Not sweet enough

Nestle’s discontinuation of Milkybar Wowsomes is a shame. Not just because of the removal of the confectionery bar from retailers’ shelves but also because of the work that preceded its launch.

The bar took years to develop and the research and development to keep its taste intact despite low sugar, involved costs.

Sales, though, have been disappointing. Is this a surprise? I think not. There are many issues at play here.

Consumers want less sugar — as long as what they’re eating still tastes good. They want to eat healthier in general, and they’re adapting their shopping habits to meet this goal.

The problem is they’re constantly trying to determine whether a product with less sugar has any change in flavour. Most of the time they will opt for the traditional formula, just in a smaller portion size than they would have eaten before.

We eat first with our eyes. This is more than just a saying. Researchers at the University of Oxford have studied the impact a food’s appearance has on eating behaviour. They’ve found, among other things, that people are willing to pay more than double for foods that are aesthetically pleasing compared to less attractive foods.

No discussion of consumer demands today is complete without at least mentioning sustainability. Younger consumers, especially, are becoming more attuned to environmental concerns and how their consumption behaviour is having an impact on the environment as a whole.

More consumers prioritise sustainability in their food choices and many are looking for sustainable products that respect the environment.

Finally, consumers want great value. For some products, value equals price. But, consumers are willing to pay more for products they perceive as having a greater value.

Consumer trends come and go, but the factors above are always in high demand. Every business has a sweet spot where the brand’s hard work and passion coincide with the customer’s wishes, questions, and concerns.

It’s very hard to discern whether consumers are actively managing their sugar consumption. There is the opportunity to retrain people’s palate by reducing the level of sweetness with diverse flavour profiles. The bottom line is there is a market for reduced-sugar food and beverages. At the same time, consumers want products made with familiar ingredients, but not at the expense of taste, which remains the single biggest driver of purchasing.

In the end, the age-old cliche – the customer is always right – still stands.

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