Sugar rush: What the increased demand for sugary treats means for the UK foodservice industry

Where do people turn for comfort and joy during difficult times?

As it turns out—cupcakes. They turn to cupcakes.

When hardship hits and money gets tight—as has happened during the pandemic and the recession—people move away from expensive luxury purchases. Seeking to comfort themselves without over-spending, consumers gravitate toward smaller, more affordable luxuries, such as patisserie treats, cupcakes and other specialty desserts.

Although we wouldn’t expect every restaurant, pub and café to start serving these delicious treats to meet the increased demand, understanding this current trend in consumer behavior—what’s known as “the lipstick effect”—can help business owners adapt their offerings to better capitalize on current market trends.

How big is the frenzy for sugary sweets?

When the pandemic first hit in March 2020, bread and pastry sales rose by a factor of 14.4 times the normal average. Although sales declined by the end of March, they remained five times higher than sales in January of 2020.

According to the Numerator’s Sweet Treat Tracker, sales of sugary snack foods in the United States increased by 8% in 2020. And like many other items and foods bought during the pandemic, many of those purchases took place online. Ad Age reports that online sales of sugary snacks grew by 119% between 2020 and 2021.

In the United Kingdom, premium brand Hotel Chocolat experienced a 11% increase in sales since the start of the pandemic—even as the business closed many of its brick-and-mortar storefronts.

This momentum toward sugary snacks carries over to the patisserie industry as well. In a recent survey among members of the Craft Bakers Association, about half of all bakers estimate that the demand for specialty desserts and confectionary treats will continue to remain at steady highs throughout the end of 2021.

Even as the UK government imposes bans on advertisements that push sugary foods, Brits continue to gravitate toward more high-end treats. So, what does this trend in today’s market mean for business tomorrow?

What does the sugar bonanza mean for the foodservice industry?

Desserts are in. And because the UK remains in a recession and the days ahead remain uncertain as the pandemic wears on, consumers will likely continue to spend their money on less-expensive treats and luxuries. Instead of lipstick though (which is tough to see under a mask), they’ll be looking for some tasty, sugary treats.

But customers aren’t just looking for anything sugary. They want higher-end sugary foods—items that give them the feeling of luxury and decadence without breaking the bank.

Adding these items—such as fun pastries, unique chocolates, or other clever desserts—to online menus could provide an extra way to increase revenue with delivery and take-out orders. Even as customers return to inhouse dining, the demand for online food will likely remain high.

After all, the pandemic changed the way people shop. Many of those pandemic era tendencies will likely turn into post-pandemic habits. That means online ordering is here to stay. So, the question is, will those online orders come with a side of dessert? For restaurants looking to sell a bit more, let’s hope that’s the case. 

Should your business decide to ramp up its production of tasty desserts and sugary treats, consider exploring our line of disposable FrostIt™ piping bags. We offer several options, including our Green Piping Bags, which use 40% less material compared to traditional piping bags. Plus, they’re 100% recyclable.

For more information, head over to our Piping Bags page or talk to your designated foodservice sales representative today.  

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