How to Make Fall a Stellar Dessert Season

Posted in Promotions on August 25, 2022


In fall, as the weather begins to cool, consumers’ appetite for desserts that include warm, toasty flavors starts to heat up.

Restaurants may find that customers are seeking sweets such as pies and soufflés, featuring autumnal ingredients like cinnamon, ginger, nuts and apples, according to Clarice Lam, Mondelēz Foodservice Brand Ambassador, contributor to Epicurious and The Spruce Eats, and founder of The Baking Bean, a Brooklyn direct-to-consumer bakery specializing in all-natural seasonal sweets.

“Consumers want warm and cozy dishes for the fall—flavors that remind them of the holidays and family,” Lam said in an interview with marketing agency The Food Group.

In fact, the buying decisions of one in four consumers are influenced by seasonal and limited-time flavors.1

The ingredients, trendiness and other aspects, though, can affect how new menu items are received. To ensure any fall desserts you introduce are a sales success, consider weaving in some of the following features.

Annual Flavor Favorites

For years, pumpkin has reigned supreme in fall; sales of pumpkin-spice-flavored products increased 47% from 2017–2022,2 and currently, the market for pumpkin flavor is worth over $802 million.3

Starbucks was a powerful springboard for the perennial popularity of pumpkin spice, launching its Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2003 at 100 stores and selling more than 200 million of the beverages by 2013.3 Now popular across food and beverage categories, pumpkin spice has become ubiquitous during the fall months.

As Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at Mintel Consulting, put it: “Pumpkin spice is not only for coffee products, but shows up across categories (snacks, chocolate, alcoholic drinks, all types of dairy, confectionery). It is this type of proliferation across categories that illustrates the strength of the flavor. It’s not going anywhere.”3

Standing Out Instead of Blending In

With such a proliferation of pumpkin spice options on the market, it takes a dash of ingenuity to stand out in the category. Crafting creative concepts with trusted brands can differentiate operations from the competition. Mondelēz Foodservice offers a wide variety of inventive recipes, including Pumpkin Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffin made with OREO Cookie Pieces and Pumpkin Spice Milkshake made with OREO Cookie Pieces.

In recent years, fall desserts and drinks have been elevated with other rich, warm flavors, such as s’mores. “Like pumpkin spice, it has been growing and expanding into new categories in recent years (e.g., snack bars, cold cereal, even popcorn),” said Dornblaser. “That flavor evokes the essence of fall, I think, with cold weather, sweaters, bonfires, all that good stuff.”

To help chefs and operators take advantage of the trend, the Mondelēz Foodservice Culinary Center features an array of recipes, including S'mores Pots de Creme with HONEY MAID Graham Crumble.  

Donut is another flavor that has been gaining traction. Chobani’s Maple Glazed Donut–flavored coffee creamer, Tim Hortons’ Apple Fritter–flavored breakfast cereal and Mrs. Butterworth’s Dunkin’ Glazed Donut–flavored syrup are among the donut-flavored products that have emerged in recent years. For a savory take on donut as a fall flavor, try our recipe for Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuit Donuts made with RITZ Crackers.

Dornblaser pointed to the growth potential of pumpkin minus spice and of maple and squash (an increasingly popular soup flavor).3 She also noted that cranberry is appearing among more categories. Cheesecake with Orange-Cranberry Sauce & NABISCO Grahams provides an example of the scrumptious potential of the cranberry flavor for desserts.

Hot Trends and Cool Transitions

Fall flavors like maple syrup have become so popular and profitable, they’re being introduced increasingly early in the season as restaurants vie for seasonal sales, as Jaclyn Marks, senior publications manager and trendologist at Datassential, points out.

“Restaurant chains are releasing their fall beverage lineups earlier and earlier each year, so that now we can expect to see some of these traditional fall flavors on more summer menus, especially when we're nearing the end of the summer in August,” she explained.5

Datassential identified a variety of flavors bridging summer and fall menus, including compote, white peach, orgeat, cookies and cream, raspberry lemonade, mojito and guava.

Enduring Formats and Inclusions

Along with nostalgia, comfort-themed foods have continued to resonate with customers. Recent research found that nostalgic-dessert limited-time offers are frequently one of operators’ top-performing items.5

Fifty-seven percent of consumers hanker after nostalgic desserts, according to Datassential. Gen Z consumers are particularly interested in treats that trigger fond memories. Sixty-two percent of Gen Zers surveyed gravitate to old-school desserts like Viennetta ice cream cake—a hit in the ’90s that returned to stores in 2021.5

Operators can meet both generations’ desire for familiarity by incorporating recognizable items in desserts, such as using SOUR PATCH KIDS in place of candied fruit in panettone or fruit cakes, according to Lam.

International Tastes

In addition to giving dessert recipes a refresh by incorporating well-known brands, including elements from cuisines that are traditionally served in various countries can tap into consumers’ growing interest in global ingredients. 

Datassential points to dessert trends like traditional Chinese mooncakes getting a modern spin with flavors like mango and chocolate as an example of the continuing culinary innovation being applied to international inspirations.5

Lam said in her interview with The Food Group that she plans to explore dessert combinations that involve international ingredients and Asian flavors this fall—a pairing she suggests can provide a unique twist on familiar desserts.

“I had an apple crostata with kabocha ice cream mochi on the menu before that was very successful,” she says. “[It’s about] taking something fairly traditional and pairing it with something new and fun.”

While desserts that include conventional fall flavors like pumpkin can often be a hit, operators have some room for experimentation throughout the season. Including beloved dessert formats, cool-weather ingredients and other elements that consumers have expressed an interest in seeing can help drive excitement about desserts that are sold in fall—and potentially also increase your overall profitability during those months.

Eager for more menu innovation? Follow us @mondelezfoodservice on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Don’t forget to sign up for our emails to find out more ways to energize your dessert and snack offerings in fall—and beyond.


1 FlavorSum, 2024 Seasonal Flavor Guide.

2 Food & Beverage Insider, “Fall Flavor Trends: Pumpkin Spice and Up-and-Coming Seasonal Flavors,” October 5, 2023.

3 Stagwell Marketing Cloud, 2023 State of Pumpkin Spice Report, October 31, 2023.

4 McCormick Flavor Solutions, Fall Seasonal Lookback, January 2024.

5 Datassential, Dessert Decadence Foodbytes Report, 2023.

6 Hamstra, Mark, “Fall Flavors Emerge on Summer Menus,” Specialty Food, April 17, 2024.


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