It’s a sweet, simple truth: Most people like dessert.
But what’s better than a regular dessert? One that features consumers’ favorite brands, according to new research from The Hershey Co. and The Center for Generational Kinetics (CGK).
The research reveals there’s plenty of opportunity in the branded dessert category among Millennials and Gen Z consumers, many of whom are looking for something special to post on their social media accounts and “wow” their followers. (As a confectionery industry reporter and bonafide Millennial, I’m definitely guilty of this.)
However, Hershey went so far as to say Millennial and Gen Z consumers are “dessert obsessed,” adding they rank dessert as top consideration when deciding where to go for food. The data seems to back that up:
  • 87 percent think about eating dessert one or more times a day
  • 76 percent think dessert is essential to special occasions
  • 47 percent have a restaurant they frequent just for dessert  
  • 55 percent of Gen Z and 54 percent of Millennials are more likely to order an item with branded ingredients they recognize
  • 52 percent of Gen Z are more likely to order an item with a branded ingredient they ate as a child
  • 70 percent of Gen Z and 63 percent of Millennials are likely to return to a restaurant where they enjoyed a Hershey-branded dessert to order another, and more than half believe a dessert is higher quality if it has Hershey ingredients, which results in a willingness to pay a premium.
As I mentioned, social media plays a significant role in getting the attention of Gen Z consumers. Hershey and the CGK say young consumers respond to ads, along with sharing and “liking” desserts through multiple platforms. In fact, 46 percent of Gen Z consumers have a picture of a dessert on their phone right now.
The first thing that comes to mind are shakes offered at chains such as Sonic and Steak ‘n’ Shake. Patrons can add Kit Kats to their shakes, along with sweets from other candy and snack giants. M&M’S, Peanut M&M’S, Butterfinger, Oreo and Nutella are among the most popular.
Also, don’t forget chocolate and confectionery brands that have opened cafes to attract photo-snapping customers. For example, Fannie May, Ghirardelli and Nutella have cafés just in Chicago, and Godiva recently opened one in New York City.
“There are so many ways to offer on-trend beverages, snacks, desserts and craft cocktails featuring branded Hershey ingredients,” says Chef Darren Belnavis of Hershey Foodservice. “For example, operators can create smoothies or indulgent milkshakes with Instagrammable ingredients, offer shareable desserts that allow patrons to taste more than one brand and are portable to take on the go for a mid-afternoon snack.”
While national brands are the most recognizable across the board, this concept certainly applies to well-loved regional brands and local dessert shops. The only limit is our imaginations.