The meteoric rise of the conscious consumer
According to Délifrance – which produces French style baked snacks for retail and foodservice customers in over 100 countries – guilt-free means different things to different people.
It might mean clean label, or an interest in fewer ingredients with stronger provenance.
It could focus on health, covering fortified products or those with added ingredients.
Another area worth noting is the increase in consumers suffering from food allergies or intolerances. Still keen to snack on indulgent baked goods, this cohort has specific needs when it comes to ingredients, though it’s less about guilt-free and more about stress-free treats.
With an estimated 1-2% of adults and 5-8% of children now suffering from a food allergy and figures predicted to grow, these consumers represent an important part of the snacking market.
Research by Délifrance found that three quarters of UK consumers with food allergies enjoy bread, 74% indulge in sweet treats like brownies or cakes, 70% eat pastries like croissants and pains au chocolat, and 66% enjoy savoury treats such as cheese twists.
This demand – and the introduction of Natasha’s Law last October – prompted the producer’s report Prove It: Adapting bakery to meet the needs of food hypersensitive consumers, which provides advice on how bakeries can cater for this demographic but still boost profits through choice.
Raising the bread bar
The pandemic has particularly spiralled the need to become more health-conscious. In fact, Délifrance’s data shows 40% of consumers now want bread with health benefits. Taking the concept further, it also reveals that healthier options could encourage 21% of consumers to eat more bread.
This highlights the opportunity for retailers and operators to increase sales by communicating the health benefits but still demonstrating the indulgence that options like sourdough or rye can provide.
Of those consumers seeking more health benefits in bread, Délifrance’s Prove It: A bread focus research revealed almost a fifth (17%) want more vitamins or nutrients; 14% want more cereals, grains and dried fruits; and 14% want more digestible breads.
Seeded loaves and sourdough are clear winners for these, and the market is already showing marked growth as compared with pre-Covid, with white and brown sourdough loaves +61% and seeded sourdough loaves +43%.
In addition, the number one health benefit consumers seek is ‘rich in fibre’. Specifically tailored to capitalise on this demand, Délifrance introduced high fibre baguettes and pavé, enabling consumers to indulge while enjoying the benefits of fortification.
The importance of clean label
Interest in clean label has risen steadily over recent years, meeting consumer needs for health, environmental and food hypersensitivity.
Recognising this, the company has simplified recipes across the board, while reviewing the provenance of every ingredient used. As part of its Go Clean approach, this meant eliminating additives and using minimal ingredients – but catering for the wellness market with wholesome flours like buckwheat. It has also worked hard to create better tasting vegan products, and claims its plain vegan croissant is the cleanest offer on the market.
How to catch the guilt-free snacker
Délifrance believes these diverse consumer needs show that guilt-free snacks are here to stay, and reviewing ingredients and clearly labelling products will be essential for food operators to stay competitive.
With limited time to browse, consumers want to rapidly find a snack that suits their tastes and dietary needs. Clarity around ingredients is now law for allergies, but it can also help these guilt-free snackers quickly find something that meets their needs.
Well thought-out labelling – at point of sale and on pack – is even more important when providing a dazzling array of bread, pastries and patisserie. Similarly, it’s worth operators putting thought and time into labels that are eye-catching and informative while whetting the appetites of their customers.