Dessert Series Part Two: Comfort & Nostalgia - What Consumers & Menus Are Saying

March 3, 2014
Flavor Ingredients Trends

Click here to download the second report in our dessert series!

After a bad day or even a long week, I find myself reaching for things that I find comforting with a little taste of home. The trends of comfort & nostalgia were clearly present in our tour and even taken up a notch. I love finding new ways to enjoy simple pleasures that work in tandem to satisfy your taste buds and make you feel good at the same time.

Part Two of our Dessert Tour covers Comfort & Nostalgia. We will take a look at the trend in general, and then discuss how we saw it in action from French pastry shops to chocolate shops and trendy restaurants.

During our tour, we noticed five clear trends:

1. Seasonality

2. Comfort/Nostalgia

3. Local/Sustainability

4. Twist on the Classics

5. Simplicity


Comfort & nostalgia foods can be defined as a food or drink to which one habitually turns for temporary relief, security, or special reward while tying in memories of days past. A substantial majority of comfort & nostalgia foods are composed largely of simple or complex carbohydrates. It has been suggested that such foods induce an opiate-like effect in the brain, which may account for their relaxing nature. Any foods or beverages could be a comfort& nostalgia food depending on a person’s taste, and they may not be any foods that are “universally” accepted comfort & nostalgia foods. However, no matter how you define it, all of us have something that we eat or drink to comfort us when things aren’t right with the world.


Searching for products with a “comfort” or “nostalgia” tagline or claim is a little more challenging since this idea of “comfort” or “nostalgia” is a matter of perspective based on the overall consumer experience. We took a deeper look into specific attributes of the products and what the company promises to provide the consumer in regards to overall product attributes, flavor or a deeper connection to the brand.


Within the past year there have been several item introductions touting some level of comfort in the product description creating overall expectations for the consumer. These products range from frozen meals, whiskey, spice rubs and coffee. See the comforting products descriptions below.

- H5 Iced Single Grain Scotch Whiskey: “comfort on the palate.”
- Hampton House Country Style Fried Chicken: “can be enjoyed at the comfort of home.”
- Stubb’s Pork Spice Rub: “comfort food mix of spices.”
- Tazo Calm Chamomile Herbal Tea: “comforting herbal infusion.”
- World Market Cinnamon Bun Coffee: “sweet, comforting taste of warm.”
- Marie Callender’s Comfort Bakes: Cheddar & Bacon Potato Bake is comprised of oven roasted red potatoes smothered in a bacon cheddar cheese sauce with scallions, sprinkled with shredded cheddar cheese.
- Nosh & Co. Snacks: Nutty Buddy Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Black Pepper Peanuts are said to be inspired by comfort foods the world over and are described as super yummy and deliciously affordable.


For Nostalgia, we had to dig a little deeper since most products do not have “nostalgia” in the products descriptions and only one product has been launched in the past year. Nostalgia is a little more difficult especially since this type of experience varies with time and overall memories and consumer experiences. Since 2001, there have been 26 products with a nostalgic description and vary from butters, wines and cookies. See the nostalgic product descriptions below.

- Williams-Sonoma Vanilla Wafer Butter: “sweet nostalgia in a jar.” A sweet spreadable version of the classic vanilla wafer cookies. It can be spread on sandwiches and toasts, used as a dessert topping for ice cream and yogurt, blended into milkshakes, enjoyed as a dip for fresh fruit or straight from the jar.
- Minnestalgia Raspberry Honeywine: “nostalgia by the glass.” Consists in a blend of raspberry wine (24%), and honeywine (76%). This semi-sweet product is described as to be smooth and pleasant to drink.
- Wythe Will Fine Cookies: “capture the nostalgia of warm, homemade cookies baking in the oven.”


A variety of items are appearing on the menu that represent the comfort and nostalgia trends in their product names and descriptions. From breakfast and main dishes to desserts, these items convey comfort and past memories for consumers with mentions of “grandma’s kitchen” and “put-your-feet-up” comfort food.

Breakfast Items

- Denver Omelette, Village Inn: “A comfort classic with a trio of ham, green peppers and onions, topped with melted cheese.”
- Farmhouse Biscuit Breakfast, Shari’s Restaurant: “Breakfast comfort food at its best.”

Main Dishes

- Chicken, Broccoli, Macaroni & Cheese, Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub: “A comforting combintation of macaroni, over roasted chicken and fesh broccoli”
- Southern Fried Chicken Strips, Shari’s Restaurant: “Your favorite comfort food: seasoned and crispy on the outside, yet tender and moist on the inside.”
- Homemade Brunswick Stew, Smokey Bones Bar and Fire Pit: “This slow-smoked stew is pure, put-your-feet-up comfort food.”
- Riblets and Mac ‘N’ Cheese, Red Robin: “If you like comfort food, consider this a recliner. A meal you can really sink into.”


- Granny’s Apple Pie, Shari’s Restaurant: “This apple pie wasn’t made in grandma’s kitchen, but your taste buds won’t know that. This apple pie is the ultimate comfort food.”
- Southern Comfort Pumpkin Ginger, Limestone Restaurant: “Roasted spice pumpkin seeds, cream fraiche.”

OUT ON THE TOWN: Highlights From Our Sweet Adventure

Visiting a variety of sweets shops in the city gave us the opportunity to see an array of comfort & nostalgia flavors in sweet, savory and unexpected applications.

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar
My favorite part of this stop was watching those that came in on a dessert tour and left with steaming mugs of hot chocolate, topped with huge, fresh-made marshmallows.

- Peanut Butter & Jelly: peanut butter & graham cracker cream pie, preserved strawberry and port broth, Spanish peanut candy bar.
- Dreamsicle vanilla bean ice cream & citrus olive oil cake baked Alaska, rainbow sherbet, marmalade tapioca.
- Chocolate “Souffled” Tart: salted caramel ice cream, house made pretzels.
- Doughnuts: brioche doughnuts with hot fudge and caramel corn.

Katherine Anne Confections
This was one of the most interesting spots for flavor inspiration, especially when looking for unexpected flavor combinations. Their marshmallows were flavored with the more traditional cinnamon and sugar to the more unexpected sage and black pepper. A little unique for my liking, but definitely worth a try.

- Hot Chocolate Marshmallow
- Vanilla Caramels
- Crème de Menthe Truffle
Floriole Cafe and Bakery

I wish we would have hit this spot later in the tour and could have been our lunch stop. There were so many items to choose between. From grilled cheese and beautiful green salads, it’s probably good we didn’t eat there, it would have been too hard to choose!

Coffee Cake: This is a very moist coffee cake with a brown sugar and cinnamon crumble topping. You are gonna want some coffee with this.

Oatmeal: Steel-cut oats cooked in Apple Cider, Bananas, Ginger Crumble and Maple Syrup.
- Brownie: Fudgy, with Valrhona triple chocolate.
- Shortbread: Rich, buttery cookie.
- Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookies: Flourless peanut butter cookie filled with house-made jam.

This was my favorite spot of the entire tour. Believe it or not, I have never had a macaroon before and instantly fell in love with them. (I can still taste them!)

- Macaroon Flavors include: chocolate, vanilla, coffee, caramel, red velvet, coconut, lemon and peanut butter & jelly.
CONSUMER SURVEY: Comfort & Nostalgia Flavors

We conducted an online survey of 264 consumers in February of this year to gain insight into their preferences of certain comfort & nostalgic flavors. The majority of the respondents were between the ages of 25-64. We provided a list of flavors sorted by season and asked respondents to rank them for preference during each season. Take a peek below to see what our consumers have to say about comfort & nostalgia.
Familiar is the world that best describes comfort for consumers

Memories of the Past is the phrase that best describes nostalgia for consumers

Top Comfort Consumer Rated Food & Beverage Products:
1. Hot Chocolate
2. Tea
3. Soup
4. Cheese
5. Ice Cream

Top Comfort Flavors:
1. Cinnamon Roll
2. Peanut Butter & Chocolate
3. Oatmeal Cookie
4. Cheesecake
5. Birthday Cake

Top Nostalgia Consumer Rated Food & Beverage Products:
1. Hot Chocolate
2. Tea
3. Soup
4. Cheese
5. Ice Cream

Top Nostalgia Flavors:
1. Birthday Cake
2. Peanut Butter & Jelly
3. Cinnamon Roll
4. Oatmeal Cookie
5. Caramel Apple



Let FONA’s market insight and research experts translate these trends into product category ideas for your brand. They can help you with concept and flavor pipeline development, ideation, consumer studies and white space analysis to pinpoint opportunities in the market. Our flavor and product development experts are also at your service to help meet the labeling and flavor profile needs for your products to capitalize on this consumer trend. We understand how to mesh the complexities of flavor with your brand development, technical requirements and regulatory needs to deliver a complete taste solution. From concept to manufacturing, we’re here every step of the way. Contact our Sales Service Department at 630.578.8600 to request a flavor sample or visit

Click here to download the second report in our dessert series!