Honorata Jarocka
As a Senior Food & Drink Analyst, Honorata delivers actionable insight on food and drink trends and innovation, with a particular interest in health and wellness.

Managing stress and anxiety in these ongoing uncertain times is now more important than ever. Happiness and food are highly connected. Food affects the pleasure and reward centres of our brains by producing dopamine neurons that are primed for activation by any sign of food. In this article, our Senior Global Food and Drink Analyst Honorata Jarocka explains different strategies to innovate in this domain – and make consumers happy! 

Balance indulgence with moderation

Aiming to help consumers improve their mood and release stress and anxiety, snack bar brands should strongly embrace the concept of ‘permissible indulgence’. Many people turn to sweet treats when they feel anxious, and some studies show that sugar can act as a stress reliever by reducing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

However, moderation needs to be part of the conversation since marrying taste with health is a long-term focus for a significant proportion of consumers.

For example, three in five French consumers say snack bars contain too much sugar, while another eight in 10 consumers in Spain are mostly trying to choose healthy snacks.

Source: Mintel GNPD

Tasti Go On… Indulge Choc Caramel Choc Cereal Bar (New Zealand) is described as crackly rice pops and crunchy rolled oats, licked in a lavish layer of caramel and smothered in a creamy choc coat. This product provides less than 100 calories per bar, is a source of fibre and retails in a recyclable pack containing five units and bearing the Weight Watchers Reimagined Loves logo.

Offer personalisation and promote better sleep

Functional bars can grow their wellness appeal by providing targeted functional solutions. In Germany, for example, nearly a third of consumers would be interested in trying a snack bar that helps them relax. 

Source: Mintel GNPD

Bakalland Ba!lans Relax Cherry and Lime Bar (Poland) is said to blend the balance between sweet pleasure and a healthy snack. The product is a combination of crispy cereals, honey, high-quality nuts and dried fruits, and is described as a delicious bar with pieces of white chocolate, honey, lime flavour and freeze-dried cherry. It contains bioactive ingredients supporting relaxation, namely melatonin, lemon balm, vitamin B12, hemp seed extract, and does not contain palm oil, glucose-fructose syrup and hydrogenated fats.

Source: Unwind

Meanwhile, Unwind bars (Ireland) are said to be an ideal ‘evening snack’ infused with chamomile, l-theanine and Montmorency cherry to aid sleep before bedtime.

Embrace gut-friendly recipes and simplicity

Leveraging the connection between a healthy microbiome and mental wellness is another opportunity for brands aiming to connect with consumers who wish to manage their wellness in a holistic way.

Source: Mintel GNPD

Core Bar Peanut Butter Chocolate Organic Overnight Oat & Probiotics Bar contains 7g of fibre and protein, live probiotics and prebiotics for the balanced nutrition the body needs. The USDA organic, vegan and kosher certified product is said to be good for one week on the go, is free from GMO, gluten and added sugar. It features the fibre, added sugar and protein content prominently on the pack. 

Many consumers are also struggling with food anxiety due to the overwhelming amount of both nutritional information and food choices. Providing essential information on-pack is therefore crucial. 

The opportunity

With psychological wellness and holistic health taking the front seat, consumers are looking for permissible indulgence to treat themselves. Brands can explore this route by innovating with ingredients promising stress relief and gut health. Highlighting clear nutritional and environmental benefits is also needed to connect with consumers who are anxious about their own health and the health of the planet.