Back to the future: how to use nostalgia in NPD

Matthew Bratt, patisserie NPD & innovation centre manager at Puratos UK, explores the growing consumer trend for tradition, looking at how brands can capitalise by using it as a vehicle to tell their own story and offering traditional options with a twist.

23 September 2019
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In a world of ‘fake news,’ political uncertainty and rising anxiety levels, it is not surprising that consumers are turning to traditional foods and flavours, which offer comfort and reassurance. Tastes associated with the past transport consumers back to their childhood and evoke nostalgic feelings of calm and certainty associated with that time in their lives.

This craving for comfort and continuity has seen sales of retro sweets soar by 176% over the past five years, with crumpets touted as one of the top food trends for this year.

Foods that evoke nostalgia can also prove advantageous for brands. Offering products reminiscent of the past allows companies to tell their story and share their authenticity, history and provenance.

Three years of Brexit uncertainty have pulled focus onto homegrown traditional British flavours. Rhubarb is one example of a traditional taste growing in popularity, which has also benefitted from the trend towards bitter flavours prompted by the backlash on sugar.

Others are blackcurrant and hibiscus, along with strawberry, cucumber and mint flavour combinations – which also benefit from the current trends for floral and alcohol-inspired tastes.

At Puratos UK, for example, we recently launched a rhubarb and custard fruit filling and cake mix combination. The cake mix contains only natural flavours and no AZO dyes, while the rhubarb fruit filling has over 50% real fruit, pointing to honesty and authenticity in the brand.

Millennials love to go retro

While everyone from generation X to millennials and their baby boomer parents have favourite food memories, marketing to millennials can prove particularly beneficial.

As noted by Mintel, retro options resonate with those in the 22 to 37 age bracket, and giving them a modern twist – low sugar, vegan, Instagrammable or a hybrid of different cuisines – can boost interest even further.

The trend for traditional afternoon tea with a modern twist is a great example of an old favourite that has appeal to the modern consumer. The combination of sandwiches and cakes is as popular as ever, but we are seeing more vegan, vegetarian and low-sugar options atop tables.

To maximise on this trend for bakers, earlier this year we launched a vegan scone mix and a reduced sugar cake mix, which uses a sugar replacer called inulin to replace some of the sugar without compromising on taste. The mix can be used to make a variety of traditional cakes.

Taking inspiration from cuisines around the globe and incorporating them into retro options is another way to boost consumer interest, as with our recently launched Satin Crème Cake Speculoos Mix. This doubly emphasises the point about heritage: the recipe has Belgian roots but also harks back to Puratos’ founding in Belgium in 1919.

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