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A new survey says desserts have evolved into the new daytime snack. Flirty Cupcakes truck, on the corner of Clark and Monroe St., is one spot Chicagoans can go to for a variety of cupcake desserts. 

Dessert: It’s not just for dinner anymore

by Michelle Kim
Oct 10, 2013

It isn’t unusual for Indiana University Ph.D candidate Casey Casias to munch on a cupcake in the middle of the day, as she and a friend were doing Thursday in downtown Chicago.

The 22-year-old grew up with a mother who frequently baked desserts and other goodies, and is used to snacking on sweets.

“It’s not a healthy habit, but I’ve done it. I’m guilty,” Casias said. “I’ve noticed particularly in college and when I got really busy. Cookies were readily available, easy and quick. It tastes better and it’s more satisfying than carrots or broccoli.”

According to Chicago-based Technomic, a food research company, more Americans are jumping on the dessert trend. They’re eating desserts around the clock, as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, after lunch and dinner, or even as a stand-alone meal.  

“The biggest trend is this shifting perception of what dessert is,” said Kelly Weikel, senior consumer research manager at Technomic, co-author of the 2013 Dessert Consumer Trend Report released Oct 3. “In past years it’s been seen as a sweet ending to a dinner, but what we’re really finding is that there is a blurred line with snacking.”

In the survey of 1,500 adults, 35 percent said they eat dessert as a mid-morning snack, about 50 percent said they eat dessert after lunch and as a mid-afternoon snack, and 65 percent after dinner.

The newest finding, according to Technomic, was that 19 percent of consumers said they eat a dessert in place of a meal.

“I’m not shocked,” Casias said. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing to replace a meal with a small dessert.”

The trend is also no surprise to bakeries in Chicago.

“I hear people come by and say ‘oh I guess I won’t have lunch today because I’ve bought so many cupcakes,” said Alexis Dawson of Flirty Cupcakes, which operates a food truck in the Loop and a retail store on Taylor Street in Chicago.

Teresa Ging, owner of Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique in the Loop, said there are three different peak times at her shop: 8 to 9 a.m., noon to 2 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m.

“People have been constantly buying cupcakes during the day,” Ging said.  We also offer the mini cupcakes. It’s a small snack for them.”

A wider range of food items are being defined as dessert, Technomic said, such as soft drinks, waffles, muffins and fruit. Consumers preferred healthier choices and smaller portions, and they were willing to pay more for desserts that were homemade or made from scratch.

Jorge Rosas arranges fruit bouquets at an Edible Arrangements store in the Loop that specializes in “on-the-go” fruit-based desserts.

“Nowadays, especially in this store, a lot more people are becoming health conscious,” Rosas said. “They are snacking, but a lot of the snacks that they’re having are mainly dessert-based snacks, like fruit dipped in chocolate. They also get fresh fruit salads and parfaits.”

Another finding that might seem surprising is that, contrary to the stereotype of eating sweets when a person is sad, consumers were more likely to eat dessert if they felt happy or wanted to treat themselves. Forty-six percent said nostalgia influenced them to eat something they cherished as a child.