Health or indulgence, the end of a puzzling choice?

FEATURED SPEAKER Food ingredients Theater

Does healthy eating signal the end of snacking and other indulgent food habits? Not necessarily, according to Lynn Dornblaser, Innovation and Insight Director at Mintel. Combining healthy ingredients with ones perceived as indulgent will deliver new opportunities for product development in the future. But is guilt-free indulgence possible?

Lynn Donrblaser shared her insights into indulgence in the Fi North America Theatre 2019. We’ve interviewed her to summarize her biggest findings.

What main product categories will you be presenting and how do you define the term?
“Indulgence can mean many things, and it is different from one person to the next. It may be an unusual flavor, or something full of fat and calories, or something reminiscent of a special meal or occasion. It truly is in the eye of the beholder, and therefore, can appear in any category.”

What biggest changes in product developments for indulgence have you noticed?
“It used to be that "indulgence" was like a guilty pleasure, something you enjoyed but perhaps did not really want to talk about, especially when it comes to food and beverage. When most product development seemed to be focused on low-fat, low calorie, ‘better for you’, indulgence was still a presence in the market, but not one that most companies thought about. Today, however, that seems different, and consumers seem to be more willing to try things that are all about the flavor and experience.”

Is guilt-free indulgence possible? What are the most interesting healthy snacking options you witness on the market?
“Yes, indulgent products that also have some healthy values are definitely possible. Some companies can achieve this through simply offering smaller portions, which we see in restaurant menus (tasting menus and small plates) and most definitely in snacks, which allow consumers to try something a bit fun and special without ‘spending’ too many calories. Some of the most interesting healthy snacks on the market right now are those that use new or unexpected base ingredients that have ‘wellness’ built into them. For example, there is a snack in the UK called Brave which is chocolate covered split peas. The base ingredient provides protein and fiber, but the chocolate provides the indulgence.”

What are the main ‘good for you’ claims used for permissible snacks?
“Good-for-you claims today, in general, are different from what they once were. They are less about restriction (less calories, less fat) and more about the inherent goodness of a product. Therefore, we see claims such as No Additives and Preservatives, No Artificial Colors, fiber and wholegrain claims, vitamin claims, and claims regarding ‘clean’, which can include mention of fewer ingredients or ingredients that consumers find easy to understand.”

What food ingredients are popular in permissible snacks? Could you give some interesting examples from the market?
It seems like the ones that are popular with the industry and becoming popular with consumers are those that provide some sort of additional benefit. So, that may be base ingredients that are inherently good in some way (added fiber, added protein, vitamins and minerals). All types of legumes and beans seem to keep popping up into the market. Blake's Seed Based Snack Bars are an example of using new base ingredients, made from seeds and nut-free.”

What about product failures? Could you cite any examples of products marketed as permissible snacks that failed and why do you think that happened?
Well, first, ‘failure’ is actually a very subjective term. To one company, a brand doing $100 million in its first year is a BIG failure, but to another company it is a BIG success. Also, is a product that is on the market for a relatively short time a failure? Is a brand that makes a lot of money for a company, but lasts only a few years a failure? Take Halo Top ice cream as an example. It has been extremely successful. Its sales are now tailing off. Is it a failure? I don't think anyone would say so. Rather, the brand may have run its course and is no longer relevant in the market.”

What are the new upcoming brands which you would define as future trendsetters?
I don't know if I would point to specific brands, but what I would say is that snack companies that find ways to combine health with indulgence are ones that will be successful on the long term. Consumers look for flavour when they choose snacks, but they also look for health and experience, and companies need to keep focused on all those attributes.”

What are your predictions for the F&B industry in the next 3-5 years?
"A greater ability to customize food and drink (think build-your-own snack mix or snacks in a wider range of flavours so that consumers can choose what they want when they want it. Products that further promote what they are doing to be good to the environment - I think the events of this week have shown quite clearly that the environment is something all consumers - especially younger ones - are focusing on.”

“Recognizing that food and beverage don't really fit into the categories they have been put into - anything can be a snack, as snacking is an occasion and not a category. Consumers look for solutions, not for categories.”

“And I suppose a major trend, and one that we don't know how it will play out, is the role of cannabis and CBD in all food and drink, but especially in snacks.”