Most Americans claim to be eating better, and 78% say they are making a strong effort to eat more fresh versus processed foods (Technomic 2014a; MSI 2014a).
But if all trends are moving toward higher-quality, fresher, healthier food, then why are indulgent (and super indulgent) foods still attracting consumers in droves?
Let’s take a look at some of the popular offerings at fast feeders. Wendy’s has the Baconator Double, Taco Bell offers a burrito made with Fritos, and Chicken Fries are becoming a permanent menu item at Burger King. Then there is Pizza Hut’s “Hot Dog Bites Pizza,” which was referred to as an “unholy abomination” – and that was intended as a compliment – in a review posted by SB Nation, a sports website and online community with an audience that consistently ranks as the most affluent and influential in the sports category.
But this trend is not limited to guys and fast food. The cupcake phenomenon, cronuts and coffee drinks that double as dessert supply a sugar rush at any time of day. Decadent cocktails dominate drink menus. Sales of frozen yogurt are down, but super-premium (and rich) ice cream is up, up, up. Deliciousness is in – no matter what category or demographic segment.
Is this a reaction to the constant haranguing by the food police? A rebellion?
We believe that this phenomenon is not a backlash as much as it is a simple desire to “live a little.” People really are eating healthier in general, and that gives them permission to indulge and enjoy once in a while, and not apologize for it.
Smart marketers know that the key to marketing a guilty pleasure is to remove the guilt factor. They understand that the indulgent nature of the product is, in fact, the benefit and the reason for purchase. They say, “This tastes good and I deserve it.” Maybe not every day, but in moderation. Now that’s a concept we can all live with.