Win big with small snacks and desserts

Brought to you by Mondelēz International Foodservice

As the saying goes, less is more—and that’s certainly the case with snack and dessert portions today. With consumers increasingly snacking at all times of the day, either to replace traditional meals or to stave off hunger in between, a smidgen of chocolate or a nibble of cheese is often preferable to a larger helping.

A quality-over-quantity approach to snacking can engage your customers and boost your sales. Your success potential is greatest when you use premium ingredients in your housemade small offerings and merchandise top-selling brands of packaged snacks and desserts that people already enjoy at home.

Small items play into two of the top 20 trends in the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot in 2014 Culinary Forecast: small-plate sharing/snacking and half portions/smaller portions for a smaller price. Both offer the fun of snacking and a taste of indulgence with built-in portion control. For operators, the business opportunity they represent is reason to increase the merchandising of small dessert items.

Research indicating that consumers are eating more desserts at various times of day underscores the opportunity in dessert merchandising. According to the 2013 Dessert Consumer Trend Report by the Chicago-based research firm Technomic, 40 percent of consumers say they eat dessert after a meal twice a week or more often, up from 36 percent in 2010.

Technomic also noted an increase in between-meals dessert consumption. Thirty-five percent of consumers, up from 33 percent in 2010, report eating dessert items at least weekly for a midmorning snack and 47 percent, up from 42 percent in 2010, eat desserts as a midafternoon snack. What’s more, 19 percent of consumers report replacing a meal at least weekly with a dessert item.

Downsized desserts such as mini donuts, milkshake shooters, cake pops on sticks, tiny hot fudge sundaes and petite ice cream sandwiches have a special appeal for consumers. The instant gratification they provide is a welcome escape from the daily routine, and even diet-conscious patrons can indulge in them from time to time without blowing the calorie budget.

Additionally, small dessert items of this sort are truly affordable luxuries. The economy may still be spotty and job growth lagging, but the relatively low price of these small delights can coax consumers, especially sought-after millennial patrons, to treat themselves.

In the same way, the universe of small savory snacks is also continually expanding. It includes anything from mini cheeseburgers and fish tacos to stuffed mushrooms, onion rings, macaroni-and-cheese bites and whatever else an imaginative operator can brainstorm.

Also highly marketable in the snack and dessert arena are single-serve packages of mini chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, snack crackers and breakfast biscuits. Displayed at the cash register, they encourage impulse buys and are easy for on-the-go consumers to take away.

Although wholesome snacks made with whole grains, fiber and protein are increasing in popularity, operators should keep in mind that indulgence remains a powerful driver of snacking. It’s advisable to offer a mix of indulgent and healthful items—and in a range of portion sizes—to satisfy customers’ various needs and desires.

Additionally, a good partner can be an invaluable aid to understanding the snack and dessert market and improving your sales. Consider teaming up with a manufacturer that can offer up-to-the-minute consumer research, trend analysis and merchandising advice while supplying the market-leading brands that will delight your customers.