Ice Cream, Cookies, and Unicorns: Sweet Dessert Retail Trends

Published on July 1, 2018 in Retail Real Estate Industry and Grocery
Ashley Casey
Ashley Casey
Emerging Trends Account Leader

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In today’s social media-driven community, Instagram posts have become our badges of honor. If you didn’t post it, did it even happen? Desserts Unicorn Milkshake from Cheesecaked in AtlantaRetailers are finding ways to make their products share-worthy, bringing us into their stores, and getting us to market their products for free with a snap of a picture and the click of an iPhone app.

The best way to stand out from the crowd is to create a unique experience. Many dessert retailers are doing this with novelty offerings. Some of these new favorite novelties are covered in chocolate and sprinkles, and some even come with a “unicorn” thememade rainbow and sparkly with tasty flavorings, whipped toppings and cotton candy.

Let’s explore some of the sweetest dessert concepts popping up in shopping centers, grocery stores, and restaurants.

1. Gelato
Artisan iced treats have been gaining traction. Many grocers, notably Whole Foods, have integrated colorful gelato bars into their stores. Dessert GelatoGelato is the Italian version of ice cream, primarily made with milk rather than cream. Even major dessert brands such as Haagen Dazs and Breyers now have gelato offerings. Restaurants offering exclusively gelato are also on the rise, such as Florida-based Gelato-go and Southern Charm Gelato. We all know that dessert is an essential part of every meal (or it should be!), so these restaurants are delivering the ultimate finale.

2. Cookie Dough
When I was a kid, I lived for the evenings my mom would make cookies and offer me the mixing bowl after the raw dough was placed on the baking sheet. Mom was obviously unphased by any risk of E. Coli, and she was also on to something! Luckily, cookie connoisseurs have developed a recipe that can be eaten without risk, and shops are opening to sell the batter to the public. The Cookie Dough CafĂ© in Portland and Batter in Atlanta are a couple of my favorite scoop shops, though I won’t discriminate when it comes to this sweet treat.

3. Vegan Offerings
Dessers CinnaholicThis list may not seem apropos for the word “diet,” but another huge recent trend is health and wellness. Doesn’t it seem like every day a new diet emerges? Dessert chains are hopping on this bandwagon with vegan and gluten-free sweetswhich may lack dairy or wheat, but do not lack flavor!

Luckily, I have a digestion system of steel and don’t subscribe to any particular diet, but I’m a huge fan of Atlanta-based Cinnaholic, which serves up vegan gourmet cinnamon rolls covered in amazing toppings. With plans to open over 130 new locations within the year, you’re likely to see this growing franchise at your local shopping center soon.

Desserts Rolled Ice Cream4. Rolled Ice Cream
Though bubble tea had its moment, I’m much more into the latest Asian-inspired dessert trend– rolled ice cream. The method of creating tiny rolls of ice cream using cold metal and sharp spatulas began in Thailand. Once you have your little rolls of goodness, you can top them with your choice of sweets– like chocolate, strawberries or marshmallows. These shops are “rolling out” throughout the states, with some of my favorites including Sweet Charlies and 22 Below. Bonus: The ice cream rolling process also makes for a perfect “boomerang” post on Instagram.

I’ll always be a fan of the classics– give me a Baskin Robbins cone any day– but these trending dessert concepts have become a sweet addition to shopping centers throughout the country. Retailers, dessert shops included, continue to find creative ways to stay relevant and interesting. Though dessert will always be relevant in my mind, being able to post an outrageous photo of a unicorn milkshake on Facebook adds an even sweeter element to the experience. And as the best retailers know, it’s all about the experience.

Ready for a treat? Here are some great options for dessert retailers at our shopping centers!
Ashley Casey
Ashley Casey
Emerging Trends Account Leader