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How to innovate for the health-conscious consumer [Interview]

Article-How to innovate for the health-conscious consumer [Interview]

What does the holistic health trend mean for product developers in traditionally indulgent categories, such as bakery, snacks and confectionery? We asked Aurore de Monclin, managing partner at the Healthy Marketing Team.

Aurore de Monclin will be taking part in the Bakery, Snacks and Confectionery Deep Dive Day on 24 May, part of the free-to-attend Fi Webinar Series. Click here to sign up.

Consumers are taking a holistic approach to health, but snacks and sweets are obviously very indulgent and usually unhealthy. So, what does this holistic health trend mean for snacks, bakery and confectionery brands?

“Consumers don’t want to feel guilty, so they want companies to tell them about all the goodness that the products contain. There is a need to [create] a level of satisfaction which is on a functional level, nutritionally, but also about satisfaction on an emotional level. I think that's what we mean by holistic health.

“It’s very much about the ingredient list, the origin of the ingredients, full transparency and perhaps the fact that it is more nutritious. But it's also about having that emotional connection, a feeling that it's going to be a moment in your day, especially for snacks, where you're able to recharge and perhaps realign yourself mentally and physically. It can become almost like a ritual if you think about it. [...] Holistic health is all-encompassing, it’s from the origin to how it makes you feel on a mental level.”

In order to make that kind of functional and emotional connection, could one strategy be to add functional, healthy ingredients even if the product is also full of sugar such as chocolate?

“Chocolate is chocolate, but there are different types, for example, there is dark chocolate. I think you can use the ‘permissible indulgence’ of some of these ingredients and position the product as being ‘full of’ rather than just ‘free from’, which sounds like deprivation. It’s also about being quite authentic in the choice of ingredient.

“And when it comes to pure functionality, then of course you can have something that will sharpen mental health. But it needs to be done in a very logical way. So, of course, you need to think: what is my product category? What would fit within confectionery, bakery or snacking? What would consumers accept?

“At the end of the day, you need to build the right story for consumers. So you have to think of how consumers perceive the category. What are the current beliefs in the category? Some people believe that chocolate is more nutritious than a sweet, so you can play with that and you can enrich that knowledge with some additional ingredients.”

Is it also important for brands to then communicate about that knowledge? So, if some people see chocolate as being a bit more nutritious than a sweet, could brands play a role in communicating about, for example, chocolate polyphenols?

“Absolutely. Consumers are so demanding for information and transparency is becoming so critical. Consumers buy products they can trust so [brands] need to think of what's going to motivate their consumers to buy their product. They need to understand what are the ‘permission factors’. Therefore, being very transparent and giving information but giving it in a way that is understood by consumers is very important.”

Is this interest in holistic health being seen globally or is it more pronounced in certain regions?

“We see companies like Mondelez that have a whole platform around mindful snacking so I think it's global. Especially with the post COVID [context], we've arrived at another level of health, which has gone from being functional to well-being to now much more about fulfilment and feelings of happiness.”

Should brands take a ‘stealth health’ approach to reformulation by not openly communicating about reduced sugar, fat, or salt levels, or do consumers appreciate such efforts to make foods healthier?

“I would say the approach is about doing ‘full-of free-from’. So, if you remove things, you can still talk about everything else, otherwise consumers will be suspicious. In some regions like South America, people are very conscious about their looks and weight and, in those countries, it can be very important to have zero sugar. But, in Europe for example, I think people would rather have the ‘full of’ product but maybe in smaller quantities.”

Do you have one piece of advice for a snack or bakery or confectionery brand who's thinking of launching a new product?

“Be very clear in terms of what you are launching into the market. If you are already in an established category and you're thinking of creating a new segment, be clear in the name of your product. The rule is really to help consumers navigate through a category of products. So even if you have a fantastic new ingredient, think of what the benefit of that ingredient could be. This is essential and it will help consumers, retailers, and your own partners. It’s what we call a market entry strategy.”