Given the huge millennial snack market for bold flavor adventures, it can be easy to emphasize novelty over traditional snacking favorites. And yet nostalgia feeds an emotional need to re-experience food products from a time consumers long to relive. Harkening back to the good old days can make consumers yearn for the snacks and comfort foods of yesteryear. For savvy foodservice operators, memory lane can be the road that leads to big snack sales.
Darrel D. Muehling, chair of the Washington State University Carson College of Business department of marketing and international business, has researched the power of nostalgia in advertising. As he points out, nostalgia takes hold when “we reflect on a time that we think was—and probably was—somewhat simpler, calmer, and pleasant. If we can capture a piece of the past by buying a product or reflecting on something, that tends to generate a positive feeling.”1 As a result, snacks that bring back fond memories can be especially sweet and satisfying.
Millennial Snack Trends Mix Novelty and Nostalgia
While it may seem that baby boomers would be the most susceptible to snacking sentimentality, millennials are hardly immune to a hankering for foods that serve up fond memories. According to the research and consulting firm Y-Pulse, 61% of millennials surveyed yearn for foods that remind them of their grandmothers’ cooking, and 69% hunger for foods that take them back to their childhoods.2
If it seems that millennials are undergoing a tug-of-war between novelty and nostalgia, there is a common denominator in their flavor preferences. As Y-Pulse explained, “Whether they target the nostalgia or provide sophisticated tasting adventures, foodservice operators need to aim for ‘unforgettable’ experiences.”2
By definition, classic snacks and desserts stand the test of time precisely because they’re unforgettable, with flavors that prove versatile and lend themselves to a variety of formats. Classic flavors inspired by childhood memories and appearing in a wide range of snack and dessert items include s’mores, birthday cake and lemonade. But, by menuing mashups and hybrids that give traditional favorites an interesting twist, foodservice operators can accommodate both the millennial need for new flavor profiles and their nostalgia for time-honored staples.
Candy and Cookies Serve Up Sweet Sentiments
Confections are a category filled with nostalgia, as classic brands like Cadbury pass from generation to generation. “About 123 million U.S. households purchase chocolate, non-chocolate candy, gum or mints each year,” said John H. Downs, Jr., president and CEO of the National Confectioners Association.3 “Whether you’re enjoying a taste of your favorite brand of chocolate or celebrating Halloween by passing out sweets, the presence of candy in our lives is always a fun treat.”3 Downs pointed out that while most U.S. consumers eat candy only about twice a week, its appeal is universal, producing approximately $35 billion in retail sales annually.3
OREO is one of the most storied brands in the snack industry—a century-old staple and multibillion-dollar market leader.4 As the world’s favorite cookie, with amazing staying power since it was introduced in 1912, OREO continues to win over new generations and inspire nostalgic sentiments in older ones.4 Last year, the best-selling cookie brand generated over $2 billion in revenues globally.4 With a Facebook community of more than 42 million people worldwide, OREO has surged as one Facebook’s top 10 brand pages.4
What drives the perennial popularity of OREOs? Quartz summed up their appeal nicely: “They taste good, they’re unique in design and people keep finding new things to do with them ... OREO churros are now available at some US sports stadiums, and anyone who’s seen the film The Parent Trap knows that topping an OREO with a spoonful of peanut butter is divine.”5
Does your product assortment feature tried-and-true favorites that tap into nostalgia while accommodating the want-it-all millennial mindset? Share your thoughts below, and let us know if you’re interested In making new memories with our business-boosting brands.