Caramel is deliciously hot right now — at least according to a new trends report from FONA.

In fact, globally, between the fourth quarter of 2009 and the fourth quarter of 2014, 10,547 new caramel products were launched.

In that mix, caramel lovers will find products like the Chocolate Brownie Burnt Caramel Cream Flavoured Candy in Taiwan and the Organic Choco Caramel & Orange Spread in France.

Specifically, the leading category for caramel-based launches was dairy-based frozen products, which accounted for 16 percent of new caramel products. The next two — non-individually wrapped chocolate pieces and sweet biscuits/cookies — tied, with 13 percent accounting for new caramel-based products introduced. And they were followed by chocolate countlines, with 11 percent.

In North America, between the same time period, 2,136 new caramel products were launched, including:Old Orchard's Limited Edition Caramel Apple Flavored Juice Drink and Target's Caramel with Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Gourmet Mini Bark.

With regards to category segments in North America, the report shows that non-individually wrapped chocolate pieces accounted for 18 percent of the new caramel-based products launched.

That was followed by dairy-based frozen products, which made up 16 percent of the caramel-based rollouts. And then, seasonal chocolates comprised 13 percent while popcorn reached 11 percent.

FONA’s research also showed that chocolate is the top flavor paired with caramel.

Caramel on the menu

With all those new products, it’s no surprise that caramel is also gaining popularity on restaurant menus.

Between the fourth quarter of 2009 and the fourth quarter of 2014, there were 1,607 Menu Mentions, a 91 percent Increase in caramel-flavored menu items, FONA says.

Some of the menu highlights include:

  • Deep Fried Caramel Banana Cheesecake, Pizza Gallery & Grill
  • Caramel Espresso con Panna, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
  • Bacon-Caramel Popcorn, Holeman and Finch
  • Caramel Pecan Roll, Baker’s Square

Diners crave its sweetness and chefs love its versatility, FONA reports.

In fact, caramel is the number three dessert flavor on restaurant menus, second only to the ever-popular chocolate and vanilla, according to the most recent data from Datassential MenuTrends. Not only is caramel a top flavor, it’s also appearing on 10 percent more menus than it did just four years ago, Datassential reported.

Among the many fine-dining chefs enjoying caramel’s versatility, chef John Delpha uses the popular ingredient in several desserts at the recently opened Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar in Somerville, Mass.

His current menu includes a Jack Daniels Caramel Banana Parfait and a bananas foster-meets-cheesecake creation with layers of no-cook cheesecake that’s made from a cream cheese and pastry cream mixture, sliced bananas, graham cracker crumbs and a bourbon-infused caramel, according to a National Restaurant News report that FONA cited.

Caramel in the news

All this hype around caramel is likely driven by it’s popularity in the media.

FONA reports that has more than 5,000 caramel recipes, ranging from a homemade caramel to a caramel apple salad to a Mexican flan. And, Cooking Light Magazine had an article dedicated to caramel apples in the October 2014 issue, with recipes that put a spin on a autumn classic, including: Bacon-Pretzel Peanut Butter Caramel Apples, Pistachio-Orange Caramel Apple and White Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Caramel Apples.

The April 2015 issue of Bon Appétit even features a recipe for Croquembouche. The caramel cream-puff mountain takes at least a day to prepare, with caramel serving as both the topping and the “glue” that holds the tower together.

Also, in Good Food Magazine’s April 2015 issue, there’s a recipe for Double Chocolate & Caramel Tart with Frosted Pistachios & Rum Cream, as well as a Lemon Meringue Cake featuring a caramel-infused cake filled with lemon curd.

Social media is also sweet on caramel right now. It doesn’t take long to find a recipe for homemade caramel on Pinterest. And there’s also recipes for Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies, Carmelitas, and even inside-out Caramel Apple Slices that feature caramel inside the apple rather than out!

Finally, Twitter is filled with pictures of caramel-flavored desserts, like salted caramel Chocolate Tart, Hazelnut, Raisin & Caramel Bars, Chunky Caramel Dessert Drink and Caramel Apple Dessert Egg Roll.

Sounds like this sweet dessert will be “sticking” around for a while.