Branded Boost

Incorporating well-known brands into your dessert menu can boost sales and even turn an everyday item into a social media star

Sponsored by Hershey Company

The first collaboration between REESE and Krispy Kreme in the United States was released two years ago on a Friday in August. The doughnut, a true study of powerful combinations, was stuffed with REESE Peanut Butter cream, dipped in chocolate and topped with peanut butter chips, peanuts and chocolate and REESE Peanut Butter drizzle. The team-up was calculated for social media: REESE is a legacy brand with nearly a century behind it, Krispy Kreme is nearly as old, and both have entrenched, nostalgic appeal with consumers.

By the following Monday, a scant 72 hours later, the REESE-Krispy Kreme doughnut had generated more than a billion impressions across social media, which helped drive strong sales throughout the run of the doughnut. The two brands followed up with collaborations in 2018 and earlier this year, as well, making the REESE-Krispy Kreme relationship less a stunt than a permanent state of affairs. Branded desserts, it turns out, are more than a novelty. They have traction, and REESE has enjoyed similar successes at Canadian QSR chains as well.

“We know there’s a lot of trust that brands convey, and that consumers make quick decisions,” says Chef Darren Belnavis, Hershey Global Corporate Chef/Director of Culinary. “We think that trust is really going to increase and continue.”

Given the performance of the REESE doughnut, it’s not surprising that a white paper commissioned by Hershey last year found that Millennials and Gen Z are particularly interested in branded desserts. For starters, they’re more inclined to care about dessert, generally, with three-quarters (76 per cent) saying it’s essential for capping off a special occasion. On top of that, a third of younger consumers said they’d be willing to pay between $0.50 and $1.50 for a Hershey-branded dessert, which is fitting, since more than half of Millennials’ and Gen Zers equate Hershey ingredients with higher quality.

Naturally, social media reflects younger cohorts’ affinity for branded desserts, as well — particularly Gen Z’s. In Hershey’s white paper, 32 per cent of Gen Z respondents said ads featuring branded dessert get their attention, and 42 per cent said it’s the number one food item they photograph. Of both Millennial and Gen Z respondents, 46 per cent had a picture of a dessert on their phone at that moment.

Branded desserts are an opportunity, but not a no-brainer. Belnavis says that a molten lava cake loaded with Hershey chocolate, for example, would probably under-perform at most QSRs, where cutlery is rare, but has proven a good fit elsewhere. By contrast, he says, the YORK Peppermint Pattie, which skews toward an older market, likely wouldn’t catch on at restaurants with younger customer bases. “The cool thing about Hershey and our brand is that it plays across demographics, and we can really add value across the menu,” says Belnavis. It does, however, take some forethought and consideration.

It’s worth it, though. Krispy Kreme and REESE didn’t blow up social media one weekend by accident. When Hershey partners with a foodservice brand, it takes time to identify the right deployment of the right ingredient for the right market. If it’s done well, though, customers — younger customers especially — will be on board, and can help make a regular menu item into a bestseller — or even an annual event.

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