Nostalgia and Whimsy

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You know that guy in legal who’s 40 years old and still brings a PB&J to lunch every day? No, he’s not crazy, he just remembers what it’s like to be young and brown-bagging it at school. And the food and beverage industry has recently been doing the same. A resurgence of nostalgic child-like flavors has been seen in dozens of new products over the last few months, showing retro flavors that remind consumers of their youth. Common to this trend are flavor profiles like root beer float, snickerdoodle, orange dreamsicle, and yes, even PB&J (Pop-Tarts came out with a PB&J Strawberry product in late 2014).

National brands capitalizing on this trend include OREO’s Candy Corn crème and Chips Ahoy’s Root Beer Float flavored cookies, Flipz’s Birthday Cake Covered Pretzels and Ben & Jerry’s Cotton Candy flavored iced cream. The trend has been gaining ground in food service applications as well, with Dairy Queen’s Cotton Candy Blizzard, Applebee’s Churro S’mores dessert, and the Birthday Cake flavored 5-day limited edition frappuccino at Starbucks. Even store brands are in on the trend with throwback flavored sodas and energy drinks lining the shelves.

At its core, this flavor trend is about consumers’ need for comfort in an ever-changing world. This whole growing-up and growing-old thing makes millennials and baby boomers nervous, and in the midst of that uncertainty they reach for what they know: a big old snickerdoodle cookie and an orange Creamsicle from the Good Humor truck on the corner. So what do brands like Dunkin’ Donuts do when they notice this consumer attitude? They come out with the Sugar Cookie Latte. Or in Hammond’s Candies’ case, the Grasshopper Pie and Malted Milkshake chocolate bars. Each is delicious, and each gives consumers that glass-of-warm-milk-before-dad-reads-you-a-bedtime-story feeling. Young or old, everyone loves a good PB&J.

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