Blurring function and fun expands consumer appeal, meets unmet needs, Kerry finds

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/Eugeniusz Dudzinski
Source: Getty/Eugeniusz Dudzinski

Related tags: Kerry, functional benefits, Probiotics, Flavor

As the line between functional and fun blurs, foods and beverages no longer need to fit neatly into the “healthy” or “treat” categories – they can simultaneously offer the lifestyle and health benefits consumers want and serve as the rewards they crave, suggests research by ingredient supplier Kerry.

According to a national survey of more than 5,000 consumers that looked at consumer motivations and needs, Kerry found consumers are prioritizing both their physical and emotional health by looking for foods and beverages that are personalized and nutritious to help meet their health goals but also self-rewarding and emotionally boosting.

As such, 46% of consumers told Kerry that they are driven by “satisfying their cravings” when purchasing and consuming snacks, which means they want products that taste good, are a treat, recall nostalgic memories and are better quality.

At the same time, 20% of US consumers are driven by healthy food and beverages personalized to fit their diet, lifestyle, and health needs.

While these may appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, Shannon Coco, a strategic marketing direction at Kerry, argues they don’t have to be. In fact, she said in a webinar hosted by the company, bringing the two together in unexpected categories – such as salty snacks or decadent workout drinks – could open new avenues for growth.

“Salty snacks today, when we think about what they’re meeting for consumers and how their addressing their needs, they really align with that reward myself moment,”​ by delivering on cravings and convenience, Coco said. But the unmet needs in the category include personalized health and lifestyle benefits, and added functional benefits.

Alternatively, functional and nutritional products that typically check those boxes lack the craveability, taste and convenience that salty snacks provide.

If companies can marry these unmet needs without sacrificing the attributes that currently appeal to consumers into one product, Coco said, they can expand their consumer base.

Salty snacks that go beyond better-for-you?

For example, she said, if a company making a classic cheddar and sour cream flavored potato chips created a vegan version that appealed to a subset of consumers seeking products personalized to their lifestyle and layered in probiotics for an added health benefit it could reach an additional 8% of consumers.

“So, there is the core group that want the craveability and treat, but another 8% who currently are blocked out because the products that are available to them are not meeting their needs, in this case vegan and dairy-free,”​ she explained.

Another example in the functional beverage space is adding rich, satisfying and dessert-inspired flavors to a post-workout shake, which also delivers protein, nutrition and lifestyle goals, Coco said.

A reward for working out

In this case, combining MCT oil, collagen and whey protein for nutritional benefits but also a decadent mouthfeel, and adding in natural flavors like salted caramel and natural sweeteners to provide a “treat” could help a company reach an additional 17% of consumers, who otherwise love the category and want to be a part of it, Coco said.

As exciting as the potential is to bring together treats and health or lifestyle products, Coco also cautions companies to make sure any combinations appeal to the same consumer so that the messaging and value proposition isn’t lost.

“You can’t be everything to everyone,”​ she noted.

With this in mind, she advised innovators to understand their categories’ current met needs, prioritize unmet needs that align with their target audience and innovate to meet the overlap and also differentiate their offerings from competitors.

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