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New twists on old classics

Sugar and spice make everything nice, but taking some risks with classic desserts will grab the attention of adventurous shoppers

TIME TO FILE AWAY GRANDMA’S CHOCOLATE chip cookie recipe. When it comes to after- meal treats and bite-sized sweets, desserts with more flavours and exotic spices are hitting the sweet spot with consumers.

In 2014, Canadian retail sales of tortes, a multilayered cake, were up a whopping 267% and eclairs were up 5%, according to Nielsen. That’s pretty impressive given several dessert categories saw little to no growth, while others, such as brownies and pies, saw declines.

“Consumers now have a much more global, sophisticated palate, so they’re looking for melding and fusions of flavours,” says Marla Kravice, president of Baker Street, a Toronto- based gourmet-dessert manufacturer. “Desserts like tiramisu have gone mainstream, whereas it used to be considered an ethnic dessert.” Indeed, sales of the Italian dessert were up an impressive 12% in the last year, according to Nielsen.

Baker Street’s newly launched Yummi Desserts in a Jar line capitalizes on consumers’ desire for deeper flavour profiles. Here, decadent flavours of mousse and icing are sandwiched between layers of cake in a Mason jar.

READ: Six easy ways to make your bakery sales rise

If consumers don’t want to experiment with taste, they can play with texture, says Kravice. Baker Street sells a chocolate-pretzel cake that combines sweet and salty flavours with crunch.

At Market on Millstream in Victoria, the “One and Only” chocolate torte with both dark and milk chocolate ganache and a hint of Grand Marnier is popular, says bakery manager, Jen Hunter.

She also sees a rising trend in unique flavours of cheesecake. For a weeklong Canada Day special, for example, Market on Millstream made a bacon- maple cheesecake.

“People are learning more about different styles of flavours because of the Internet and TV,” says Hunter. “They’re more open-minded now.”

While bacon and maple are familiar flavours to Canucks, a touch of spice can help take a dessert to new places. “We’re all looking for new ways to use blended spices from the ethnic category, and dessert seems to be a way into that segment because it’s new and fresh,” explains Michael Cloutier, executive corporate chef at McCormick Canada. McCormick’s annual Flavour Forecast identified cookies and global spice blends as trends to watch this year.

READ: Metro buying Première Moisson bakery

Cloutier says cookies lend themselves well to new flavours, but he also expects to see spices being used to put a new twist on classic desserts. For example, a spiced date cake could be flavoured with shawarma, a Middle Eastern spice blend that contains all- spice, coriander, cinnamon and ginger spices.

Kara Nielsen, culinary director at Boulder, Colo.- based Sterling-Rice Group, a marketing firm that works with food and beverage companies, is already seeing global seasonings pop up at some restaurants.

Chino, in San Francisco, for example, incorporates chai tea flavourings into its ginger cake.

Nielsen says chai tea is also turning up in frozen ice pops, as well as flavours such as avocado, chili and mango.

READ: What every grocery manager can learn from Panera Bread

While the trend is mostly found in restaurants, farmers’ markets and food trucks, Nielsen says, “I can see how that is going to pretty quickly turn into something you can buy from the freezer case of a natural food grocery store.”

As with other food categories, grocers may wish to pay particular attention to the mindset of millennials, who are adventurous eaters with diverse tastes.

“Millennials place a high emphasis on health, authenticity and freshness, especially when they’re making their bakery purchases,” says Eric Richard of the International Dairy- Deli-Bakery Association. “Knowing what their needs and desires are can go a long way in really capturing the buying power of that group.” But while people are seeking adventure when it comes to satisfying their sweet tooth, that doesn’t mean the tried- and-true favourites are going away any time soon.

“Our most popular items re the traditional favourites,” says Dufflet Rosenberg, founder and CEO of Dufflet Pastries in Toronto. “ is our 40th anniversary, and I’m finding that people still want a chocolate cake that tastes like a chocolate cake.”

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