Win big with small snacks and desserts

small desserts

From 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.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
lettuce eat dining

Forced to battle crumbling infrastructure and a constant churn of trends, sometimes the best way to save a foodservice operation is to change it entirely. As Steve Mangan, director of dining at the University of Michigan, puts it, “At some point when your building starts to fail, the cost of maintenance stands out.” But for operators with limited budgets, the challenge is discerning the right time to do so—and how far to take it.

At Jefferson High School, change came because little worked anymore. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, school’s cafeteria hadn’t been updated since 1957; students...

Managing Your Business
farmer produce

The seeds of farm-to-table 2.0 have officially blown into noncommercial foodservice. Since the movement has caught the attention of the segment during the past decade, operators have broadened agricultural collaborations outside of just supply. As a result, a new strain of the movement has been created that treats farms as allies in events, training and innovative growing systems.

The 500-bed Overlook Medical Center in Summit, N.J., didn’t start out sourcing produce from local farms; instead, it administered its own growing programs, including an on-site garden and honeybee apiary...

Ideas and Innovation
fsd screenshot web

A full year has passed since we redesigned FoodService Director magazine, taking the publication from its longtime tabloid dimensions to a more convenient size and more creative design, and recasting the content to provide actionable, peer-to-peer insights and ideas for FSDs.

Now we are thrilled to announce that we’ve extended the makeover to our website as well. The new FoodServiceDirector.com has been redesigned to be more engaging and even easier to use. We’ve made it faster to find information, from recipes to HR best practices, that will help you run your facility better....

Managing Your Business
wage feud business

As plans to increase the minimum wage surge ahead in states such as New York and California, operators eventually will feel the reverberations shake up labor costs for more than just hourly workers. As associate wages gain on manager salaries, operators will have to answer a call for reciprocal increases. FSD spoke with operators who advised going gently into the brave new world of heightened labor costs, investing in talent and making cuts elsewhere; however, they did offer three perfectly proactive tactics to make the process as seamless as possible.

1. Keep talking

Even though...

FSD Resources