Snack and dessert trends—a look back and a look ahead

December 13, 2022

Flavors, ingredients that drove menu innovation in 2022 will retain momentum in 2023

The foodservice industry continued to reinvent itself in the past year, as operators across segments fully embraced many of the trends that were forecasted at the start of the year.

The restaurant trends in 2022 revolved around providing great experiences for guests, which included creative snack and dessert offerings throughout the day, from ballpark mash-ups to seasonal, fruity treats and nostalgic, comfort-food creations with regional origins. Meanwhile, limited-time offers allowed operators to experiment with new items and drive menu excitement, often using social media to create demand before products even launched.

Operational restaurant trends in 2022 included an ongoing focus on off-premises dining, which put- handheld snacks and desserts front and center for operators seeking to optimize sales in the drive-thru, as well as via carry-out and delivery.

Among the innovative portable dessert introductions of the past year were Sonic’s SOUR PATCH KIDS Slush Float. The treat combined the iconic sweet, sour, and chewy SOUR PATCH KIDS candy with SOUR PATCH KIDS Watermelon Flavor Slush and real vanilla ice cream. Cold Stone Creamery, meanwhile, launched an All Things OREO promotion over the summer, featuring a range of new items made with OREO Cookies, Golden OREO Cookies, and OREO Crème Ice Cream.

Sustainability remains a key consideration

Sustainability and transparency gained even more significance in restaurant trends in 2022, especially among younger consumers who expect a high degree of corporate responsibility from the brands they support. Many of these efforts revolve around the reduction of food waste, an area increasingly important to both operators and their suppliers. Mondelēz International, for example, had set a goal of reducing food waste in manufacturing by 15% by 2025, and reported this year in its 2021 Snacking Made Right report that it had already achieved a 28% reduction.

Christine Couvelier, culinary trendologist at consulting firm Culinary Concierge, says she believes sustainability and food-waste reduction will continue to grow in importance for foodservice operators in the year ahead.

“Reducing food waste is not a trend,” she says. “It’s the way of the future, and consumers understand more about it than ever before.”

Maeve Webster, president of consulting firm Menu Matters, agrees that, following restaurant trends in 2022, consumers increasingly expect both food manufacturers and foodservice operators to be mindful of their impact on the environment.

“More to the point, consumers that place an emphasis on sustainability are willing to pay more for it,” she says.

Other trends for 2023

Some of the other new menu food and beverage trends in 2023 to watch for include:

  • Creative shareable desserts—The butter-board trend, driven by videos of colorful creations on TikTok, may provide lessons for shareable desserts, says Webster. “There's an opportunity to rethink what a dessert option can look like from a communal, shareable, interactive point of view,” she says. “How can the category leverage the idea of something that is gorgeous to look at, but more shareable than taking several forks to an enormous slice of cake?”
  • Simple, bite-sized treats—Webster cites the recent growth in popularity of moon cakes as evidence that consumers are seeking small, handheld snacks and desserts “that are more structural and artistic, without adding layers and layers of sweetness.”
  • Savory inclusions—Consumers continue to gravitate toward savory flavors, Webster says, citing popular dessert ingredients such as hot honey, salted caramel, Mexican hot chocolate, and smoked toffee. For menu food and beverage trends in 2023, look for new iterations of these savory-sweet combinations, particularly in sauces and other typically sweet toppings, such as spicy or hot maple syrup, caramel, toffee, butterscotch, and others, she says.
  • Functional ingredients—“Desserts have been late to the functional party,” says Webster, predicting that the introduction of more savory flavors into sweet snacks and desserts could pave the way for more functional ingredients. Calling out functional ingredients doesn't impact the crave-ability of desserts, she says, and it can even encourage consumption, particularly in the snacking category. Expect “mood” call-outs to be the best opportunity for functional benefits in desserts and snacks, Webster says.
  • More plant-based innovation—Chefs will continue to innovate with plant-based dairy alternatives, particularly coconut milk, to create ice creams and other desserts, says Couvelier. Also, expect to see more plant-based cheeses used to make cheesecakes and icings, she says. Dessert hummus, sometimes made using aquafaba to add body and featuring on-trend mix-ins, is another plant-based dessert niche to watch.

Opportunity for culinary creativity

Overall, the new menu food and beverage trends in 2023 will lend themselves to culinary creativity as restaurants continue to reinvent themselves. Operators first need to understand what their customers are seeking in terms of treats—indulgent desserts vs. fresh and fruity snacks, for example—and then experiment within those parameters, Couvelier says.

Webster agrees that restaurant desserts may be on track for a resurgence in the year ahead. She notes that several consumer food magazines, including Bon Appétit and Food & Wine, have recently highlighted top pastry chefs and bakeries.

“This may bode well for a shift in perception and the long overdue revival of dessert as a key category,” she says.

Still looking for trends to leverage on your winter menu? Get ideas and inspiration here.

Let's Chat Snacks

Join our Let's Chat Snacks community and be the first to know when we drop new articles, trends and insights with updates delivered directly to your inbox.

movie theather

© Mondelēz International group