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Top Dessert Trends for 2016!


Before we present what’s expected to be hot for 2016, let’s take a step back and review why the desserts category is so important for ISB operators.

Consider the following:

  • 63% of consumers eat dessert at least once a week. Consumption is high in the U.S., regardless of demographic differences or level of income.

  • As a combination of several ISB categories, the desserts super category accounts for almost 50% of ISB department dollar sales. This contribution continues to grow year after year.  See chart below.

  • chart

    So the key take away for ISB operators is desserts in total is a critical trip driver and image builder for total department and even for total store.

    So without any further ado…the chart below lists the top 12 dessert trends found in the National Restaurant Association’s annual survey of professional chefs from the American Culinary Federation.  We spotlight a few interesting and relevant dessert trends from this list and others below.

nat rest assoc

Source:  NRA, 2015 (

Lemon-Flavored Desserts

Lemon-flavored desserts are a new addition to this year’s list.  Lemon as a dessert flavor on menus has grown by +7.8% (4-yr. growth 2012-2015), for a total menu penetration rate of 15.8%.   A key category driver is cakes.  Lemon’s 4-yr menu penetration growth rate for Foodservice cakes is +36.6%.

Rustic Lemon Tart:

Lemon Tart

Lemon Meringue Doughnuts:

Lemon Doughut

Miniature Lemon Meringue Doughnut:  

Mini Lemon Doughnut

Featured at North End Grill in NYC and spotlighted by Nation’s Restaurant News, the miniature version hits on a trifecta of trends:  1) Lemon, 2) Mini and 3) Brioche dough.  As if scientists got together in a lab and created the perfect, on-trend dessert!

Lemon Curd Ice Cream Cake with Taco Crunch:

Ice Cream Cake

A fun combination of creaminess and crunch, the base includes an actual taco shell, which means you automatically have to try it if you find it on a menu!

Vegetable Dessert Ingredients

I know…it’s doesn’t quite sound right but the combination works.  Why? Vegetables can add sweetness, unique texture and a health halo to desserts.  For pastry chefs, the incorporation of vegetables brings added freshness to the menu depending on the season and opportunity to feature locally sourced vegetables.

Corn Cake and Popcorn Ice Cream:

Corn Cake and IC

Savory Desserts

Featured on the Pinterest 100 for 2016 (featuring trending pins from influential users), savory desserts is not a new concept but it’s gaining in popularity and acceptance.  To make it work, think about complementary flavor profiles like chili or pepper paired with chocolate.

Potato Chip Cupcakes:

P Chip Cupcakes

Coffee Mash-ups

Special Note:  In the interest of complete transparency, the writer is a big fan of any and all coffee flavored desserts.

This is beyond an accompaniment to a dessert.  It’s using coffee as the key ingredient in popular desserts like Tiramisu and ice cream.  According to Datassential (menu research firm), coffee and tea are two top desserts trends to watch in 2016.

But the trend is really about coffee starting as the key ingredient in unexpected places.  Consider a few examples below:

Coffee Flavored Popsicles:

Coffee Flavored

Irish Coffee Cheesecake:

In our research, we stumbled upon several Irish Coffee Cheesecake concepts. Sounds too good to pass up!  And once again in the interest of complete transparency, the writer is Irish!

Irish Cheesecake

Sources:  Technomic, Inc.  Dessert Consumer Trend Report, 2015 and Flavor Consumer Trend Report, 2015.