: CCD Chefs’ Council® Voices
William Werner: Reinventing the Familiar
Strategic Implications
Strategic Opportunities for Confections & Desserts
Source List

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