Brands have the opportunity to deliver memorable flavour innovation to offer moments of pleasure and escapism.

The concept of indulgence gains importance during uncertain times

Talking about indulgence is extremely timely, with the world slowly adapting to the new normal reality following pandemic-imposed lockdowns and increasing costs of living. In this context, indulgence in food and drink acquires new meaning and importance to consumers, as a means of escapism, stress and anxiety relief, mood elevator, and a bringer of moments of happiness.

Indulgent flavour innovations are challenging during a difficult economic climate, but may lead to success if executed well

Economic uncertainty and rising costs of living are likely to make consumers more cautious about purchasing products with completely new or unfamiliar flavour profiles; they are more inclined to avoid spending money on something that they may not enjoy.

However, ‘the lipstick effect‘ refers to consumers’ psychological need to reward themselves with affordable treats during uncertain and difficult times. Historically, categories such as chocolate, coffee and premium alcohol have benefited from economic downturns, when consumers couldn’t afford more-expensive treats and therefore turned to indulgent food and drink categories to lift their mood.

Any product flavour experimentation should be well-considered; familiarity with existing flavours is expected to bring consumers comfort and associations with good memories from the past. 54% of US consumers, for example, sometimes try new dessert and confectionery flavours, whereas 33% go out of their way to do so.


Despite aiming to lead healthier lifestyles, demand for indulgent products remains high, creating opportunities for brands to elevate their indulgent attributes in order to deliver moments of pure taste pleasure and escapism.

  • BETTER-FOR-YOU POSITIONINGIndulgent products can try to explore better-for-you attributes that can help them reframe their indulgent positioning and appeal to more health-minded consumers.

Engaging all other senses beyond taste can help elevate the indulgent positioning of products and help enhance the new/old/familiar with new twists on these flavour profiles.

Pure pleasure and escapism

Despite consumers aiming to lead healthier lifestyles, demand for indulgent products remains high, creating opportunities for brands to elevate their indulgent attributes in order to deliver moments of pure taste pleasure and escapism.

Snacking is an important part of daily eating habits for the vast majority of consumers; 73% of US consumers claim to snack more than twice a day, and 68% of UK snackers claim to snack at least once a day.

Snacking often gives consumers an opportunity to take a break from their responsibilities. A significant number of consumers snack in order to satisfy a craving, as a treat, or to relieve boredom and stress. In India, nearly half of consumers snack to improve their mood.

This gives opportunities for snack brands to innovate with the above consumer needs in mind, and create offerings that can give consumers moments of escapism and pure satisfaction.

Food textures can offer novel experiences, new ways to engage with products, and moments of pleasure through playfulness. Mintel’s 2022 Trend Enjoyment Everywhere suggests that happiness and playfulness are high on consumers’ wishlists. Equally, consumers are often opting to lead healthier lifestyles, and this defines the requirement for foods that can meet this demand.

Textures can play an important role in the perception of food. Such textures – like creamy, whipped or fluffy – are likely to bring an association of being a healthier option, especially in indulgent categories.

How to deliver less-sweet indulgence

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of high sugar intake, and continue to want to reduce sugar in their diets. This leads to more people looking for less-sugary alternatives of indulgent foods.

Natural low-sugar solutions can be an alternative. Agave offers a lower glycemic index than sugar, and because it is sweeter, less is needed.

Flavour is also a powerful attribute, offering sugar-reduction properties by changing perceptions of sweetness.

The opportunity

Indulgent comfort foods that can help consumers boost their moods and support mental wellbeing can often lead to concern over weight gain, which may cause more stress and create a long-term, opposite and undesired effect.

Therefore, brands need to be cognizant of health concerns when innovating within the indulgence space.

In the long term, the concept of ‘mindful indulgence’ will shape the scene, whereby brands will consider launching indulgent, luxurious and ‘over-the-top’ products with health reassurance attributes, in order to help consumers meet their complex wellbeing goals.


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