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Amidst an uncertain economic climate, apprehensions arose that consumers might reduce their spending on non-essentials. However, the dessert sector has shown remarkable resilience. That said, the manner in which Americans indulge in sweets has evolved.
In the following discourse, we will explore the delicate equilibrium between demand for healthy and indulgent desserts, the advent of plant-based innovation within sweet treats, variances in dessert preferences among different groups, and an examination of the frozen dessert segment’s performance.
Is your brand positioned to successfully manoeuvre through both current and forthcoming dessert industry trends?

Trends in Health-Focused Desserts — Has the Era of Excess Concluded?

For many, the temptation of sweet extravagance remains tenacious, as market analyses for treats indicate that only a scant 39% of American consumers exercise restraint in their dietary habits. Those who do adopt stringent dietary limits often identify sugar as their primary concern, vigilantly monitoring its intake. When financial cutbacks are necessary, premium desserts are typically amongst the first luxuries to be forgone. Despite these challenges, the dessert industry holds ample prospects for engaging consumers proactively.

In light of global challenges and resultant elevated stress levels, the quest for solace leads Americans to seek comfort. Though sweets cannot solve complex issues, they are predominantly viewed as soul-soothing above anything else. Hence, brands might opt to market desserts as a modestly luxurious experience, offering moments of easy, accessible delight—moving away from sheer extravagance.

Confectionery firms are addressing the public’s sugar reservations with creative product innovations. For instance, Kraft Heinz’s “Zero Sugar” JELL-O swirls, launched in September 2023, eclipsed its rivals in consumer panel surveys, with 61% demonstrating a propensity to purchase.

Increased anxieties regarding sugar have prompted US consumers to explore BFY (better-for-you) alternatives throughout store aisles, with plant-based sweet innovations regularly being introduced to patrons. Continue to read and find out why nuanced strategies are essential when launching plant-based or BFY desserts.


Exploring BFY and Plant-Based Dessert Innovations

As consumers seek to balance indulgence with health consciousness, the spectrum of plant-based and BFY dessert offerings is expanding. However, reconciling the richness and creaminess associated with traditional desserts with the healthier appeal of plant-based alternatives is a complex task.

Investigating innovations in ice cream, it is observed that plant-based alternatives strive to emulate the rich, creamy textures of dairy ice creams. Wildgood’s “Wildly Creamy” plant-based ice cream has achieved notable success in this endeavour. Yet, only 30% of adults in the US hold a desire for non-dairy options that match the indulgence of dairy. Therefore, there is the potential to entice consumers by offering a health benefit trade-off in tandem with BFY claims.

A noted surge in consumer interest for sustainable claims is parallel with the increasing demand for eco-consciousness in the food and drink sector. The number of cookie products making “environmentally friendly” claims has seen a significant uptick over the past five years. Once again, sustainability is taking centre stage. By embracing this movement, brands can alleviate the guilt associated with dessert consumption by presenting ethically sourced delights.

For triumph in plant-based and BFY dessert introductions, a diplomatic approach is crucial. Owing to the diversity in preferences, it is vital for brands to focus on recognising and catering to their target audience’s unique needs. A one-size-fits-all solution is non-existent, highlighting the importance of demographic-centric strategies in capturing consumer attention.


Diversity in Dessert Preferences Across Age Groups

Younger consumers tend to go beyond traditional selections and flavours within the dessert landscape. Generations Z and Millennials show a pronounced enthusiasm for novel treats within the realm of cookies compared to Gen X and Baby Boomers. The avant-garde inclinations of Gen Z reveal lucrative opportunities for dessert innovation aimed at this demographic.

Widening the lens to the broader food and beverage sphere, it becomes clear that younger audiences are more captivated by exotic, limited-time, and trending social media flavours. Thus, keeping pace with dessert trends largely involves staying in sync with generational shifts. While hyper-innovative flavours occupy a niche market, the demographic engaged on social media platforms notably welcomes them. As social media’s quest for virality advances, trending flavours play a key part in fostering digital interactions.

Increased presence on social networks has thrown light on changes in dessert consumption practices, prompting brands to adapt to the evolving landscape.

Contradicting the common perception of an extreme health focus, it is in fact, females, especially the younger generation, who display a strong inclination towards opulent desserts and baked goods. An impressive 35% of women aged between 18 to 34 years exhibit a preference for extravagant bakery options, exceeding that of any other group. Likewise, a dominant 55% of women, as opposed to 45% of men, pursue indulgence when savouring their sweet confections.


Updated Insights into the Frozen Dessert Sector

The most recent data on ice cream in 2023 indicate that frozen sweets sustain their popularity among US adults, with an impressive 94% purchasing these items. Herein, several notable industry trends are examined.

  • The interest and sales of sherbet and sorbet, despite their generally lower popularity, have seen the most considerable growth, spurred by ventures into realms distinguished by indulgence and novel flavours.
  • A sizable portion of those engaging with ice cream exhibits a fondness for flavours reminiscent of classic ice cream parlours, with such artisanal styles being perceived by many Americans as of higher quality compared to supermarket offerings.
  • Frozen novelties have now overtaken ice cream in market share, signifying a trend whereby consumers are either making more purchases or investing more in portable frozen treats such as ice cream bars, popsicles, and cones.

Despite growing ethical and environmental claims associated with new ice cream launches, taste and convenience remain central to consumer interests in 2023. This poses a substantial challenge to brands striving to balance different facets of their marketing strategies. Certain brands are leveraging the sustainability trend, like Cosmic Bliss with its grass-fed dairy products, which highlights its commitment to eco-friendly sourcing. In contrast, others such as Häagen-Dazs Butter Cookie Chocolate Ice Cream Cone are focusing on satisfying consumer’s decadent cravings, achieving an 86% approval rating for flavour.

Advancing Within the US Dessert Market

As demonstrated, the dessert sector encompasses a rich tapestry of offerings and rejects a simplistic approach. To cater to consumer palates effectively, an in-depth comprehension of their predilections is imperative. Is your brand successfully meeting the expectations of your desired audience? Are you aligning your products with the prevailing dessert market trends to engage effectively with your consumers?

Peruse our extensive dessert market research reports to uncover up-to-date industry statistics and insights within the US confectionery landscape.