The future of sweet treats: To boldly go … smaller

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

The Starbucks Petites range taps into the miniature trend
The Starbucks Petites range taps into the miniature trend
The ‘miniature’ trend has real staying power in the sweet treats category, according to market researcher The Hartman Group.

In the latest of a new series of webinars exploring food and beverage trends, Hartman’s director of culinary insights Melissa Abbott said bite-size snacks and desserts were seen by many consumers as a form of guilt-free indulgence without compromising on taste.

Guilt-free indulgence?

But rather than trying to cash in on this trend by producing bite-sized versions of existing products, the most innovative manufacturers were attempting to delight consumers by using unusual flavors and higher quality ingredients to create novel products inspired by top pastry chefs, she said.

As the stakes were lower, consumers were also more willing to experiment with unfamiliar ingredients and preparations with mini desserts and snacks, she added.

Mini snacks enabled consumers to control their calorie intake while “avoiding diet or alternative health ingredients” ​or unappealing fat- or sugar-reduced products that didn’t feel like much of a reward or treat, said Abbott.

“The stakes are low; we’re committing to just a few bites at a lower price point … a tiny dessert can be perceived as a guilt-free indulgence whatever the caloric reality.

“We think of minis as a low-calorie portion controlled treat, kind of like the 100-calorie pack. A pint sized portion is a license to partake.”

American palates are evolving

The trend towards high quality ingredients and more experimental flavors was also something that reflected trends in the wider confectionery category, claimed Abbott.

“America is ready for a candy overhaul. The line extensions of existing legacy brands like coconut M&Ms and white chocolate KitKats haven’t fully captured the imagination of America’s sweet tooth.

“Consumers are gravitating towards more interesting flavors driven by a desire for novelty and unique experience. The palates of American consumers are evolving and edgier flavor combinations are playing a big role in dessert offerings.

“Ingredients like bacon, jalapeno, miso and culinary herbs are finding their way into desserts."

Manufacturers looking for inspiration should take their lead from "leading edge pastry chefs who are mixing classical and modern flavors to create whimsical sweet and savory foods that are delightfully experimental yet nostalgic”, she said.

Functional claims should be avoided

However, functional or better-for-you messaging should be avoided, she stressed.

“We really caution against functional overtones such as superfruit claims and antioxidant promises from the likes of grapeseed and green tea extracts.

“This is a category where the consumer is craving surprise and delight and is much less about better-for-you functionality. Instead, rely on fun and playful product narratives and highlight quality ingredients.”

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