Sponsored by General Mills Foodservice
There is no way to sugar-coat it—the pandemic has impacted how and what we eat and forever changed our expectations when dining in away-from-home settings. However, new products are emerging to help foodservice operations meet evolving consumer preferences and while sweetening up the business’s bottom line.
“The past year has shown an increase in consumers’ cravings for things like baked goods, sweets and comfort foods as well as heightened interest in safety that we anticipate will continue long after the pandemic,” said Mark Harmon, from General Mills Foodservice who helps to analyze consumer insights for the foodservice industry. “This underscores a need for low-labor solutions for foodservice staff, who are already working tirelessly to please their consumers, to offer premium desserts with peace of mind that they are safe to eat.”
Satisfying Your Consumers’ Sweet Tooth
According to a nationwide survey* conducted by The Harris Poll and commissioned by General Mills Foodservice in September 2020, more than in one in four Americans (28 percent) have been eating more baked goods than they normally would as a result of the pandemic over the past 6 months (as of September 2020). Overall, 85% of Americans have been eating baked goods as a result of the pandemic over the past 6 months, items such as cookies (57%), bread (50%), cake (42%), donuts (36%) and brownies (35%) topping the list of the baked goods they’ve been eating.
Among consumers eating more baked goods as a result of the pandemic over the past 6 months, nearly half (48 percent) are doing so because they crave sweet things, and more than a quarter (27 percent) say they are doing so because they gave themselves permission to indulge during this time.
“Clearly many Americans have a sweet tooth, and we can expect they will continue to seek out their sweet baked goods—albeit in smaller portions and in new ways that convey limited handling or low-contact,” said Harmon. “Foodservice staff need to think differently about how they menu sweets and dessert, but thankfully there are a number of solutions on the table.”
Provide Peace of Mind
Individually-wrapped desserts, especially those in clear, sealed packaging give consumers confidence that the treat is safe yet allows the items’ quality and mouth-watering appearance to shine through. In addition, with no back-of-house labor required, individually-wrapped desserts and snacks are a convenient grab & go option that can work well in cafeterias, coffee shops, retail spaces and restaurants.
Offer Individual Indulgence
Single-serve desserts that are pre-portioned for one are another way to satisfy consumers’ cravings for an indulgent treat in a just-right size they can keep all to themselves.
Items such as Thaw & Serve Brownies that come individually portioned in a craft liner, provide a way to offer an elevated and differentiated dessert option with minimal labor. Staff will appreciate the simplicity of a ready-to-serve item that can also be customized in a number of ways to work across the menu.
It’s not always possible to staff the labor necessary to make homemade desserts and baked goods or perhaps there is lack of space and equipment. The last year in particular has required many kitchens to do more with less.
Products that come ready-to-bake such as frozen baked goods, frozen dough or pipeable batter can be a life saver. They provide a way to menu delicious dessert items, from cookies and other bakery staples to muffins, cakes and cupcakes, that have scratch-like quality without all of the work. These minimal labor items are baked onsite and can be served as is or provide a blank slate for staff to get creative with delicious finishing opportunities. The smell of baked goods baking also creates an enticing aroma which can be a great purchase motivator.
In today’s challenging environment, many operations require an even simpler solution in helping them round out their dessert offerings with little or no labor required. That’s where Thaw & Serve baked goods, with no oven required, and Individually-Wrapped items, that are packaged and ready-to-go, are in demand more than ever.
No matter what low-labor solution operations choose for their baking and dessert needs, the key is to identify those products that will not only ease the burden on staff but will deliver on the quality, taste and appearance that give them that “made in house” appeal that is so alluring to consumers.
Harmon says, “there are still many unknowns about life after the pandemic, however, it is probably safe to assume that consumers’ love for sweet treats is here to stay, requiring operators to continue seek out low-labor solutions that signal homemade and will help them meet consumer cravings in new ways.”
*This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of General Mills Foodservice from September 16-18, 2020 among 2,053 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact General Mills Foodservice.