The Age of Ozempic

The Lempert Report
January 24, 2024

On the Bullseye, Kim Severson, one of my favorite writers at the New York Times, has another notable column that is a must read for all of us in the food world. “In the Ozempic Age, Has Cravable lost its Selling Power?”. Since Ozempic has come on the scene, many including us, have written and talked about the implications - good and bad. But Severson’s column adds a new dimension. Cravable for food brands has long stood as a beacon for food developers to produce products with qualities that engender a desire, sometimes an intense desire, for “more” - All too often those properties are sugar, salt, and fat. And all too often they can become addictive and found front and center in ultra-processed foods. But there is more to being cravable than just those 3 properties that seem to come under attack. Creating cravable foods is an art that involves a delicate balance of flavor, texture, aroma, and visual appeal, along with a nod to both novelty and tradition, and a touch of emotional connection. Let’s remember that food is not just sustenance; it's comfort, celebration, and tradition. Effective food brands should aim to create an emotional connection through their food offerings. The crux of craveability lies in the perfect balance of flavors. Sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami – each of these taste profiles play a vital role. Texture is often a second thought to flavor, but it's a critical component of food that's craved. The contrast between crunchy and creamy, or the satisfying bite of a high quality piece of dark chocolate, can elevate a food from good to crave-worthy. And then there is the aroma,  we’ve all walked into a bakery and sensed the desire for a piece of that crusty bread, or walking through the produce department where the aroma of fresh citrus puts us in a better mood. Severson begins her column with the memorable advertising from Frito Lay’s award winning and powerful TV ad where actor Bert Lahr held up a potato chip and challenged us by saying “betcha can’t eat just one”.  She goes on to cite other examples of cravable foods and how brands advertise them to lure consumers towards craving them - but the major focus of her column is posing the question to food marketers on how they will have to respond with new receipts as drugs like ozempic and wegovy change the way people consume foods. These drugs eliminate food cravings - creating a major challenge for food brands.  Our friend Marion Nestle told Severson that these drugs are “an existential threat to the food industry and certainly an existential threat to the processed food industry”.  Other experts aren’t as convinced as Nestle that these drugs are game changing. I tend to agree with Marion and do believe that the food world is at a turning point - not just because of these drugs but also because consumers are fed up with long lists of ingredients, preservatives and artificial anythings in our foods. Yes, we are seeing more food brands investing in more celebrities and influencers than ever before on TV and on social media. And yes during the pandemic we saw all generations gravitate to comfort and highly processed foods to make us feel good. But the pandemic is over, and we are finally seeing increased awareness and interest in the foods we eat. As food inflation reached new heights our shoppers paid more attention. We don’t have to - or want to - lose cravability - as an industry we just have to work a bit harder to make better for you foods, non ultra processed foods, more natural foods as cravable as Bert Lahr’s challenge. 

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