While 85 percent of US consumers still eat dessert once a month or more, healthier options such as fruit and yogurt are an increasingly popular choice, according to a new consumer trends report.
"Traditional desserts such as cookies or pie are still the most popular," Technomic analyst Sara Gillis told FoodNavigator-USA.com sister site BakeryandSnacks.com. "But options such as fruit are becoming more common, as consumers see them as a way to indulge while avoiding sugar."
Out of 1,500 individuals interrogated across the US for the 'Dessert Consumer Trend Report', 37 percent said they prefer a sweet but healthy dessert, such as fruit or yogurt, after a meal.
In terms of region, these items are particularly popular in the Northeast, preferred by 46 percent of consumers. In other areas of the US, sweet but healthy foods are picked by 38 percent of consumers in the South, 34 percent in the West and 33 percent of the Midwest.
However, a sugary taste is apparently not necessary when it comes to what consumers view as desserts, with 12 percent counting savoury items such as cheese in this category.
"Although cheese contains fat, many people think it is a healthy dessert choice because it isn't sweet," Gillis said.
This opinion is particularly prevalent in the Northeast, where 17 percent of consumers choose a savory option, falling to nine percent in the South, and ten percent in both the West and Midwest regions.
Traditional desserts are still popular, but consumers often "mix genres" to avoid excessive calories and fat, for example ordering one cookie along with a black coffee.
Another popular ruse is sharing a dessert between two people, Gillis said.
"The sharing strategy is particularly popular with women, who are often more calorie conscious, compared to men who usually want to keep the whole dish to themselves," she explained.
According to market researchers Mintel, the dessert market is currently worth just under $23bn in the US alone.
Cream cakes currently account for the largest percentage of sales with 30 percent market share. Sponge puddings are the second largest category, with an 11 percent share, and trifle the third with nine percent.
Alongside the growth of desserts has been a corresponding rise in the custard sector. This small market has seen sales growth of 22 percent over the 2004 - 2006 period, as the dessert accompaniment grows in popularity, Mintel said.