In a world increasingly concerned about wellness, there are still ways to strike a balance through the responsible branding of not-so-healthy snacks, writes Blake Armstrong
According to latest research, 96 percent of UK consumers have eaten snacks in the past two weeks, revealing a huge market of opportunity for FMCG brands in this space looking to sell their products. Seems straightforward, right? But with the power of social media and the 24-hour news cycle changing the information landscape for brands, they risk facing scrutiny when it comes to matters around health and well-being as consumers become more health savvy.
This is particularly apparent in parents who have increased their health awareness for both themselves as well as their children. When combined with increasing government legislation especially around products high in fat, sugar or salt and negative press, snack brands are acutely aware of their messaging and actions, which makes taking a stand on these issues both risky and challenging.
So rather than engaging in conversations to allay the fears of health-conscious parents and carve a spot for the occasional snack in a family’s life, many brand leaders choose to stay silent. However, this could prove to be detrimental in such a competitive market.
This is especially true when you consider that 51% of snackers snack to satisfy their hunger, while 41 percent snack to treat themselves. Consumers snack to satisfy a craving, cheer themselves up or to relax, brands should feel comfortable having honest conversations with consumers about these truths.
Stand up and you will be counted
The aforementioned research also points to a multifaceted snacking market. It shows that 40 percent of eaters and buyers of snacks feel guilty but also highlights that 60 percent of snackers think that unhealthy snacks are fine as part of a balanced diet.
And if you consider the recent BBC ‘square eyes’ campaign, for instance, it serves as a compelling example of a brand that addressed consumer concerns directly, reminding people of the positive aspects of their product category without disregarding the need for balance in children’s lives.
For brand leaders in this space, now is the opportunity to step up, adapt, and simultaneously present their brands in an appealing manner while educating consumers, including health-conscious parents, about responsible consumption.
Balancing health and enjoyment should be a central focus for non-health focused snack brands looking to grow.
Be aware of the challenges but don’t be frozen by them
Society is now acutely aware of the importance of individual and family diets. In recent years, food education has progressed significantly, with calorie information appearing not only on pre-packaged foods but also on non-pre-packaged items, restaurant menus, and takeout options. Calorie counts have become a constant presence in consumers’ lives, accompanied by media headlines warning of the country’s escalating health crisis.
On the financial front, consumers are grappling with increasing cost-of-living pressures, particularly in the realm of food retail. What were once seen as affordable indulgences by FMCG brands are now perceived as costly, unnecessary, and laden with empty calories. As consumers scrutinise their grocery bills like never before, “unhealthy” treats are often the first to be sacrificed.
Compounding these challenges, the government’s evolving stance on advertising regulations for high-fat, salt, and sugar (HFSS) foods and drinks has been repeatedly postponed, now set for implementation in October 2025 after initially being slated for 2023/24. There’s further uncertainty on what will happen if there’s a new government in place following the upcoming elections as the opposition party has hinted at immediate restrictions if they come to power. Food for thought indeed!
There are three strategies to successfully appeal to health-conscious parents.
- Clearly define your product’s role in consumers’ lives: In a world where public discourse may push your product to the fringes, it’s crucial to show consumers how your product fits into their daily routines. Help them understand where your product adds value in their lives, sparing them the effort of imagining it themselves.
Key takeaway: Don’t hesitate to communicate your product’s role in their daily diet – it may remind them of the value you bring to their lives, vs just the calorie impact they are currently thinking about.
- Embrace the family dynamic beyond just mealtimes: Food is central to family life, and consumer choices often reflect personal tastes and family preferences. When food decisions are made collectively, brands should emphasise their role in fostering family interaction and shared experiences.
Key takeaway: Demonstrate how your product enhances not just consumption but also family bonds in modern households where food choices are shared across generations.
- Inject fun and memorable moments: Food is more than sustenance; it’s a source of simple pleasures and social enjoyment. Snack brands should infuse their brand personality with the spirit of fun and pleasure across all touchpoints. While promoting responsible consumption, there’s no need to stifle creativity – brands should continue to educate and entertain for maximum impact.
Key takeaway: Consumers seek food and drink that brings joy and fun to their lives, making it essential for your brand to provide the most delightful experience on the shelf.
Campaigns in action
One prominent example of navigating this challenging landscape is the “Dinoboy” campaign for Kinder Chocolate. This campaign positioned Kinder Chocolate as an enjoyable, permissible treat that brings happiness to both children and parents. The campaign, initially developed for the UK market, achieved great success and was expanded to 10 additional markets worldwide. It effectively celebrated the joy of sharing a treat without guilt.
Another great example was the challenge of creating a fun and playful world for Oreo Ice Cream that would appeal to 10–15-year-olds and their families. After devising an idea of a world where everything was made of Oreo cookies and ice cream, this world was brought to life through a series of videos, social media posts, and in-store promotions.
The campaign’s success saw increased brand awareness and 11 percent more consumers wanting to try the brand’s products.
In a world increasingly concerned about health and wellness, snack brands must delicately balance their products’ enjoyment and responsibility factors. By proactively addressing these concerns and openly communicating their role in consumers’ lives, brands can nurture trust, foster loyalty, and remain a cherished part of health-conscious parents’ journeys.
Navigating the modern era’s health-conscious landscape is undoubtedly challenging, but it offers a unique opportunity for FMCG snack brands to create lasting connections and contribute positively to consumers’ lives while staying true to their fun and enjoyable products.