Posted in Family Restaurant on December 18, 2023
Innovative pastries, sweet heat, botanical flavors, and more on tap for the year ahead.
The snack and dessert menus of 2024 promise to be filled with creative culinary innovations, including new variations on French pastries, ongoing experimentation with global ingredients and flavors, and a focus on overall well-being, both physical and emotional.
“After years of crisis and anxiety, I think consumers are getting more comfortable with the idea of indulging than they have been in years,” says Maeve Webster, president of consulting firm Menu Matters. “Essentially, we’re at the point where indulging seems as much a part of self-care as eating healthfully and mindfully.”
In addition to new pastries and the adoption of international influences, 2024 dessert trends and snacks will also bring ongoing considerations around sustainability in the sourcing and use of ingredients, more plant-based snack and dessert offerings, and innovation around the use of savory and spicy ingredients in dessert formulations.
Snack and dessert trends in 2024 will continue to gravitate toward the quality of these offerings, in terms of both their ingredients and craftsmanship, says Webster.
“We’re seeing a resurgence of local bakeries, pastry chefs as restaurant heroes, and more thoughtfulness in dessert development than has been the case over the past decade,” she says.
Innovative pastry creations
“In the last decade or likely longer, there has always been a laminated pastry that comes around every few years and becomes a breakout hit,” says Trung Vu, chef-instructor of Pastry & Baking Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education’s New York City campus.
Although the Cronut craze of a few years ago may be the most popular example of this trend, new forms keep emerging. 2022 saw the rise of the cream-filled Suprême croissant at New York City’s Lafayette Grand Café & Bakery, and in 2023, Le Deli Robuchon in London created a social media sensation with its cube-shaped croissants.
“Perhaps in 2024 we will get a croissant pyramid?” says Vu.
Mondelēz Foodservice Brand Ambassador Chef Clarice Lam says this new trending snack option is expanding beyond croissants into other traditional French pastries.
“I think with the popularity of the cronut, then the croffle, then the croissant disc, people are looking for various ways to incorporate modern flavors into traditional French pastries, and they are starting to think outside of croissants,” she says. “Swiss rolls, and variations are really popular for the holidays and versatile enough to switch up the flavor profiles to make it an all-year-around treat. Chiffon cake rolls are really popular in Asian cultures as well, and I have seen them rolled and filled in new ways.”
Read more about ways to modernize French pastry here.
Elevated global influences
Snack and dessert trends in 2024 show that consumers continue to be more open to global flavors, and they are increasingly seeking out elevated takes on dishes of international origin.
Vu cites Kora Bakery in the New York City borough of Queens as an example of a foodservice outlet that “puts its Filipino heritage forward” to great success, citing its ube desserts in particular, and Win Son Bakery in Brooklyn, a Taiwanese-influenced shop that features mochi donuts with a fermented red rice glaze.
“I think in 2024 we will see even more elevated and authentic global snacks and desserts become popular,” says Vu.
Mondelēz Foodservice Brand Ambassador Chef Gemma Matsuyama agrees that Asian flavors will continue to gain traction on restaurant snack and dessert menus in 2024.
“I love the interest in Asian flavors like ube because, although coming from humble ingredients, it has such a strong flavor personality,” she says. “I expect a lot more of the younger generation in North America and Europe will want to try more Asian flavors with the increased interest in anime, video games and KPOP culture.”
Read more about the influence of Asian flavors and dessert formats here.
More plant-based dessert options
Consumers will also continue to seek out healthy snack trends and plant-based foods, including desserts, in the year ahead, says Vu.
“Without considering the dietary needs and preferences of the many, restaurants are leaving a lot of money on the table by not catering to all tastes,” he says.
He cites restaurants such as Bar Blondeau in New York City’s Wythe Hotel, which offers vegan and gluten-free counterparts of the same menu items, such as its popular Caesar salad, if requested, which Vu calls “a much more inclusive way of doing business.”
Consumers seeking to pursue more plant-based diets are often left with few options—perhaps ordering multiple side dishes in lieu of an entrée or substituting a fruit plate for another dessert.
“I think we will also see a lot more plant-based standalone desserts, such as oat milk ice cream, but perhaps with other non-dairy alternatives,” says Vu.
New York-based ice cream chain Van Leeuwen has long been known for its innovative vegan ice cream varieties, such as the Vegan Peanut Butter Brownie Honeycomb flavor, which features a base of coconut cream, cashew milk, coconut oil, and cocoa butter. The Hummus & Pita Co., meanwhile, offers a line of vegan shakes made with — you guessed it — hummus. The Chickpea Chillers include the Original, as well as several variations including Pistachio and Butter Pecan, all of which are touted as not only dairy-free but also gluten-free.
Sustainability and responsible sourcing
Many of the snack and dessert trends in 2024 that are impacting other aspects of the menu—sustainability, whole ingredients, mindful sourcing, and source-of-origin call outs, and authenticity—are also impacting desserts, says Webster, although the category has a little more leeway than other parts of the menu when it comes to these attributes.
“There’s a playfulness with desserts that avoids some of the more restricting and severe conversations around authenticity from limiting inventiveness,” says Webster.
A report from The Daily Meal notes that one of the ways the sustainability trend will manifest itself is through the repurposing of food waste. For example, the reuse of cacao pulp, which is a byproduct of chocolate production, is becoming more commonplace in a variety of products whose makers cite its flavor and health benefits, in addition to its abundance.
Specialty ice cream maker Salt & Straw included cacao pulp in one of its new flavors when it launched its Upcycled Food Series earlier this year for a limited time. In addition to the Cacao Pulp & Chocolate Stracciatella Gelato, other flavors included Day-Old Bread Pudding & Chocolate Ganache, Lemon Curd & Whey, and vegan options Salted Caramel & Okara Cupcakes, and Malted Chocolate Barley Milk.
Floral and herbal flavors
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) suggests that herbal and floral flavors and ingredients will continue to grow as a healthy snack trend in the year ahead, in part because of their association with healthful attributes.
Hibiscus, for example, has been appearing in more and more beverage applications, and ingredients such as jasmine, rose, lavender, and eucalyptus have also been gaining traction both because of their flavor profiles and their healthful connotations, according to IFT.
Many of these are actually “old-fashioned flavors” that have been rejuvenated amid a trend toward “nature, floral motifs, and edible flowers in food,” says Morgaine Gaye, a London-based food futurologist, in a recent IFT article.
Los Angeles-based ice cream shop Mashti Malone has long featured floral flavors in its assortment, which includes Creamy Rosewater, French Lavender, and Orange Blossom, among others.
Sweet heat and more savory mashups
Consumers’ expectations around sweet-and-spicy combinations in dessert formulations will continue to evolve in 2024, says Webster.
“Certainly, before the pandemic we were seeing more savory elements—such as herbs and spices—being incorporated into desserts,” she says. “But more recently the broadening of some savory profiles to incorporate sweet—think sweet heat like hot honey—has increased acceptance of these types of combinations.”
Overall, she says there is an ongoing shift in the average American palate farther away from “extreme” sweet profiles toward more complex sweetness and more savory elements.
IFT also highlighted this “swicy” trend (a mashup of sweet and spicy) as appearing in beverages, as well as in desserts. Consumers in the year ahead will also increasingly gravitate toward other savory flavor profiles—such as sour, umami, and bitter—in combination with sweet flavors, the IFT report predicts.
The sweet-and-spicy trend is reflected at the Doughnut Plant in New York, for example, where the menu features a Cacio e Pepe Sourdoughnut, made with parmesan, black pepper, and butter.
Operators clearly have plenty of runway for snack and dessert innovation in 2024, keeping in mind that consumers will continue to look for indulgent treats and new trending snacks throughout the day. Consumers’ ongoing appetite for small rewards will create opportunities for operators to drive excitement—and sales—whether they are recreating traditional French pastries, tapping global tastes and trends, adding spices or botanical flavors to their sweet treats, or focusing on plant-based or sustainable formulations.
For more snack and dessert trends for 2024 and menu inspiration to fuel your sales and profitability in the year ahead, explore Mondelēz Foodservice’s 6 Foodservice Industry Trends for 2024 report.