A comforting indulgence: a fresh look at puddings and desserts

24 June 2021, 07:50 AM
  • Home baking and self-treating has fuelled demand for puddings and desserts. What's next for the sector?

During the home baking explosion in 2020, flour, eggs and yeast flew off the shelves as Brits whipped up everything from banana bread to sourdough loaves to fill their time in lockdown. While a newfound love for homemade sweet treats blossomed, this year, as the economy reopens and consumers fill their schedules with activities and events once again, the scales will likely shift back towards prepared desserts, cakes, puddings and pastries. Thanks to the modern consumers’ ever-evolving tastes, independent retailers should take a fresh look at their shelves to ensure they’re providing for all their customers’ sweet-tooth desires.

Balancing health…

It is no secret that health and wellness have been growing concerns among consumers during the Covid-19 pandemic. “I do think that a shift to healthier options has already taken place during lockdown, but certainly, as we exit this phase the momentum in this area will continue to grow,” explains Ineke Nugteren, founder of Nourish, which creates healthy sweet snacks and desserts.

In a recent blog post for market researcher Mintel, Kaitlin Kamp, a consumer insights analyst, writes that shoppers will be “hoping to take a step back from indulgent foods post-pandemic to focus on their health”. In order to keep sweet products on consumers’ radars, retailers can expect to see brands beginning to focus on “[providing] permissibility through nutritional improvements, such as no added sugar formulations or added protein, or simple ingredient lists,” Kaitlin says.

Ineke believes dietary trends will lead this area. “Both plant-based as well as low-carb are set to grow,” she says. “Desserts that contain clean fats but low sugars will combine both paleo, low-carb, and keto trends. The area to watch is the combination of healthy options that taste and look indulgent and are sustainability sourced. This is an area where I believe we will see growth.”

… with indulgence

Even as many Brits shake the dust from their trainers, a number of consumers are still buying puddings and desserts to feed their wellbeing, with comfort at the top of the agenda. “Indulgent foods are still seen as a luxury and something to treat yourself with,” says Ineke. Research by Mintel found that more than two in five people purchasing ice cream and frozen novelty foods were doing so for comfort, while a third were buying for stress relief. “Emotional functionality can also speak to wellness by showing consumers how frozen treats can aid in their mental and emotional wellbeing,” Kaitlin says. Ineke agrees, explaining that products combining luxury desserts with functional ingredients offer customers something they can “eat and feel good about”.

Frozen food specialist Fieldfare meets the twin demands for health and indulgence by creating a range with something to please everyone – from those looking for a simple treat of frozen fruit and a sweet pastry to larger desserts such as cheesecake or roulade, which are perfect for occasions. “We have a wide range of loose frozen fruits that are ideal for a variety of desserts, as well as some larger sharing desserts,” says MD Matt Whelan. Plus, its innovative ‘pick your own’ format means portion control is a much simpler affair. “We have an extensive range of individually portioned pastries perfect for everyday treats, such as our Croissants, Pain Au Chocolat and our brand new Portuguese Tarts,” Matt says. “At Fieldfare, we are big believers in people being able to take what they want but not more than they need so, you can have a treat (which we all deserve) but don’t feel you have to finish a whole pack! This is something that we will continue to develop post-pandemic.”

Frozen desserts and pastries also have the benefit of a longer shelf life, less waste and convenience – making them an ideal product for consumers who want to have a comforting treat at the ready. “All of this helps consumers enjoy fantastic quality products when they want them and helps people manage their food waste,” Matt explains.

Going retro

As consumers seek comfort from desserts and puddings, nostalgic foods have made a stunning comeback, with everything from dried trifle to banoffee pie on the rise. Products that can cater to these reassuring flavours are worth a second look. “Our Summer Fruit Mix and California Fruit Salad are perfect for nostalgic desserts including Eton Mess and trifle, which are predicted to be the desserts for 2021,” Matt says.

As the trend for nostalgic flavours goes on, Ineke believes brands will refresh classic recipes to create something that the modern consumer will appreciate. “I think we are seeing remakes of traditional desserts that have many fillers, added sugars, and long lists of ingredients, being reinvented to contain functional ingredients such as nuts, freeze-dried fruits, raw cacao.” For retailers, walking the line between health and indulgence with familiar flavours that soothe the soul will be the key to cashing in on puddings and desserts this year.

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