Page 22 - Food & Drink Business Jan-Feb 2020
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Taste, texture and good-for-you
The better-for-you, health & wellness market is one of the fastest growing, but taste and texture are still the primary drivers. Food consultant Julian Mellentin writes.
22 | Food&Drink business | January-February 2020
IN the midst of everything that is written about health and nutrition trends, and the debate about what is and isn’t healthy, what tends to get overlooked is that taste and texture trump everything.
What people want
most from a product is a ‘healthier’ message that gives them permission to enjoy themselves and still feel
good about their choices.
As a result, positioning a product as ‘permission to indulge’ has consistently proven to be one of the smartest strategies any company can adopt. Portion control, naturalness, ‘free from what’s bad’, choosing ‘naturally healthy’ ingredients – these are all strategies
that let people enjoy your product without guilt.
One of the best examples is Oreo Thins, the ‘better for you’ variant of the world’s most successful cookie brand. In the US, Thins picked up $100 million in first year sales – all incremental business – with its promise of enjoyment without guilt. It’s a similar story in most countries – and it has achieved this despite selling at a 100 per cent premium to regular Oreos.
Makers of ice cream have long tried to reinvent their products as something that people can consume without guilt – and have failed, since the consumer’s expectation is of unashamed indulgence and pleasure. Efforts to lower calories or fat have only underscored the gap between the expectation and the disappointing experience. Compromising on the taste of ice cream is a step too far for most people.
The company that fixed the problem was US brand Halo Top, whose promise of more protein, less sugar (and thus fewer calories) while still meeting indulgent taste
expectations quickly drove it to be a $300 million brand.
And it is not an outlier. The concept has been successfully followed in many countries. In Scotland, for example, a small family dairy business called Graham’s was a fast-follower with a high protein, low-sugar ice cream. It has been rewarded with sales more than double what was expected.
It’s telling that it is protein that has helped reinvent ice-cream. For most consumers, protein is the nutrient that can do no wrong. It’s natural, easy to understand and has never had the ‘bad’ image that was attached to fat or is now being attached to carbohydrates. And dairy protein brings a thick enjoyable texture – a big element in the success of naturally healthy products like Greek yoghurt.
There is a big focus now on plant proteins. Demand is growing and will continue to grow, but the plant protein road ahead is not a smooth one.
Taking part in scientific meetings recently, I have been surprised at the number of researchers who are concerned about the low quality of some plant proteins. While soy protein has a quality level not far off that of dairy, it looks like pea protein will get more negative attention from the scientific community.
In terms of strategy, adding some plant protein
to a baked product (for example) in combination with an indulgent flavour gives people the plant protein they want, plus permission
to indulge. A good example is Unilever’s successful (UK- based) Graze snack brand, which includes protein brownies and protein cakes.
The other end of the spectrum – creating plant- based substitutes such as vegan mayonnaise and burgers

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