The Skinny on Indulgences

The intersection of healthy and indulgent foods creates a new category, giving opportunity to retailers.

The consumer push for healthier options has been one of the biggest drivers of change in the food retail industry over the past several years, and it has no signs of slowing down: According to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating report, 44% of consumers say that they don’t necessarily follow a specific diet but do eat mostly healthy foods. In response, retailers have “healthified” all categories, from center store to frozen to the perimeter, and now offer plenty of options to help consumers do so.

But for shoppers who struggle with sticking to a so-called diet, there’s a new category worth exploring—healthy indulgences. Particularly within prepared foods departments, retailers now can reach consumers who want to eat healthier without giving up the foods that they love.

While shoppers may still view traditionally healthy foods—such as salads or lean proteins—as the healthiest options, for many consumers, the concept of “healthy” has changed. In fact, according to Technomic’s Healthy Eating report, 45% of consumers say that their definition of healthy food has changed over the past two years. Today, health means more than just eating foods that are low calorie or low fat—it also encompasses foods that are real, natural, organic and beyond.

What’s more, when consumers do treat themselves, many are interested in better-for-you options that are still indulgent, such as desserts without artificial colors or sweeteners or comfort foods with a healthy twist, such as pizza with a cauliflower crust.

For retail foodservice, this changing view of health and indulgence means there’s rich opportunity to appeal to consumers who want to eat healthfully without sacrificing taste or feeling like they’re restricting themselves. Here are a few tips for appealing to these shifting preferences.

Be transparent with nutritional information

In the prepared foods category, it’s essential to offer detailed nutritional information about every dish offered. Providing this information, instead of vague “healthy” callouts (such as low calorie or low fat, for instance) allows consumers to make informed choices about what they buy.

Furthermore, when consumers know exactly what is in the prepared foods they’re interested in, they may be more likely to buy them. According to The Power of Fresh/Prepared Deli, a November 2016 report from the Food Marketing Institute in conjunction with Nielsen, shoppers look for prepared foods offerings that feature better-for-you claims such as organic, non-GMO or gluten free. Offering items with these claims, even if those items aren’t traditionally healthy, can be a way to boost interest.

Focus on build-your-own options

At Orchard Fresh supermarket in Orchard Park, New York, the prepared foods menu includes a variety of items designed to appeal to both health-conscious and indulgent desires: gourmet sandwiches made with a choice of Boar’s Head meats—or Beyond Meat™ for those who want a vegan option; wood-fired pizzas; all-natural sushi; Moroccan quinoa salad; and buttermilk mashed potatoes.

Here, consumers can choose between lighter or heavier items to make a meal of as many healthy or indulgent items as they want—health-conscious consumers can keep it clean, indulgence-seekers can treat themselves and consumers who want to do both can do just that.

Offering this type of do-it-yourself meal option also appeals to the consumer desire for customization, a trends that’s taken off substantially—especially with younger consumers. Forty-four percent of millennials say the ability to customize their meal affects where they choose to dine, according to Technomic’s 2016 Generational trend report.

Offer healthy-indulgent mash-ups

For shoppers who want something that’s simultaneously indulgent and better-for-you, there are a number of foods that retailers can offer that fit the bill—often in the form of lightened-up versions of comfort foods. Items such as potato salad made with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise or chili made with turkey and beans instead of beef can be marketed as better-for-you options while still offering shoppers craveable flavor; as can smaller portions of traditionally rich foods, such as mini desserts or a snack-size chicken wrap.

These types of foods allow consumers to indulge without going overboard and to treat themselves without feeling guilty. Also, because these foods are better-for-you versions of familiar flavors, shoppers may feel more confident in trying something new.

Understanding that consumers’ desires for healthy and indulgent items have shifted from an “either/or” standpoint to “both” means that food retailers must get creative with prepared foods offerings to appeal to all types of eaters. By offering more options to cater to those who want healthy foods, those who want indulgent foods and those who are interested in hybrid healthy indulgences, it’s more likely that shoppers will leave satisfied.

This post is sponsored by Nestlé Professional


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