Over the past few years and months we've talked to a lot of consumers in focus groups, online studies, and one-on-one interviews. Regardless of whether studying a habit or particular food, I keep hearing a universal undercurrent among modern grocery shoppers: FOOD GUILT.
"Mom", still considered the primary grocery shopper, is stressing herself out over what she's feeding her family. She compares herself to what the reads/hears/sees-on-tv and comes out feeling badly about her grocery shopping and food preparation. We've repeatedly heard from these guilty moms, "I should do better." Whether they are constrained by budgets, availability of better quality food, picky eaters, or on-the-go behavior; they feel guilty about what they eat versus what they think they should be eating.
"My child doesn't like to eat vegetables? I should to find a good way to hide them in their food so they eat them anyway."
Mom is putting such high health expectations on herself as she feeds her family, that she feels guilty every time she makes a trade off for something fast or cheaper.
What's made the modern consumer feel guilty about their behavior? As I investigated the trend of Food Guilt, I discovered I'm not alone in noticing this quiet preoccupation. Trendwatching.com took this out of the food realm and recognizes this as a larger macrotrend called "Guilt-Free Consumption."
"Fueled by a pervasive awareness of the conflicts between their consumerist impulses and their aspirations to be 'good', experienced consumers are increasingly wracked with guilt. The result? A growing hunger for a new kind of consumption: one free from worry (or at least with less worry) about its negative impact, yet that allows continued indulgence."
Trendwatching has put together a rather fascinating brief about where the guilt is building from. They outline that there could be a great future for consumer brands that respond to the guilt trend with guardrails for future innovation.
Brands should take a step back and examine what kind of impact their consumer messaging strategies and products are having on nerve-wracked and "guilty" consumers. Can you absolve consumers of the food guilt by creating better/healthier products at a price point they can afford? Can you make "all family" foods that satisfy their nutritional desires while still providing great taste? Is there a sweet spot for brands to create products that are "Good for Me", "Good for Others" and "Good for the Planet"?