Dessert Disappearing from Dinner Tables as Consumers Seek Convenient, Healthy Alternatives

Dessert is on the decline in American homes. Only 12 percent of dinners eaten at home include a dessert as part of the main meal, down 15 percent from 10 years ago, according to NPD Group’s “Eating Patterns in America” report.

If the trend of the past 30 years continues, desserts will be gone from the dinner table by 2054, said report author Harry Balzer, NPD Group’s senior vice president and chief food industry analyst.

Baby boomers are the heaviest dessert consumers, eating a sweet course at home twice as often as any other age group. Yet even they are dropping dessert: for the year ending February 2014, people over 65 ate 76 desserts per person at home, a decline from 104 desserts eaten per person at home in 2000.

Rising obesity rates in the United States suggest consumers aren’t necessarily skipping dessert for a healthier lifestyle. Balzer says the disappearance of dessert is more indicative of Americans seeking convenience.

“We eat as easy as possible. Consumers are spending less time preparing, buying, and cleaning [up after a meal]—it’s the driving force of humanity,” he says. “The moment there is a dessert, it makes a meal more complex.”

For manufacturers of sweets, the shift is an opportunity to innovate. The top three desserts on the dinner table are fruit, cake, and ice cream, according to the NPD report. Making those beloved offerings convenient could spell success, Balzer said, To draw consumers who are leaving behind dessert for health reasons, he added, manufacturers should consider incorporating fruit into dessert products. The top fruit varieties, the report found, are apples, peaches, oranges, and strawberries.

“Make the product as easy as possible,” Balzer advised. “Make it easy to buy, clean up afterward and make sure it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.”

While the withering of dessert as a dinner staple may be alarming for some, Jean-Yves Charon, a pastry chef and co-founder of Galaxy Desserts, is undeterred by the report’s prediction. Sales of the Richmond, Calif., company’s French-inspired desserts and pastries have grown 50 percent over the past two years, Charon said.

The chef doesn’t see desserts going away. “It’s like saying bacon will disappear,” Charon said. “People want to say they eat healthy. They’re not going to tell you they eat bacon and chocolate every day.”

Rather, he said, there has been a movement toward smaller, high-quality desserts, such as macarons and petit fours, and savory desserts like salted caramels. “If I’m going to eat dessert, it’s got to be good food,” Charon said. “Otherwise, I don’t want it.”

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