If you want to know the way to a man's heart, give him food; if you want to know the way to a woman's heart, give her chocolate. But now, thanks to new players in the market, this concept has stepped up a gear - and eating chocolate can have the simultaneous benefit of enhancing beauty. Sounds too good to be true? Probably, but manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic are profiting from this type of new product development.
A chocolate bar from Mars, Dove Beautiful, contains ingredients that claim to nourish the skin, including vitamins C and E, biotin and zinc. "It also contains the natural goodness of cocoa flavanols to help hydrate from within to support beautiful looking skin," says David Jago, trends and innovations director, Mintel GNPD. It is currently priced at $2.09 in the USA.
And if you think that's all a bit crackers, Barilla Wasa in the Netherlands has extended its Crisp'n Light range to include a 'beauty' cracker, containing fibres and vitamin B that have a beneficial effect on skin, hair and nails. "This is clever marketing at its best," says Jago. "In terms of NPD there is no real evidence yet of a fall in the number of introductions as a result of the credit crunch. But companies will have to keep launching something new to attract and maintain consumer interest in a competitive marketplace."
He says that going forward the main focus will be value for money, so manufacturers of more premium-end products will need to play up the benefits of their products over other cheaper alternatives.
"People will now, more than ever, want to really feel they're getting more in terms of flavours or health benefits if they're going to be persuaded to continue paying a premium for food and drink," Jago asserts.
A good example of this, he says, is Unilever US's Slim Fast Protein Snack Chews, a slimming product containing only 100 calories per snack pack and 6 grams of protein per serving. It claims to help control hunger and maintain metabolism with B vitamins. This in itself is not a unique branding opportunity, as slimming products have been on the market for a long time, but Unilever stresses that the product comes with the added benefit of containing 20% of daily calcium and 15 vitamins and minerals.
Enter the recessionista
So consumers are starting to do their homework and are demanding more from manufacturers. This supports findings from grocery think-tank IGD's report Adapting to Change, which found that a quarter of shoppers are spending more time shopping and 27% said they had started to shop around.
And there is now a new word to describe savvy women that are demanding the extra mile from their shopping treats. A 'recessionista', according to the national press, is a woman who refuses to let the credit crunch put a dampener on her shopping spirit, and instead of spending less is spending money more carefully.
Although 71% of women said that they are worried about the credit crunch affecting their lifestyle, 83% said they would still shop for beauty products, clothes and accessories at least once a week, up 2% from six months ago, according to a survey by Grazia magazine.
So despite the current economic climate and the pervading sense of doom and gloom, shoppers are still shopping and manufacturers are still launching innovative products into the market. And it would appear that drinks are storming the beauty sector.
In the US, 'Beauty Drink' was launched by Nestlé in September, under the brand Glowelle.
"The drink claims to help protect the skin against damage caused by environmental factors such as pollution and sun exposure, said to create free radicals that cause fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin tone. It apparently nourishes the skin from within," says Jago.
The drink is formulated with a proprietary blend of antioxidant vitamins (A, C and E), real tea, phyto-nutrients, botanical and fruit extracts, said to work better together. It is available in juice and powder packet forms. Flavours include Natural Raspberry Jasmine and Natural Pomegranate Lychee, and it is exclusively available at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman stores.
In Italy, an 'anti-ageing drink' has been launched by Santal i 5 Colori della Salute by Parmalat. It is a fruit juice based drink with polyphenols, lycopene and vitamin C, for natural help against free radicals and with anti-ageing properties.
"As well as the physiological, most consumers will have a psychological experience when eating food," says Louise Dye, reader in human appetite research at the Institute of Psychological Sciences at the University of Leeds.
"Consumers will usually have an emotional investment in their food, which determines what they buy and when they buy it."
Dye says that this is certainly true of beauty foods, but at the same time it is also true of the opposite end of the spectrum. One pie manufacturer, after reformulating its recipes, highlighted on the label that it had reduced its fat and salt content. The sales on the product fell in an instant because the type of people buying the product associated these ingredients with taste.
"Our brains have a lot to do with what we buy, and marketing messages play a very critical role at the centre of this," adds Dye.
Get yourself noticed
So what's the best way to convey marketing messages to the consumer, thereby ensuring that, despite the credit crunch, products don't get left on the shelf? Healthy Marketing Team, a company which helps food brands with advertising campaigns, says that manufacturers have just six seconds to persuade a consumer to choose their product over a competitor's.
According to Neal Cavalier-Smith, md and brand strategist at Healthy Marketing Team, when marketing beauty and functional foods there are four questions that go through the mind of a consumer, which manufacturers should address when marketing a product. Who is the product for? Is the benefit understood? Is the benefit acceptable? Is the brand trustworthy?
"If a manufacturer can communicate these essential points in a clear and concise way, then they are much more likely to a attract the consumer within the six-second rule," says Cavalier-Smith.
"Now, more than ever, it's a battleground, as manufacturers compete for consumers' attention. They are preoccupied with rising prices, the credit crunch, overwhelming choice and increasingly confusing health claims."
In the current climate, and like many in the industry, Cavalier-Smith believes that it's not advisable for manufacturers to reduce their brands to a discounted range.
"It will be much better for them in the long run if they accentuate the positives. After all, economising is not the same as down-trading, and shoppers are searching for a distraction in the midst of financial gloom." FM