Friday, 1st December, 2017

Sweet Treats

With dessert only restaurants now commonplace amongst UK highstreets, consumer demand for indulgent desserts is at an all-time high. An after dinner institution the dessert - in its many guises - has prevailed as a very deserving third course to many a meal. Whether it be frozen, chilled or hot, a dessert can not only make your menu more enticing but also crucially increase minimum spend.

Dessert parlours, cafes and restaurants have been steadily popping up across the UK to a largely positive reaction. While the classic cafe/coffee shop still holds a large segment of the UK’s out of home (OOH) eating habits, this new breed of dessert parlour - which combine some of the most popular elements of eating OOH - have revealed a very profitable sector of the market.

QSR’s and food-to-go specialists are under increasing pressure to up the ante on their dessert menu, as the rise of the dessert only restaurant continues to impacting on the consumer. The popularity of freak-shakes, filled crepes, and gourmet pancakes have seen both franchised and independent outlets find immense success in this market - with dessert franchise Creams Cafe leading the charge in terms of numbers.

Since launching in 2008 the fast casual restaurant that specialises in waffles, crepes, and gelato has gone from strength to strength. With 55 restaurants currently trading - and 50 more in development - Creams has announced plans to eventually open 300 restaurant style outlets throughout the UK, and are even developing smaller kiosk formats to appeal to the street food led consumer.

While sweet food-to go is not a new concept - the classic ice-cream cone is well-established in UK history - the rise of the dessert operator is meeting growing demand from consumers looking for sweet food-to-go. New concepts like Bubblewrap Waffle, which can be found in London’s Chinatown are a welcome addition to the market, providing fresh homemade waffles with a range of decadent toppings and fillings that have proved a huge hit with Londoners and tourists alike. Hundreds of people flock to Chinatown daily to try the Hong-Kong inspired street snack.

Owner Sunny Wu tells QuickBite; “In a fast-paced environment like central London, Bubblewrap endeavours to provide customers with various options by offering different special gelato and toppings to keep the QSR market fun and vivid.

“Our ‘insta-worthy’ treats - like our waffle-cones, piled high with fillings and toppings - prove incredibly popular, and the social media buzz generated helps more and more people discover our unique treats.  We constantly change our menus to ensure all our existing and new customers can enjoy Bubblewrap with a different and fun twist.”

Dessert for a main meal is an increasing trend among younger generations, and Bubblewrap are also finding that people are more likely to enjoy food with fun ideas and creative concepts.

“The way desserts and sweet treats are presented can also enrich the overall experience,” adds Sunny. “Allowing people to enjoy it more with family and friends.”
And while Bubblewrap do have a few health conscious customers, their menu is crucially extremely flexible, meaning customers can decide on a whim to omit certain ingredients in order to create an entirely bespoke dish. “Our menu has been designed to allow customers to choose what levels of sweetness they would like to go for,” says Sunny.
“Some people will have Bubblewrap plain which doesn’t contain a lot sugar by itself, and others enjoy a whole lot of Nutella in it”  

The pressure is on

But is the UK really invested in these types of restaurants, and is there staying power in such a bustling market? Earlier this year food delivery giant Deliveroo, revealed that orders for desserts soared by a third (33.7%) - compared to the previous month - putting sweet treats back at the top of agendas for 2017. Market data analysts Statista also revealed that the majority of consumers eat desserts -excluding cakes - two to three times a month, with ready to eat desserts the most popular format.

American dessert chains Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts have also found success in the UK market. The USA’s love of the dessert industry is well publicised, and with a prevalently sweet palate - tastes have inadvertently made it over to this side of the pond. Both dessert spots have amassed a dedicated following despite only being prevalent in the UK for the last few years. Dunkin - despite having over 11,000 locations worldwide - has only been present in the UK since 2013, after the chain made a highly anticipated return 20 years after it left the market. Krispy Kreme has on the other hand recently celebrated the opening of its 100th store in Nottingham and since entering the UK market in 2003 has managed to nearly double its total number of outlets in just five years (from 46 units in 2011).

One of the UKs most well-known dessert parlours Patisserie Valerie has been serving cakes and patisserie to eager dessert lovers since its inception in 1926. Growing rapidly in the last ten years the chain has grown from eight shops in 2006 to an impressive 192 today. Described as a ‘haven of self-indulgence’ the brand sells its unique range of cakes, breakfasts and teas in a sit-down café style environment.

Patisserie Valerie say their desserts are so popular because no matter what is going on in the outside world, ‘people love to take time out and indulge in something sweet – to make them feel good.’

Focusing on their unique menu of luxurious desserts, Patisserie Valerie say; “For us it isn’t about staying ahead of the competition, but rather creating innovative and luxurious products for our customers.”

In fact by building on the popularity of the British classic ‘afternoon tea’ the dessert café revealed they sold 133,000 of the cake and tea driven treats last year, generating sales of £2.3m - comparable to sales of £1.2m the year before. Chief executive Paul May revealed that the afternoon teas had increased in popularity because they allowed customers to try a selection of cakes “as well as being a great British experience” particularly over the summer months.

A spokesperson for the chain told QuickBite; “People are always looking to try something new, which is something we aim to support with our product development over the next 12 months.” Patisserie Valerie’s innovation saw revenue significantly boosted, reaching £40.4m (November 2017) - up £5.5m compared to 2016 – with the chain also announcing their plan to focus on 20 new store openings per year. Executive Chairman, Luke Johnson commented that the brand is ‘confident of delivering a successful second half of the year and beyond.’

Destination driven

Of course as these types of venues are heavily driven by seasonality, for the cafe and restaurant-style dessert sites, developing themselves as a ‘destination’ is critical to their survival. Brands such as the franchised fast casual restaurant Heavenly Desserts recently opened their second franchise location in Liverpool’s City Centre – their 6th in total. The brand has focused heavily on the design of the store, offering luxury, artisan desserts that are all made in house. A key distinction to Heavenly Desserts menu is the time spent honing it to a very precise audience, an audience that are willing to spend slightly more to receive a tailored eating out experience.
Yousif Aslam, Managing Director of the popular dessert restaurant told QuickBite; “We find that the vast majority of our visitors are 16-40 year olds, most food eateries do not pay much focus on their dessert menu’s and we often find that there isn’t a great deal of product options available, therefore I believe consumers make the informed choice of visiting a dessert restaurant for dessert.

“The future for sweet treats is strong within the f&b sector, people from all walks of life need a treat at some point during their week or month and we offer exactly that, a treat, in a warm and welcoming environment.”

These types of operators have evolved rapidly and have managed to tap into a market of young people, families and students looking for a relatively cheap, yet indulgent dessert – who are crucially venturing out specifically for dessert, as opposed to choosing one from a sometimes limited menu as a spur of the moment decision after a full meal.

Those venturing out solely for a dessert are very much driven by the desire to treat themselves, despite recent negative attention to foods of the sweeter - and sugar loaded - persuasion. The fact that dessert operators have managed to remain popular despite health concerns is a testament to the staying power of these indulgent desserts.

“We don’t get any requests at all for low sugar desserts,” says Yousif. “Anybody who wants a dessert (from us) is making an informed choice when visiting.
“The comparison would be when having a takeaway night, we make an informed choice, it’s a treat and not something we would eat every day.”


• Jon Turonnet, Foodservice Sales Manager, Brioche Pasquier
• Gordon Lauder, MD, Central Foods
• Tom Styman-Heighton, Development Chef at Funnybones Foodservice
• Anna Boletta, Co-Founder, Minioti
• Zeynep Turudi, Founder, Truede
• Michele Young, Director, Coolberry
• Madeleine Ahlström, Brand Manager, Almondy
• Fabien Levet, National Account Manager –Foodservice, Pidy UK
• Marie-Emmanuelle Chessé, International Development Project Manager, Tipiak
• Sian Holt, Managing Director, Fudge Kitchen
• Jane Deegan, Marketing Manager, Kara Foodservice
• Yousif Aslam, Managing Director, Heavenly Desserts
• Emma Gracie, Assistant Brand Manager, Patisserie Valerie
• Sunny Wu, co-founder & director of Bubblewrap

How important are sweet treats and desserts to the food-to-go/QSR market?

“Having a delicious range of sweet treats will always catch the customer’s eye at any time of day,” explains Fabien Levet, of pastry specialists Pidy UK. 
“Particularly when they are desperately in need of that instant energy fix! Customers are always likely to treat themselves when out of home; therefore catching their immediate attention with a beautiful selection of treats is sure to tempt them. ” 

“As they are impulse purchases, sweet treats and desserts are a big part of the food-to-go and QSR market,” agrees Gordon Lauder, of food distributor Central Foods. 
“Producers have really risen to the challenge to create a range of items that are tempting and appealing to the health conscious, as well as items that are suitable for consumers with differing dietary requirements, such as vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free.”

Innovation and skill

“As the customer’s expectation of a quality food and drink offering in food-to-go/QSR environments increases, it’s down to the operator to deliver innovation while showcasing skill and creativity on a menu,” adds Fabien. 

“This is true of everything from main meals to cakes and sweet baked goods, consumed in store or on-the-go by time poor customers.”

Jon Turonnet, of Brioche Pasquier says; “Sweet treats are often the magnet that draws customers into an outlet. A display of tempting cakes and bakes will be attractive at any time of day, and once inside the door, most will buy either to eat in or take away.

He continues; “Whilst mealtimes are key sales periods, quick-service outlets need to attract customers at all hours and it is light bites and sweet options that will be the key to all day temptation!”

“As our lives get busier – the need for grab and go sweet treats is increasing,” says Zeynep Turudi, of Turkish Delight wholesaler Truede.  “There is demand for ‘food on the move’ – and this includes sweet treats and desserts.

“There is also a growing demand for premium confectionery made from natural ingredients as we become more health conscious.

Zeynep adds; “Shoppers are looking for grab and go products – that have health benefits too. Food-to-go operators and QSR need to consider choosing sweet treats that can tick all of these boxes.”

What are the most popular products in the sweet treat and dessert market at present?

Jane Deegan of Kara, who provide sweet and savoury baked goods for foodservice explains; “This year new innovative desserts have increased on menus by 18%, as consumers are now demanding new exciting flavours and concepts to tickle the taste buds.

“Kara’s Luxury Salted Carmel & Hazelnut Chocolate cake is back by popular demand this year and is already causing a storm within foodservice. Taking home the accolade of ‘Large Cake’ winner at this year’s 2017 Quality Food Awards, this melt in your mouth cake is set to take customers on a truly mesmerizing experience.
Jane adds; “As 13% of consumer’s state that they snack on a slice of cake as a treat upon snacking occasions, this melt in your mouth masterpiece will truly set menus alight.”

As consumer lifestyles get increasingly busier ‘food-to-go’ is becoming more convenient and prominent.  According to industry research doughnuts have increased over every day part the most prominent being snacking occasions up by 3.4%, the key places of consumption being at supermarkets and convenience stores.

“Doughnuts are the key item for consumers on the move,” says Jane. “Kara’s doughnuts are the perfect on the move treat. They are made from rich sweetened dough, dusted with a decadent sugar coating and injected with either a sweet apple and raspberry filling or an indulgent milk chocolate filling.”

In uncertain times people tend to look to food for comfort. Desserts are the ultimate comfort food, and whilst the trend for healthy desserts is well established, counter-balancing this is the trend for indulgence.

Stateside Influence

“Of course many people still want to treat themselves while eating out, and a good pudding is one way to make an event special;” says Tom Styman-Heighton, Development Chef at Funnybones Foodservice.

“US-inspired foods are very fashionable and the appetite for good quality American foods is only growing - some of the world’s most desirable sweet flavour combinations come from the great melting pot of American culture. 

“Stateside they take their desserts seriously and their recipes are not for the faint-hearted. Cheesecakes, banoffee pies, chocolate and cookie based desserts are the norm, and they are perfect for those looking for an indulgent treat,” adds Tom. 

Chocolate brands are also making a strong impact in the sweet treat market and can help quick service restaurants boost profits.  Madeleine Ahlström of Almondy who produce frozen cakes using traditional Swedish recipes explains; “Incorporating chocolate brands in cakes is a trend that has been gaining momentum for some time and consumer demand for confectionery inspired desserts continues to grow.”

In fact independent research has found that 84% would buy a cake made using a chocolate brand – the main reason being that they recognise the brand and know what it will taste like, so it’s a low risk purchase.

Instagram generation

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this is true even in the world of desserts.  Consumers are increasingly choosing their favourite sweet treats based on how they look. The fact is people eat with their eyes, which is one of the many reasons macarons have become the must-have sweet treat, as well as an Instagram sensation -  boasting nearly three million posts suggests Marie-Emmanuelle Chessé of Tipiak who produce frozen macarons for the foodservice. 

“Our macarons are available in ten varieties, from classics such as chocolate, pistachio, vanilla and raspberry, as well as contemporary flavours from our French Pop Macaron collection which include chocolate-orange, milk chocolate passion, caramel with sea salt and blackcurrant violet,” says Marie. 

“Along with our famous macarons, our French Pop Eclairs are proving a win-win for outlets. Combining the mini and indulgent trends, the mini version of the choux classic was developed to make a big impression on customers with tempting crème brȗlée, indulgent chocolate orange, lemon, and fruity raspberry-blackcurrant.”

In the last year Tipiak has seen growing demand for its famous gluten-free macarons – the vibrant palette of colours available is one of the many reasons why these French classics work so well.

With the industry changing all the time a versatile product that can be used to create various different desserts. “Here at Pidy, we have taken innovation to the next level and recently launched our range of frozen sweet and savoury sponge sheet for UK industrial, bakery and foodservice sectors,” explains Fabien Levet. 

The collection, which includes plain and cocoa traditional sponge sheets, flavoured sponges and those with inclusions are stored as frozen product, therefore giving a shelf life of up to 18 months.

Fabien adds; “The sponge sheets are truly versatile, suitable for a range of desserts and can be used to make beautiful sweet treats of all kinds; including layered cakes, individual & miniature desserts, decorative strips or yule log.” 

Christmas Treats

And with Christmas just around the corner, altering your offering to make it festively appropriate will add instant appeal as everyone indulges more at Christmas time. “With this in mind, nostalgic tradition is always important and Christmas isn’t complete without a comforting classic mince pie. Delicious hot or cold, homemade mince pies offer a lovely personal touch and delightful taste of Christmas while also being quick and simple to produce,” says Fabien. 

“The ideal festive treat served alongside a hot beverage, Pidy’s straight sided 6cm Sweet Telline is a wonderful base for mince pies, made from delicious shortcrust pastry and ready-to-fill with vibrant, fruity mincemeat.”

With a huge increase in the number of vegetarians - according to IPSOS Mori 2016, there are now 1.14 million vegetarians in the UK – and a big rise in the number of people who avoid gluten - Coeliac UK estimates that there are now over 1.3 million Britons or 3% of British adults following a gluten-free diet and in addition, 8.58 million, or 13%, are avoiding gluten in their diet – suppliers have created an excellent selection of frozen sweet treat and dessert products that appeal to those who have specific dietary requirements.

Gordon Lauder explains: “There has undoubtedly been a growing demand for what’s known as healthy or clean desserts within the food-to-go arena. But people still like to reward themselves with a little ‘treat’ and happily, there are many products which fulfil many different customer requirements.

“One example is our KaterBake jam doughnuts which are baked rather than fried, are approximately 28% lower in fat and, at 48g, approximately half the size of a standard doughnut – perfect as a guilt-free treat.”

How can outlets add value to their menu with desserts and sweet treats?

The mini-dessert trend is transforming the way in which desserts are served. Far from being a fad, the trend is growing, with increasing numbers of customers wanting to enjoy a lighter sweet treat in the middle of the day or as the finish to a meal.

“This trend offers a new opportunity for outlets who can now attract a different type of customer – those who like a sweet bite but are put off by the huge portions of pastry and cakes that are often the only option on a menu,” explains Jon Turonnet.

“We encourage operators to offer sweet options in different ways, not just one size fits all. Macarons and petit fours make perfect mini-dessert offerings alongside a cup of coffee, and also make a tempting take away option if offered as a display on the counter with the customer being able to choose their three favourites from the selection available.”

The desire for smaller sweet bites means that each serving needs to look beautiful and offer intense flavour that rewards the diner with quality rather than quantity. Petit fours, Macarons and other bite-sized pâtisserie fit the bill perfectly. 

“The new Petits Fours Envies Sucrées or ‘Sweet Desires’ collection consists of nine varieties – some established favourites, some new creations - each perfectly crafted, baked, filled and finished by Brioche Pasquier’s master pâtissiers,” adds John. 

At Funnybones Foodservice they are also witnessing trends surrounding portion size, both politically and within the foodservice market - therefore they encourage operators to vary these.

Tom says; “A slender slice of a rich pudding served with a coffee or tea might be much more tempting to some than a large bowlful of the same pudding. Make it clear on the menu that desserts can be ordered in two sizes so that people can choose the portion size they want. This way, you may tempt those who usually skip pudding.

“Sweet sharing dishes are also a great idea for parties of diners. Cut rich desserts into bite sized pieces and display on a board or slate, so that everyone can choose from the selection. Intersperse with a little fruit to freshen up the offering.”

And with 82% of consumers wanting to see new and exciting desserts on menus (Toluna/Almondy March 2017) Madeleine Ahlström thinks that updating your dessert menu is a simple way to add value to your offering and excite customers helping quick service restaurants boost the appeal of their sweet treats. 

“Working with bakeries such as Almondy can mean real operational and commercial benefits which can have a positive impact on the bottom line and customer satisfaction,” says Madeleine.  “We’ve spent over thirty years perfecting our cakes to deliver great taste and quality – taking the hard work out of creating a strong offering.

“The holy grail of any operation – especially multiple sites – is ensuring that the customer experience is consistent. This is where Almondy can help, baking from scratch takes time and results can vary due to ingredients and skills. Buying chilled desserts with a short shelf life can also be highly wasteful and costly, with surplus slices often ending up in the bin.

Madeleine adds; “Almondy’s foodservice range removes these headaches, the gluten-free, confectionery-inspired cakes come conveniently pre-cut into 12 slices and can be defrosted as needed – a single slice taking as little as ten minutes to thaw and serve – so quick service restaurants never have to disappoint customers or lose out on a dessert sales. “

Simple Twists

Pidy suggest ensuring your selection stands out by adding simple twists, from aesthetically appealing decorative toppings and on-trend flavour combinations to flavoured pastry. 

“Our new product development has been predominantly focussed on introducing flavoured tartelettes into our range,” says Fabien.  “We wanted to introduce some new and innovative products just in time for Christmas when it’s even more important to make a statement. We have developed three new flavoured tarts including Speculoos, Chocolate & Black Cookie.

“These tarts are the perfect way to add a unique twist to a winter warmer,” continues Fabien. “A biscuit or chocolate base with a warm Autumnal berry filling is simple to prepare but the unique speciality flavoured pastry adds a whole new dimension to the classic tart.

Creating visually appealing desserts is key to encourage consumers to purchase and a dessert with a wow factor is sure to impress.  Michele Young of Coolberry manufacturers of premium soft serve frozen yogurt says; “Today’s customer is looking for visually appealing desserts – that are “instagrammable” and tell a story. 

“Creating a dessert or sweet treat menu with standout options that make heads-turn will really be a sure step towards adding value and increasing dessert sales.”

What dessert options are available to tempt health conscious consumers?

Many consumers now have special dietary options that prohibit them from eating traditional sweet treats. Having a delicious option available is quickly becoming a priority with gluten-free now accounting for 60% of the free-from category (Kantar 2016).

“To help quick service restaurants meet this demand, all of Tipiak’s macarons are gluten-free making it simple to provide beautiful patisseries to those with special diets which also appeal to all consumers,” says Marie. 

As manufacturers of frozen yoghurt – a popular alternative to ice-cream – Coolberry offer a wide variety of options for a decadent yet health conscious dessert.

Michele says; “Frozen yogurt has to be the healthy option it’s fat free and can be used for a variety of sundae recipes with a different range of toppings (from the naughty to the nice!). 

“Healthy choices include fruits, natural fruit purees and sauces, nuts and almonds, granola or honey.”


However healthier eating does not necessarily mean taking a puritan approach to food and cutting out all sweet and delicious options. One way that people are eating more mindfully is to cut down on sweet calories rather than giving them up altogether.

This fits with the flexitarian trend which sees people not giving up meat but eating less of it, and also the trend for cutting out alcohol for a few days each week. We are in an age that encourages moderation.

Jon explains; “As our desire to eat more healthily grows, so does the imperative for quality. If you are going to choose a mini dessert rather than a plateful of a rich pudding, you want that mini-mouthful to be superbly crafted – beautiful to look at and intensely flavoured.

“French pâtisserie is supremely well suited to this trend. With expertise built up over centuries, the pâtissier is uniquely qualified to create the finest, most delicate and delicious mouthfuls of intense flavour that will deliver the ultimate sweet experience to the customer.”

It’s important to remember that diners expect their free-from desserts to be just as indulgent, tasty and tempting as any other dessert and there’s no reason why they can’t be. “Our ‘Menuserve’ roulades, which are both gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians and are available in a range of different flavours,” explains Gordon Lauder. 

“They are amongst our most popular products for many reasons including their appealing presentation, delicious taste, home-made look, and the fact that they are suitable for a variety of diners.

Central Foods has recently launched an updated version of that all-time classic, the ring doughnut, gluten free and ‘midi’ sized this doughnut caters to health conscious customers.

“Being suitable for vegetarians and coeliacs, means it also ticks a lot of boxes for customer requirements,” says Gordon.  “It can be dressed up or down to achieve every price point and add value to menus.”

“It can be topped with glazes or icing, decorated with sprinkles, fruit or popcorn, threaded onto straws for eye-catching ‘freakshake’ milkshakes, or sliced in half and filling with a generous scoop of ice-cream for the ultimate ice-cream sandwich.”

What new trends are we going to see in 2018?

“As far as trends are concerned, this past year - during uncertain political times - we’ve seen a resurgence of updated classic desserts,” begins Gordon Lauder.  “As consumers plug into the ‘Taste of Yesterday’ trend and enjoy comfort food that provides reassuring memories of childhood or home.”

Updated Classics

Tom agrees commenting that classics are set for a comeback.  He says; “Americans also like their classics when it comes to desserts and often opt for variations on a theme. For example, we have recently introduced three new puddings which feature chocolate chip cookies, a biscuit that is popular all over the world but originated in   Massachusetts in 1938.

“A dessert like our new Giant Cookie and Mallow Stack with its four giant chocolate chip cookies, sandwiched by layers of marshmallow, cream and raspberry sauce will not suit anyone who is counting calories, but will tempt and delight anyone looking to treat themselves.”

These frozen desserts come pre-portioned and can simply be defrosted and served, offering great American flavours quickly and easily. 

Authentic Flavours

Brioche Pasquier have been making pâtisserie to traditional French recipes and techniques for over 40 years.  This means that operators can offer an authentic taste of France, and because they are frozen, they are simplicity itself to serve. By freezing pâtisserie immediately after baking we can ensure that it retains that freshly baked taste without the need for preservatives.

Jon Turonnet noted the trend for regionality across all types of foods, and he predicts provenance will become increasingly important in bakery. “With TV shows like the Great British Bake-Off introducing consumers to varieties of cakes, breads and cookies from far flung countries across the world, people are increasingly interested in where the bake comes from and how it is made, authentic flavours and the traditional baking methods used,” he explains. 

“For example, the French are recognised masters of the pastry world, and the skills of the highly trained French pâtissier cannot be easily replicated.

“Unless you have a skilled pastry chef in-house, premium pâtisserie is best bought frozen so that customers can enjoy authentic products made in the French way with premium quality French ingredients.”

Health and wellness

Coolberry predict that the UK will continue to customise their desserts to suit their health needs, something that will no doubt continue to heavily impact the dessert industry for the foreseeable future.  Michelle says: “There will be a continued focus on health and wellness and customisation. 

“Customers want it their way – the way that defines their own taste and lifestyle and giving them the choice to create their own unique dessert or sweet treat with a variety of options (sauces, toppings, etc) and it will be sure to be a winner.”

Sian Holt of UK based luxury, artisan fudge manufacturer Fudge Kitchen agrees, and predicts even more health aligned – sugar free, gluten free, soya free and dairy free options will hit the market. Witnessing first-hand the variety of options available for the health led consumer Sian foresees the rise of wholesome/organic/free-from/sustainable products that are applicable across both new products and much-loved staples.  From fresh fruit presented in new ways - through to flavoured desserts, brownies, and flap jacks.

Sian adds; “Plus the more positive messages of products that bring benefits – using seeds eg chia, for example, coconut, matcha, high fibre, nuts etc and pairing these with interesting flavours, often fruits or veg even, from mango to avocado.”