Four Trends in Indulgence

February 22, 2016
Beverage Flavor Ingredients Snacks Trends
“Indulgence is one of the most vital parts of our existence; it tempers the soul and widens the eyes.” –Hartford Courant


Our research shows consumers' eyes are wide open for indulgences, indeed, but we also see that many people are looking for ways to enjoy these pleasures while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This can mean swapping out certain ingredients for healthier stand-ins or going all-in on the occasional indulgence but balancing it with routine trips to the gym. We also found that premium and drinkable indulgences have consumers' attention. Let's take a closer look at these four indulgence trends!

1. Guiltless Ingredients

Adding better-for-you ingredients to indulgent foods gives the green light to foods that perhaps would be off-limits (or guilt-inducing) otherwise. At home, think cauliflower crust pizza, zucchini noodle spaghetti, sweet potato brownies and two-ingredient banana & egg pancakes. In stores, we see products like organic confections, whole grain cookies and protein ice cream.


Healthier cookies are predicted to see the strongest growth through 2020 powered by young families wanting treats for the kids that slant healthier than standard cookies. Not even the annual ritual indulgence of Girl Scout cookies has escaped the guilt, with parents and doctors more often calling for healthier changes to the ingredients and sugar levels of the products.


Innova states guilt-free indulgence is observed more and more with use of sugar free claims, particularly within the chewing gum market. In fact, 79% of European gum launches having a sugar free claim in 2015.


Consumers perceive organic foods to be healthier and are turning to organic confections for a more permissible indulgence: launches have more than doubled in the last five years, and 6% of global confections launches currently carry the organic claim.

  • Halo Top is low-calorie, high-protein, low-sugar ice cream made using milk, cream, eggs, prebiotic fiber, milk protein concentrate and organic cane sugar. “Save the bowl says their website – you'll eat the whole pint and be guilt-free at only 240 calories. It is available in seven flavors: Lemon Cake, Birthday Cake, Vanilla Bean, Chocolate, Strawberry, Mint Chip, Chocolate Mocha Chip."

FInd out why less is more when it comes to indulgence. Click here for the full report! 

2. Healthy-ish

It's true that consumers have a desire for health & wellness products and will pay more for healthy foods. It's estimated this focus will generate $1 trillion in sales of healthy foods by 2017. But, it's also true that people want to indulge. For many, it's all about balance and moderation: protein smoothie to start the workday and  a Saturday night pepperoni pizza.

Bon Appetit editor Adam Rapoport wrote in his February letter that he and the staff at the magazine were “aiming for an achievable balance” in how they enjoyed food and drink and called it eating "healthy-ish."

“We indulge when the situation arises (that reservation we’ve been gunning for; Shake Shack Fridays in the art department). And we try to eat smart other times.”  In the same issue, the magazine presented 35 Super Bowl recipes positioned for both balance and guiltless indulgence with the introduction, “These aren't rabbit food – but they aren't gut bombs, either.”

Another take on this balanced approach to indulgence was seen in the Orange County Register's January article about the recent PBS documentary “In Defense of Food” which discusses a “what-to-eat lifestyle that sounds doable for the long haul” focused on “luscious unprocessed foods, with the occasional rule-breaker indulgence.”

3. Premium

The indulgent motto for many appears to be, “If you're going to do it, do it well.” Global premium claims have risen steadily with a 47% increase since 2012. Looking at Desserts & Ice Cream and Chocolate Confections, we see an increase of 51%. In North America, Premium ice cream brands Magnum and Ben & Jerry's have “strong indulgence-led positioning” and continue to see strong sales growth despite the ice cream market as a whole continuing to sag.


  • Lula's Chocolates Dark Aloha Rocky Road is handmade in California with artisan marshmallows, house-roasted macadamia nuts from Hawaii and premium dark chocolate.

  • Coolhaus Chocolate Hazelnut Aalto-mond Ice Cream Bars are described as a architecturally-inspired gourmet dessert featuring chocolate hazelnut ice cream dipped in salted milk chocolate and almonds.

4. Drink Your Indulgence

Alcohol + Chocolate

There's never a shortage of chocolate alcoholic drinks. Hop on Pinterest and scroll all afternoon through images of Chocolate Mint Russian Caketinis, Oreo Crumble Mudslide Cocktails and Chocolate Salted Caramel Vodka Espressos in toasted marshmallow shot glasses. But Deb Lindsey of The Washington Post recently introduced readers to three indulgent chocolate cocktails with different flavor profiles all together:

  • Pleasure Dome: rum, creme de cacao, Carpano Antica vermouth, Coca-Cola syrup and smoked paprika

  • Cocoa Smoke: chocolate, the grassy smoke of mezcal and ancho chili pepper liqueur

  • Chocantonic: chocolate and gin and Earl Grey tea with citrusy bergamot notes and a splash of orange juice

Cheers to Health & Wellness

Mintel's research on alcoholic beverages published May 2015 reported, “While the consumption of alcoholic beverages may not be driven by a pursuit of healthy living, products that lower the guilt of indulgence should be considered.” Here are three UK beverages following this advice, as rounded up by Brand Genetics:

  • Lovo: A coconut water based vodka drink with only 128 calories, no refined sugar, artificial colors or flavors and a health halo from coconut water.

  • LoCa Bev: Positioned as a science-driven beverage full of flavor, but not calories (the “slimmest serving in town”) with only 46 calories per serving.

  • Saint: A full strength lager with no sugar and just 99 calories per bottle.


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UK consumers are making purchases to prepare indulgences at home, such as replicating coffeehouse drinks. In North America, premium hot beverages rose nearly 40%  since 2012 with decadent flavors such as Red Velvet, Vanilla & Rum, Coconut & Caramel,  Gingerbread, Maple, Chocolate Truffle, Tiramisu and Salted Caramel all making appearances.


  • Indulgio White Chocolate Caramel Cappuccino Brew Cups

  • Kauai Coffee Vanilla Macadamia Nut Coffee

  • Chock Full O' Nuts Premium Selections The Heavenly Salted Caramel Coffee Medium Roast K-Cups

Sources: Mintel, Trendfire,,,,, Bon Appetit, Forbes,,,,


Let FONA’s market insight and research experts translate these trends into product category ideas for your brand. They can help you with concept and flavor pipeline development, ideation, consumer studies and white space analysis to pinpoint opportunities in the market. Our flavor and product development experts are also at your service to help meet the labeling and flavor profile needs for your products to capitalize on these consumer trends. We understand how to mesh the complexities of flavor with your brand development, technical requirements and regulatory needs to deliver a complete taste solution.

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