Experts have been talking up healthier food trends for a while now and that includes the dessert category, in spite of its tradition of being an indulgent treat or a reward for eating your veggies. Minimally processed local and artisan ingredients ranked high on the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2016 Culinary Forecast, and artisan and housemade treats ranked highest among dessert trends.
Bite-sized desserts and mini treats came in second, followed by savory desserts, smoked ingredients and hybrid offerings such as Cronuts to round out the top five. The long list of overall food trends also includes a range of sweet treats, from simple fresh fruit on children’s’ menus and heirloom apples to artisan ice cream, exotic fruits such as dragon fruit, guava and paw paws and hybrid fruits like pluots.
Superfruit such as acai, goji berries and mangosteens made the list as well, as did natural sweeteners such as agave and honey. Half of the chefs surveyed by NRA ranked fruity desserts such as pies and cobblers a perennial favorite and 52% and 45% said the same about custard-based desserts and smoothies, respectively. Meanwhile, 61% called bacon-flavored chocolate “yesterday’s news.”
The savory and hybrid trends are showing up in packaged desserts as well as on restaurant menus, including a slew of new salty caramel treats from kale and pita chips to Chobani Greek yogurt to Luna bars, the Food Network reported last month.
Baum + Whiteman’s annual 11 Hot Food & Beverage Trends list also stresses the growing focused on simpler, “cleaner” ingredients and includes a heaping helping of desserts served with a health halo. Acai bowls landed in seventh place on the list, describing the dish as a “a big bowl smoothie made from frozen acai pulp and soy or other milk, plus bananas, bits of other fruit and lots of ice.” The bowls, which are showing up at juice bars, smoothie franchises such as Jamba Juice and ice cream parlors, and while they’re based on a superfruit, they’re also high in sugar and may be made more indulgent with toppings including chocolate chips and coconut, the report says.
Snacking increased 47% between 2010 and 2014, and the craving for healthier treats has spilled over into the packaged snack aisle, the report says. Consumers are trading high-carb snacks for protein-packed offerings, swapping sugary treats for flavors like chili-spiked honey and other sweet and heat combinations and passing up sugar-laden yogurt for savory versions.
“Good for you, good for the earth packaged snacks are getting commanding space on supermarket endcaps … often near the fresh vegetable aisle … suggesting that consumers will pay premium prices for products that cover both bases,” the report says.
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