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Study: Despite downturn, patrons still love dessert

Study: Despite downturn, patrons still love dessert

Dessert represents growth opportunity for restaurants, report says

Of all of the dining sacrifices restaurant patrons have made as they sought ways to reduce spending during the recession, saying “no” to dessert does not appear to have been one of them, according to new research from Technomic.

The Chicago-based firm’s “2010 Dessert Consumer Trend Report” found that “for the past three years, more consumers have consistently eaten more desserts.”

And because dessert usually takes up the smallest amount of space on menus, the occasion represents a growth opportunity for restaurants, especially since it appeals to consumers in both good times and bad, the report said.

General attitudes toward dessert are very favorable, Technomic found. About 70 percent of the more than 1,500 consumers surveyed said they save room for dessert at least once a week, while only 1 percent said they never have it.

“Dessert is unique because it not only involves sensory appeal, but also sparks strong emotional drivers,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic. “If someone wants to reward themselves after a bad day, they might splurge on a dessert to feel better.

“But if they want to celebrate after a good day, they might do the same thing,” he added. “Motivations for craving dessert run the gamut.”

Among other trends, the study noted, was the increasing prevalence of adventurous desserts on independent and fine-dining menus, featuring salty, smoky, savory or herbal flavor combinations.

Consumers also identified beverages as being satisfying dessert options. Technomic said that could portend opportunities for brands adding to their frozen and blended drink menus, like McDonald’s McCafe line or the vanilla, chocolate and strawberry milk shakes debuted this summer at Cincinnati-based Gold Star Chili. The chili specialist also rolled out a seasonal limited-time milk shake, the Orangesicle, to tie into its sponsorship of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Other chains offer dessert beverages that play on regional tastes, like the Peach Milkshake at Chick-fil-A.

The report also said pricing can influence dessert purchases, but cost becomes less of a factor when consumers are considering dessert than when they are selecting other menu items.

The study did find, however, that price is a factor when consumers are selecting a dessert from a retail option after dining out.

Brands can build more price flexibility by creating more sizing options, as Dairy Queen did this year with its iconic Blizzard treat, rolling out the Mini Blizzard during its 25-city tour to celebrate the product’s 25th anniversary.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].

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