The tide is shifting in the sweets category toward more snackable and healthier options. In this interview, Jennifer Bush, pastry chef and co-owner of Lucky’s Bakehouse & Creamery, associated with Lucky’s Market in Boulder, Colorado, shares how she sees that play out in her store.
At Lucky’s, how have you bridged the gap between snacks and sweets?
Jennifer Bush: We make a Puppy Chow, the snack mix traditionally made with Chex cereal, chocolate, powdered sugar and peanut butter. But instead of peanut butter we use tahini. Then, there are our chocolate-enrobed marshmallows that we cover with turmeric and dried pineapple. And our snackable coconut squares with dark chocolate and hemp seeds.
Why do you think this healthy, sweet snacking sells?
JB: People are going to eat sweet stuff. It’s taboo, but they are going to do it anyway. Now people are realizing that they can have sweet stuff made with 80 percent dark chocolate, maple syrup or honey, and it still tastes great. These healthier ingredients take away the negative associations with the sweets category.
What specific ingredients are popping up as this trend takes hold?
JB: Nut butters. Spices, like saffron or curry. Florals, like rose water. And seeds. Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds. Even poppy seeds. Not only do seeds have good texture, but they have extraordinary health benefits.
How does product form play a role in sweeter snacking?
JB: Smaller portions are key. People don’t want huge pieces when it comes to sweet snacking. They’d rather have something that they can have free form in a bag, with several smaller pieces.
Any thoughts on flavor and texture?
JB: Sweet, salty, crunchy. Period.
You often do consulting work with CPG brands that take existing sweets and snackify them. What can we learn from them?
JB: Make sweets mini. I just made really good cake bites for a company. Consider temperature state. Popsicles are the next cupcake.
What one piece of advice would you give to a company creating a healthy, sweet snack?
JB: Be playful. Never lose sight of this.
Kazia Jankowski is founder of KJ Culinary (KJC), a new product innovation firm that works with food, beverage, and restaurant companies from concept to R&D briefs. Chef interviews are one of the many ways that KJC helps its clients create delicious and relevant foods.