The other morning, I overheard my son chiding his dad for not eating a “healthy breakfast.” He’s a bossy little 8-year-old (admittedly a trait he gets from his mother), but it made me smile to know we are instilling good eating habits in him. Then he turned around and packed Little Debbies into his lunchbox.
As it turns out, my kid’s a pretty typical American consumer. In fact, at the American Bakers Association (ABA)’s annual convention in Scottsdale, Ariz., Todd Hale, principal, Todd Hale, L.L.C., told attendees that he’s seeing growth in both the health-and-wellness and indulgence categories.
At the convention, Mr. Hale also hosted a panel that discussed such trends. And whether it’s seeking out indulgent items that create a healthy halo with better-for-you ingredients, or all-out indulgence regardless of the label, consumers today are closer than ever to achieving that difficult-to-grasp adage “have your cake and eat it, too.”
As an editor and self-proclaimed wordsmith, I think a more literally accurate phrase would look something more like “criticize your cake and eat it, too.” Sure, consumers are quick to jump on the Food Babe bandwagon … but can anyone forget the public uprising when Twinkies vacated the shelves? Honestly, protein and paleo have their merits. But I don’t know many people who can say a meat snack will adequately replace a chocolate chip cookie during a personal crisis. In fact, after one particularly bad day, my husband tried to comfort me with almonds. I replied, without hesitation, “Sweetie, I need to eat my feelings, and right now, my feelings taste more like chocolate.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love almonds. In fact, they’re my go-to snack. But it just wasn’t the time or place. Carrie Jones-Barber, chief executive officer of Jackson, Mich.-based Dawn Foods, said this consumer dichotomy is all situational.
“Our marketing organization has discovered that the consumer wants it all,” she told A.B.A. convention attendees. “They want health-and-wellness, and they want indulgence. It just depends on what time of day or what day of the week.”
Later, she told me that it’s like the yin and yang of eating habits. Think about how often you tell yourself, “I’m going to stick to ‘this’ so I can have ‘that’ later.”
As for me? I will continue to eat spinach, whole grains and lean protein; I’ll keep snacking on those wonderful almonds and extol the virtues of all these foods to my son. But at the moment, I’m writing this late at night, and I’m behind deadline … so I’ll try to take it easy on this last row of Oreos at my side. I’ll go for a run in the morning, eat a healthy breakfast with my kid and smile when he packs another treat in his lunchbox.