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Plant-Based Eating Isn't Just Salads And Beans. The Vegan Dessert Market Continues To Grow. As consumer interest in plant-based eating continues to snowball, major brands and new names alike expand their dessert offerings.

By Brian Kateman Edited by Frances Dodds

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Enrique Díaz/7cero | Getty Images

It wasn't too long ago that sweet treats were a hard-to-come-by rarity for vegans. If you were a plant-based eater with a sweet tooth, chances are, you either baked your own sweets or stuck to sorbet and fruity popsicles on a regular basis. Premade vegan cakes, cookies, and ice cream were something you might travel to a specialty store or restaurant for, but they weren't available in regular grocery stores. Certainly not with an availability even comparable to that of non-vegan desserts.

In the last few years, however, grocery store shelves have changed rapidly. Virtually every major ice cream brand from Halo Top to Ben & Jerry's now offers a line of non-dairy options, and longtime dairy alternatives are expanding their offerings: So Delicious has pint options made from coconut milk, oat milk, almond milk, as well as soy milk bases, and Daiya, the brand known for its vegan cheese, makes frozen cheesecakes now, too.

It's little wonder that plant-based desserts seem to be exploding as a category, given the fact that the overall vegan is expecting to continue snowballing. Some market analysts predict to see the global vegan food market grow at a rate of 9.6% in the coming years. Grocery store chains in the UK and US have noticed the spiked consumer interest in vegan products, and are working to serve that niche.

Related: Algae Is the New Popcorn. And Pasta. And Bacon.

Milking the plant-based dessert trend for all its worth

According to some estimates, dedicated vegans are a growing segment, but they are still a very small percentage of the population. Their desserts, however, appeal to a broader demographic. It's estimated that 65% of people in the world are lactose intolerant to some degree. In the past, an upset stomach may have seemed a worthwhile price to pay for enjoying a delicious dessert. But nowadays, as more and more excellent options become widely available, consumers are finding it less and less necessary to make that trade-off. They can have their dessert and eat it, too.

For instance, even brands that aren't exclusively vegan are putting their weight behind plant-based desserts. To meet growing customer demand, healthy prepared meal delivery company Territory Foods is adding vegan dessert options to their rotating menus in the coming weeks and months. Decadent treats like Vegan Fudge, which will satisfy the sweet tooth of vegans and non-vegans alike, will be available.

The well-established brand Amy's Kitchen, known for its prepared vegetarian and vegan meals, focuses mostly on savory foods. But they do make two vegan candy bars: the nougat-filled Dreamy bar and the appropriately named Minty candy. For plant-lovers lucky enough to have these stocked at their local grocery or convenience store, it's one of typically very few options for a quick hit of chocolate.

The proof is in the pudding

And while well-established companies, both vegan and not, make up a significant portion of the market share, newer and smaller brands are popping up as well during this opportune moment. For those who miss the pudding cups of their youth, a new brand, Noops, debuts this summer. Their desserts are oat milk-based puddings that come in different flavors, like cocoa and sticky bun, and are full of protein and prebiotics without any animal products or added sugar. The Collaborative has its own spin on pudding, what the company calls "Dessert Pots." They contain less sugar than many of their dairy counterparts, making them a better-for-you option. Available in Chocolate Ganache and Salted Caramel Chocolate Ganache flavors, these first-to-market Dessert Pots are followed by a near future launching of Vanilla Rice Pudding, Double Chocolate Mousse and Chocolate pudding; all plant-based, sustainably sourced, and eco-friendly.

Related: Better Fettuccine: How Companies Are Reinventing Pasta For The Low-Carb Era

Where you're more in the mood for a baked good, Abe's Muffins make vegan pastries in virtually every flavor you could want. In addition to the muffins, Abe's makes a selection of pound cakes and square cakes. So if you want something sweet to enjoy after dinner or with afternoon tea, their confections have you covered – gluten-free options included, too.

Also found in the bakery section is rising regional brand Pride Enjoy, whose cookies can currently be found around New York State. Their lineup includes chocolate chip cookies, fudge brownies, and even Italian rainbow cookies – perfect for when you're craving something comforting. In addition to being vegan, all of their confections are also gluten-free. Over on the West coast, Alternative Baking Company, based in Sacramento, is an all-vegan brand that specializes in cookies. Their varieties range from chocolate chip to pumpkin spice, and they offer several gluten-free options as well. Not to mention, these cookies are big, making for a satisfying sweet snack. For those more interested in recipe simplicity, Kookie Cat is the small brand that might be your new favorite. Their cookies, all vegan and gluten-free, are made from short lists of very pronounceable ingredients, like organic oat, cashew, and coconut.

But if it's a doughnut you're craving, small local bakeries around the country are trying to satisfy national demand. Due to the short shelf life of doughnuts, vegan and vegan-friendly bakeries tend to skip retail and offer direct shipping for those who aren't close enough to stop by. One such example is Pasadena bakery Yvonne's Vegan Kitchen, which makes a chocolate lover's dream – doughnuts coated in a chocolate shell and topped with sprinkles. Nearby in Westlake Village, CA, the all-vegan and gluten-free shop Karma Baker ships their indulgent treats, including a doughnut box for the vegan Homer Simpsons of the world – and their "sprinkle mania" doughnut is hard to miss. San Antonio-based shop Southern Roots Vegan Baking also ships nationally, making their tempting red velvet and lemon drop doughnuts, plus their gluten-free old fashioned, available to reducetarians with a sweet tooth across the country.

Everyone wants s'more vegan treats

Vegans no longer need to be left out of the summertime tradition of roasting marshmallows. While most store-bought marshmallows contain gelatin and sometimes egg, Dandies makes puffy marshmallows that are totally vegan-friendly. Being made from non-GMO, plant-based ingredients, choosy campers of any diet are likely to feel better packing these for vacation.

Small brands making their national debuts are making it easier and easier for consumers to tap into their inner child, while addressing their concerns about animals and the environment. As dietary and ethical concerns continue to affect consumer choice, we're sure to see even more vegan desserts hitting the market.

Related: Don't Forget the Mustard: Small, Eco-Friendly, Health-Conscious Companies are Conquering Condiments

Brian Kateman

Co-Founder and President of the Reducetarian Foundation

Brian Kateman is a co-founder of the Reducetarian Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the consumption of animal products. He is the author of Meat Me Halfway — inspired by a documentary of the same name — and the editor of The Reducetarian Cookbook and The Reducetarian Solution.

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