The continued obesity crisis in the US perfectly illustrates consumers’ desires to have their cake and eat it too—literally. Americans are increasingly aware of the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle, but are not as willing to give up their treats. Companies like Pepsi, for example, have been caught in this catch-22, as consumers avoid sodas in favor of bottled water, energy drinks, and other “good for you” options. As a result, Pepsi is launching Pepsi Next, a low-calorie soda that resembles the sweet taste of the original, but reduces the sugar and calorie intake by more than half.
Many brands have altered their products to better fit consumers’ desires to be more health-conscious. For example, traditionally unhealthy brands like Nabisco, Hostess, and Frito Lay have developed 100-calorie snacks that resemble their original high-calorie product.
But what happens if a brand doesn’t want to (or can’t) alter their product? Sometimes health is just a matter of perception. In recent years, chocolate manufacturers have been repositioning dark chocolate from being detrimental to one’s health to being beneficial. Recent studies have suggested that dark chocolate can improve cardiovascular health, and that the natural antioxidants found in cocoa can be as beneficial as green tea or blueberries. These same antioxidants are also shown to reduce enhance blood flow, reduce blood pressure, and reduce the risks of heart disease and cancer. As a result, many brands are now promoting chocolate as a healthy indulgence.
Rather than marketing a product’s sweet and rich taste, brands are becoming more focused on presenting the product’s health benefits to attract consumers. And that’s just what we want! As the obesity problem won’t be going away any time soon, we expect that brands will continue to encourage consumers to indulge in a treat that’s not quite as bad as they might think.