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In Defense of Dessert

In Defense of Dessert


Temperance: Habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions (Merriam -Webster Dictionary).

Temperance: Habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions (Merriam -Webster Dictionary).

I don’t know about you but I’m ready for some common sense. Society seems to be so focused on the extreme. Whether discussing presidents, popes or social policy, it seems as though opinions are polarized left or right. Our society is fortunate because we “live to eat” not “eat to live” and this means that food moves up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and becomes an expression of our psyches. Food is loaded with emotional baggage and therefore, subject to the same trends and cultural influences as other issues of opinion. This brings me to the topic of dessert.

Dessert: A usually sweet course (pleasing to the mind or feelings) served at the end of a meal. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

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If you think about it, dessert has been served with a great big side – order of guilt for the last few years. You can barely tap into the news without being confronted with obesity statistics in North America. Dieting (which is often code for deprivation) is our national past time. Dessert and dieting go together – well, like coconut oil and mineral water. Dessert is the first thing to go when it’s time to get healthy, but should it be so? Is dessert poised for a come-back? Will moderation be the latest rage? Here, your honour, are five points I’d like to make in defense of adding a little dessert to the pizza menu.

The Pleasure Principal
The key with this category is to understand that dessert occupies a different “head space” than the main course does. It’s a reward – not something that’s necessary. Make sure that you market your dessert offering as a reward and tie the category to your take-out strategy. Consider coaching your staff to say to a customer “I know you may not want dessert right now but would you like us to wrap up one of these delicious items to take home and treat yourself later on? They key sentiment is the “treat” aspect. It suggests that they’ve earned a reward and who can feel guilty for something you’ve earned?

Slimming Trends
Two years ago, it was all about low carbohydrate diets. Since most desserts have a healthy dose of carbohydrates in their ingredient listing, the category wound up on the black lists of dieters everywhere. If we look at the current best selling books, “French Women Don’t Get Fat” is firmly on the top 10. The diet plan worships at the altar of moderation while pointing out that French women generally don’t have weight problems yet are able to eat virtually everything, including dessert. The reason behind that most enviable difference, says author Mireille Guiliano, is that ‘‘French women take pleasure in staying thin by eating well, while American women see it as a conflict and obsess over it.’’ Put another way, ‘‘French women typically think about good things to eat. American women typically worry about bad things to eat.’’ A recent study by Dr. Ian Janssen of Queens University discovered that while Canadian youth were the fourth most obese group of 34 countries – as consumption of candy and chocolate increased, the likelihood of being overweight surprisingly decreased. The study measured “frequency” of consumption, not quantity. This suggests that small, regular indulgences can actually serve as an inoculation against going overboard. The media is also starting to shed a more positive light on desserts. You can bet it’s only time before consumers start to reflect this new trend in their behaviour.

pg30marketingFrench women take pleasure in staying thin by eating well, while American women see it as a conflict and obsess over it. 

You jump – I jump: Behavioural scientists have long understood that when it comes to food and especially dessert, we have a “herding mentality.” Some studies have revealed that we are much more likely to order dessert if our dining companion orders one. Since pizza is by nature a menu item that is shared, dessert pizza lends itself beautifully to “sharing the indulgence.” Somehow it doesn’t seem as bad when we shoulder the calorie load with someone else. Try introducing some dessert pizzas for two – or more. It may be just the positioning to encourage some “codependent dining.”

Don’t super size – customize: Savvy companies are tapping into the consumer desire to put their own personal stamp on things. I-pod would just be another mp3 player except for the ability to create personal play lists. Jones soda ran a contest allowing customers to submit their own pictures to be used as labels on their product line. You can check out the “gallery” at www.jonessoda.com/gallery. Since consumers are used to choosing what toppings to put on their pizza, dessert pizza could easily follow the same process. Why not have an Iron Chef contest where customers can submit an ingredient (or three) that your chef could incorporate into a dessert pizza. Patrons will be eager to see what the final result is and the contest will engage your customers. That’s branding at its best.

The lure of the exotic: More than ever before, we’re seeing the world with our taste buds. Bagels and sushi are two examples of ethnic food items that have gone mainstream. Pizza was brought to North America after World War II when returning US soldiers started asking for that wonderful flat bread with toppings they’d eaten while stationed in Italy. Some of our readers have written us to rave about the Brazilian dessert pizza they’ve experienced – smothered with sorbet and berry sauces. Banana flambé pizza is also a delicacy in Brazil where it has been estimated that there are more than 4,800 pizzerias in São Paulo, serving an estimated 79 different styles of pizza. Call it pizza, but don’t just call it “dessert pizza.” Give it an exotic name, something that describes the culture that has inspired the dish. Dessert is a treat. Dessert that let’s you taste the world is an extra special treat.

So, there you have it. The case made in favour of our favourite dietary scapegoat – dessert. We North Americans don’t like to think of ourselves as extremists, but if you look at our current social climate, it’s easy to see that in many ways, we are. There’s lots of evidence to suggest that people are ready to give up extreme diets and to stop and smell the roses, have a little fun and treat themselves to a beautiful dessert on occasion. Make sure your menu is ready to catch that pendulum as it swings back to the sensible middle zone.

The defense rests. •

Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in brand strategies. Michelle can be reached at briseboismichelle@sympatico.ca.