Standing out from the crowd with branded desserts

March 16, 2016

Operators turn to brand names to help drive dessert revenues, traffic.

Penton Restaurant Group Custom Content

Pastry chefs and culinary innovators can create elaborate, decadent desserts, but when it comes to what sells best many have discovered that dessert is better with branded ingredients.

Desserts with branded ingredients can be found on 18 percent of dessert menus, according to Datassential MenuTrendsTM. Branded desserts have been growing steadily on menus since 2005, up 11 percent over the last four years alone.

OREO is the most popular brand specified on dessert menus, followed by Snickers® and Reese’s®. Nutella®, the chocolate hazelnut spread, has shown the most notable growth — more than 100 percent — in the last four years.

"Branded products bring familiarity to desserts,” says Jana Mann, Datassential’s Senior Director of MenuTrends. “[They] have an identity. The big brands like OREO, Snickers and M&M's® have already done the marketing providing a connection to the consumer."

Tampa, Fla.-based Checkers and Rally's are among the many chains finding success with branded desserts. Familiar treats such as the OREO® Fudge Sundae Stacker and the OREO® Fudge Loaded Milkshake have sold better than non-branded offerings such as the popular Strawberry Cheesecake Sundae Stacker. They’ve sold so well that in February the chain will launch the Twix® Stacker and the Twix Shake.

Before adding branded desserts about five years ago, the burger chain’s only meal-ender was fried apple pie, a quick-service staple. While the chain knew it needed to up its game, it wasn’t sold on branded desserts at first. Then it asked its customers in focus groups and realized otherwise.

“In the beginning we thought this was a me-too item, but realized it was the price of entry,” says Joy. “It’s more expensive, but consumers said it was worth it. They said it denotes quality—it’s the gold standard.”

Plano, Texas-based MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes has been offering branded shakes with well-known ingredients such as OREO, Reese’s peanut butter cups and Hershey’s® chocolate syrup for nearly a decade.

“We decided to launch our branded shakes for the same reason we use Hellman's® mayonnaise, French's® mustard and Heinz® ketchup — our guests want them,” says MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes Chief Operating Officer Michael Mabry. “We are also a brand built around best in class and aim to have the No. 1 consumer brands in our restaurants.”

The Hershey's Chocolate Shake and the OREO® Shake are the chain’s best-selling shakes, accounting for almost 50 percent of all of the fast-casual burger chain’s shake sales. All branded shakes combined account for 62 percent of shake sales.

In November 2014, Dallas-based Boston’s Restaurant and Sports Bar began a partnership with Ghirardelli® chocolate. Sixty percent of the chain’s desserts now feature the name-brand chocolate, including Chocolate Brownie Addiction, made with a Ghirardelli brownie topped with a scoop of ice cream and drizzled with Ghirardelli chocolate; The Monster Cookie, topped with ice cream and drizzled Ghirardelli chocolate; and the Hot Brandy Cream Pie, smothered in Ghirardelli chocolate sauce.

While many commercial eateries are partnering with cookie and candy brands that Americans grew up with, Chartwells®, a division of Compass Group, is going a different branded route, working with Hampton Creek, the up-and-coming San Francisco-based company that appeals to the tastes and values of a younger generation.

Under the brand Just Cookies, Hampton Creek provides the all-natural, sustainable cookies offered at the 270 colleges and universities that Chartwells currently serves. By summer Hampton Creek also will provide other baking products, such as cake, brownie and pancake mixes.

Usage of the branded cookies, which are currently available in chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, sugar, peanut butter and white chocolate macadamia nut, is up 17 percent over the last two years, Chartwells reports.

 “We’re finding them a fantastic partner,” says Christian Fischer, Chartwells’ Executive Chef and Vice President of Culinary Innovations. “I encourage everyone to go out and find a partner.”