Permissible Pleasure

Established food brands, set in their ways, are having suffering sales difficulties. Food is an area where paradoxical turbulence is having extraordinary impact. We want healthful food and indulgent food; we want diet and delight. This is a massive opportunity for a permissible pleasure.

According to, “We want to eat healthier but are also drawn to indulgence.” Check the frozen desserts category. Upstart brands offer fewer calories that are also indulgent. These paradoxical brands are wiping out the profits of the familiar, established, freezer case standards. When Ben & Jerry’s, the stalwart, do-good, creator of Cherry Garcia and other Baby Boomer classics is being “creamed” by Halo Top and Yasso, you know the world has changed.

According to The Wall Street Journal, January is the season for eating salads. We want to stick to our New Year’s weight loss/healthy eating resolutions. On the other hand, as “greens” restaurants (Chopt, fresh&co, Sweetgreen, Just Salad) sprout all over our cities, places that sell indulgent cupcakes and other desserts (Magnolia Bakery) are holding their own. However, The Wall Street Journal found a customer who admitted that Magnolia Bakery’s Key Lime Pie could fit into a week’s eating by having it as a lunch meal. Dairy Foods magazine, a magazine asked, “How does a dairy processor address the public’s enlightened attitude about nutrition while still appealing to its inclination toward indulgence?”

In addressing the paradox promise of a permissible pleasure the absence of “bad ingredients” is often more motivating than the inclusion of “good for you” ingredients. Absence of “bad ingredients” is what many of the new frozen dairy dessert brands are pursuing. Dairy Foods calls it “the premium paradox” of frozen desserts, when someone might select the high fat, high sugar, and high caloric option rather than the low calorie, no sugar, and low fat option, which has an ingredient list of “bad” unpronounceable additives. Take the bad out. Remove the bad ingredients. I will eat the delicious, high fat, high sugar and high calorie dessert as long as it is all natural.

Leverage the paradoxical desires for luscious and lite. Consumers want food brands to optimize both indulgence and wellness. Consumers want the joy of indulgence while being allowable. This is happening right now: Halo Top offers delicious, low calorie ice cream. In 2017, its sales were US $300 million. Halo Top’s promises a healthy ice cream that tastes like ice cream. Because of its low calorie count and delicious flavors – a serving has between 70 and 90 calories – Halo Top took away “the shame spiral” of eating an entire pint in one sitting. A whole pint of Halo Top is between 240 calories to 360 calories. Halo Top offers some non-dairy, vegan flavors made with coconut milk.

Lasso, which makes frozen Greek yogurt bars is now in the low calorie frozen Greek yogurt pints business with selections such as Caramel Pretzel Mania, Rolling in the Dough, Coffee Brownie Break, and Party Animal: all have anywhere from 100 to 150 calories per single serving. A serving of Ben & Jerry’s starts at 270 calories.
Brands such as Dreyer’s, Edy’s, Breyer’s and Ben & Jerry’s, are struggling. Activist investors are urging the big brands to be more digital. These activist investors are pushing these brands to reallocate financial resources. These activists miss the point. The struggles social media communications, and technology. The social is not financial engineering. The problems stem from not recognizing and successfully addressing changing customer desires.

Paradox promise opportunities are growth opportunities. Optimizing the contradictory sides of the paradox into a relevant, differentiated, trustworthy solution is more than just an opportunity for food brands: it is an imperative.