It’s time to treat yourself! October 17th is officially the Sweetest Day of the Year during National Dessert Month, so it would be a crime for everyone not to enjoy their favorite dessert on this day. Not everyone has the same “sweet” tooth when it comes to how they want to indulge, however. The idea of what that special snack is at the end of the day is evolving and following trends of other food categories, moving away from the classic sweets to something a little more innovative, healthy, and sour, blurring the definition of what dessert can be.

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2020 The Year of Ruby Chocolate

Chocolate is the most classic and most recognizable dessert flavor, with dark, milk, and white chocolate dominating sweet menus. However, 2020 is set to become the year of the lesser known ruby chocolate. Although popular in other parts of the world, ruby chocolate has not yet entered the mainstream of American sweets despite North American markets having the highest consumption of chocolate in the region, but that’s about to change as ruby chocolate has recently been permitted production in the U.S. for a limited time, according to Mintel.

The unique flavor is said to be smooth and have a berry fruitiness and its natural pink hue sets it apart from the typical look of chocolate and appeals to consumers who are interested in finding the uniqueness in new, trendy foods. Fruit and chocolate are a natural pairing, so having a chocolate that naturally combines the two opens new doors to experimentation and innovation for everything from high-end truffles to mainstream candy bars given out on Halloween.

Along with adding this unique chocolate to the confectionery landscape, innovations in flavor profiles has also evolved beyond classic flavors, instead trying to find the extreme to the “sweet and spicy” and “sweet and salty” trends. This includes pairing dark chocolate bars with a popular hot sauce brand and adding whisky, pralines, and salty pork cracklings for the ultimate adult bacon-and-boozy chocolate treat.

RELATED: Dessert Innovations Focus on Health and Seasonality

Seasonal Favorites and New Challenges

Seasons are inevitably tied to flavors, like summery fruits and wintery comfort, but the most distinct and trending flavors are found in fall with the non-stop growing popularity of sweet autumn flavors, like pumpkin spice and apple, especially. So, it only makes sense that the holiday centered around sharing sweets lands during National Dessert Month, though Halloween will look very different this year because of COVID-19. It doesn’t have to taste different, however, as candy brands prepare to tackle pandemic sweet-sharing in a safer way as well as experiment with new child-friendly flavors, including adding strawberry to milk chocolate or making things look a little spookier with the addition of green crème.

According to Mintel, Americans spent $8.8 billion on Halloween candy, costumes, and decorations in 2019. Hygienic packaging of individually wrapped candies and candy bars is must for parents worried about exposure. Companies selling loose candies that are wrapped but not sealed in plastic wrappers or bags with multiple pieces that could be shared, for instance, are introducing new packaging and single serving options to better accommodate children’s safety and ensure there are still going to be plenty of delicious sugar rushes to go around Halloween night.

Feel Good About Dessert

As we’ve seen the ‘Feel Good Food’ trend exploding over the last few years (particularly in response to COVID-19) across all food sectors as people look for healthier foods to match their busier lives, sweets are no exception to changing views and desires. Even with the need for adding indulgent snacks to their days being stronger than ever during current stressful times, consumers are interested in their confection of choice being as beneficial as it is satisfying. This may come in the form of a candy being no less indulgent but shrunk to a smaller serving size for mini-enjoyment or adding protein and probiotics to give the food a wellness edge.

Consumers know candy is not meant to be a health food, but by adding immunity-boosting and functional ingredients, fortifying with vitamins, and putting more emphasis on health with ingredients like sesame, hibiscus, and collagen, it makes consumers feel better about making room for dessert. This also means adults are interested in finding alternatives to what they believe might be too indulgent and turn to something more fruit-forward; according to Mintel, a third of U.S. adults view non-chocolate confectionery as good for snacking, including chewy candy, hard candy, and gummies.

As consumers turn their interests to more non-chocolate confectionery, different flavors are beginning to rise in the confectionery scene. Standard fruit (especially mango), floral, and herbal flavors dominate these candies, but the fastest growing flavor component in this confectionery segment is sour. Sour coating on gummy or hard candies offers an experience that mixes the pleasant sour tingling people crave with the familiar underlying taste that some prefer over the ultra-rich and indulgent taste of chocolate. However, when it comes to having fun with our dessert, according to Mintel, Americans still prefer classic, comforting dishes of ice cream, chocolate, and cookies as the absolute sweetest way to end their day.

If you're interested in learning more about the latest trending flavors across sweet categories, reach out to a member of our team!

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