Dazzle matters to bakery shoppers, especially today. But so does flavor. To unite the best of both worlds together into one harmonious creation – decadent brownies, in this case – you need informative tips that both inspire and educate.

Regarding the look for your brownies, it is important to know that, according to Innova Market Insights, 42% of consumers ages 26-35 share pictures of food online each week. Now you can make any brownie creation Insta-worthy with the shine and color of Mona Lisa Shimmers, new from Barry Callebaut.

Mona Lisa Shimmers, which are eye-catching metallic chocolate sprinkles, are made with white, dark, or milk chocolate with no hard coating, meaning they are gorgeous and delicious. Shimmers can be used as a topping on nearly any application. Shimmer flakes offer a colorful, lustrous, and finessed finish, while granella offer a larger added texture along with shine.

“These chocolate gems add such sparkle and texture to a whole range of chocolate desserts,” said Mark Seaman, CMSA, culinary applications chef, specialties, at Barry Callebaut.

He further emphasizes that chocolate is the most sought-after flavor in desserts today.   But there is a wrinkle.

“What I find more interesting than focusing on the percentage on the pack, is that In the United States, 74% of people prefer milk chocolate,” he said.

Consumer education about dark chocolate, in particular, looms as a key challenge in coming years. Consumers are starting to understand percentages, but there is a lot of room to grow.

According to Mintel, 72% of US consumers agree that they enjoy things that remind them of their childhood.

Marine Leman, communication director for Valrhona Inc., explains that education is important to help consumers understand flavor options and preferences.

“Most people do believe that the higher the percentage, the better. But it’s wrong. Again, it’s a question of education because percentage is just an indication,” she said. “You can have the same percentage for two chocolates, but if the beans come from two different countries, their tastes will be drastically different (best example is Valrhona Manjari 64% from Madagascar and Taïnori 64% from the Dominican Republic). Focus should be on taste, not so much on percentage.”


Driving sales

More than half of the nation’s total population are now members of the millennial generation or younger, making them the largest age group of diners who can drive important revenue opportunities for operators. US Foods is launching Fall Scoop, themed “Next-Gen Ideas for Next-Gen Diners,” featuring 23 products that are made to entire, attract, and delight the younger generations.  

“Our generation tries new dishes based on social media. We are a trending generation,” offers Angel’o Hill, US Foods Scholar. Sixty-four percent of the younger generations are 99% more likely to rely on social media when choosing a restaurant than older generations, according to research. Fall Scoop serves up camera-ready foods that will set trends, get noticed on social media, and inspire the next generation of diners.

US Food’s newest edition of Scoop features camera-ready foods that are sure to get noticed on social media and set trends for the next generation of diners. Products include the Chef’s Line® Salted Caramel Chocolate Brownie, which is made with a fudgy center, dark chocolate chunks, caramel bits, and the perfect amount of salt and caramel drizzle. It comes frozen and can be thawed and served as needed, providing roughly 45 minutes of labor savings.

“We’re bringing fresh ideas to our operators that provide the labor savings and versatility they need today with the innovation they’ll need moving forward as they cater to the next generation of diners,” said Stacey Kinkaid, vice president, product development and innovation, US Foods. “To support our Fall Scoop theme, ‘Next-Gen Ideas for Next-Gen Diners,’ we also incorporated feedback from our very own US Foods Scholars. US Foods Scholars are Gen Z and Millennial culinary students who have won scholarships and professional development opportunities from US Foods to fulfill their culinary education. It was exciting to watch them engage with the products and reinforce our insights.”


When it comes to the ingredients to make brownies, vegetable oil is the best oil to use in a bakery setting if you expect your brownies to be consumed in five days or less, said Roger Daniels, vice president of research, development, innovation and quality for Stratas Foods LLC. Vegetable oil is derived from soybeans and as such is sometimes also referred to as soybean oil.

In the preparation of brownies, the oil is used to help fold the ingredients together and contributes a moistness to the finished brownie. The key reason that vegetable oil is recommended is because this oil has a bland or neutral flavor, he explains, allowing the goodness of the other ingredients to come through.

If your bakery is preparing brownies requiring a shelf life in excess of five days, an option to consider is a more robust form of vegetable oil known in the food industry as high oleic soybean oil. 

“This oil has a bland flavor and was developed to be more stable than traditional vegetable oil affording the brownie manufacturer the confidence to meet shelf-life expectations every time,” Daniels said.

Menu ideas

Research shows that Hershey branded ingredients increase purchase intent, bring in traffic and lead to repeat business. Here are some prescriptive merchandising and product ideas to increase brownie sales.

  • Offer a selection of toppings for your guests to choose.
  • Chocolate, chocolate chip, and peanut butter are three favorites.
  • S’mores are hotter than ever. Treat your guests to s’mores brownies or other treats made with Hershey’s Milk Chocolate.

Hershey Foodservice ingredients are specifically designed to support your kitchen operation, from the packaging to the formats. Be sure to include Hershey brand names on your menu. Doing so drives traffic, sales, and your bottom line.

The chocolate category is performing well, with growth of approximately 4% in measured channels for the first half of the year, according to Michele Buck, chairman of the board, president, and chief executive officer of The Hershey Company. Everyday chocolate sales have consistently grown 9% since the pandemic began. While take-home products are driving outsized growth, instant consumable products are also growing.    

“We are leading not only through our portfolio of iconic brands, consumer relevant marketing and strong execution, but with our thought leadership, as well. Within confection, this has enabled us to drive growth that far exceeds the category and expand our number one share position in the US,” Buck said.

At Hershey, sales for baking items are performing exceptionally well, with growth of over 40% in the second quarter. This growth was across products, including syrup, baking chips, toppings, and cocoa, as consumers spend more time at home together in the kitchen.

“We have capitalized on this trend to sustain momentum, increasing marketing spend and generating more content and recipes for our consumers,” Buck said. “This is important for the second half of the year, when baking takes on an even bigger role in US households.”


Trending flavors and toppings

Here are key brownie trends to watch, according to Vincent Barcelona, director of sales, National Accounts and Culinary for Stratas Foods.

Ice Cream Sundae Brownie – chocolate chip brownie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, rainbow sprinkles and a cherry on top.

S’mores- Brownies topped with a marshmallow glaze, melted Hershey chocolate bars and graham cracker crumbs.

Strawberry Shortcake Brownie - topped with crème fraîche whipped cream and macerated strawberries.

Maple Bacon Brownie– topped with a maple glaze and crumbled bacon. 

Cookies ‘n Cream Brownie- Chocolate glazed brownie topped with cream cheese whipped cream and crushed Oreos.


Virtual brownie baking classes

Inspired by the work of Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, which supports children with cancer and their families through free year-round camp programs, Puratos USA announces a new one-for-one giving campaign that gives bakers and manufacturers the power to give back with every order.

From October through December, all customers who visit the MyPuratos webshop and purchase featured “Camp Ronald McDonald” products will automatically receive a 10% discount on their purchase, which Puratos will match with a 10% donation to the camp. 

A first of its kind campaign for the bakery industry, Puratos hopes that the initiative will shine new light on this important organization and inspire the bakery industry to continue finding creative ways to give back to the community—a key pillar of Puratos USA’s Puratos for Purpose corporate social responsibility program.  

In addition to the giving campaign, Puratos has also partnered with the camp to host virtual brownie baking classes with live demonstrations from Puratos Technical Advisors. Sponsored and catered by Puratos, these events reached over 473 children and families and demonstrated the power of baking to bring joy and happiness during difficult times. 

“It’s powerful when children and families facing hardship can take a moment to simply savor and enjoy some family baking fun together. We are very excited for our new partnership with Camp Ronald McDonald and look forward to working with them and our customers to support this important mission," said Joseph Ramirez, vice president, West Region, Puratos USA.

Fatima Djelmane Rodriguez, executive director for Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, echoed Ramirez’s sentiments: “Our campers have expressed time and again that their favorite Camp at Home activity has been cooking with Puratos.  Joy, togetherness, and love are essential ingredients to healing and we thank Puratos for providing an important outlet for our families who need us now more than ever.”