Entrepreneur

Dessert, Re-Designed

American food franchises are offering treats that satisfy refined tastes.

Trends in sweets come and go, but for some time now it seems Americans have been moving beyond the notion of dessert with every meal in favor of the occasional premium indulgence. With high-quality ingredients, customizable options and upscale twists on traditional items, the newest franchises are offering treats that satisfy refined tastes--and betting they'll be more than just the flavor of the month.

Of all the love-hate relationships Americans have--Facebook, celebrities, soccer--the most fraught is our relationship with sugar. We've embraced it, rejected it, distilled it, created dozens of substitutes for it--and still consume about 75 pounds of it per person every year.

In the franchising world, entire segments rise and fall on the public's attitudes toward sugar. In the past decade, while ice cream concepts struggled, smoothies and "tart" frozen yogurt stepped in to hit the less-sweet spot. But now something strange is happening. Even as our national opinion of sugar hits another low point (see recent New York Times articles on sugar as a toxin), franchising is entering a sweet-treats boom, with several innovative concepts expanding their footprints.

While that may seem counterintuitive--and a recipe for

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