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Brands need to develop guilt-free indulgences as consumers become more cautious of ingredients

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Increased awareness and information access has led consumers to be cautious of ingredients. According to a survey by , 54% of global consumers surveyed noted they pay high or very high attention to what ingredients are in food and drink products. However, stressors, such as a global pandemic, can have a significant and long-term impact on consumption habits. Food brands need to cater to both sides of the coin, and guilt-free indulgences and health/ethical credentials may just be the way forward, according to , a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData’s report, ‘Moderation and Avoidance, 2020 Update’, notes that stress often results in two contrasting reactions: either consumers will restrict their diets or indulge more in confectionary and comforting foods.

Amira Freyer-Elgendy, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “When put under stress, some people will react by increasing their food intake, while others are more likely to moderate their consumption as a means of retaining some control over one aspect of their lives – these are referred to as stress-overeaters and stress-undereaters, respectively. To target both types of consumer, brands should develop guilt-free indulgences and highlight health or ethical credentials, thereby encouraging consumers to purchase more of their products in the future.”

The three ingredients most avoided by consumers are sugar, fat and salt*. GlobalData’s survey found that 47% of global shoppers claim to be actively trying to reduce their sugar intake, while 43% and 37% do so with fat and salt, respectively. Consumers have more information access than ever before from an array of online articles that advise and promote the newest diet and ingredients to watch out for. Consumers will, therefore, avoid all three ingredients as they are traditionally perceived as unhealthy, or bad for the body.

Freyer-Elgendy continues: “The flow of information may make consumers prone to self-diagnosing and lead them to avoid an ingredient or product because they suspect an allergy or intolerance. In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, safety has become a priority for consumers and staying healthy is one way of soothing their worries and making them feel proactive and in control.”

Meanwhile, stress overeaters have caused a steady rise in alcohol, ice cream, and chocolate and confectionary product purchasing interest*2. This is likely driven by a need for comfort foods, as one in four global consumers are currently feeling anxious*3 – which is an expected fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, economic woes and public safety concerns.

Freyer-Elgendy adds: “As consumers do not want to compromise on the taste of their comforting indulgences, one way to target both the diet restrictors who may be looking for healthy alternatives and the indulgers who are keen on familiar comfort foods is by developing and marketing the ‘guilt-free indulgence’. One thing to note is that positively worded claims resonate with consumers more – instead of ‘meat-free’, consumers prefer ‘plant-based’, for example. So highlighting the healthy ingredients instead of the lack of unhealthy ingredients is key in marketing products and something that brands should call attention to in such a product’s launch.”