Keen to shake up the chocolate category? Macadamias could be the ingredient you’re looking for. That’s the message that has emerged from the findings of new consumer insights research exploring macadamias and the chocolate confectionery category.
Commissioned by the Australian Macadamia industry, the research examined the category in both Western and Asian markets, and looked at the role macadamias could play in ensuring chocolate remains relevant to consumers into the future.
Identifying four innovation opportunities for macadamias in the chocolate category, the research also unearthed how macadamias can play to chocolate consumption motivators, the extent to which macadamias are under-leveraged as an ingredient in chocolate products, and how they can resolve key tensions in the category.
Chocolate: the universal indulgence
Chocolate holds a cherished place in people’s lives, with a universal appeal that transcends geography, age and gender. With its rewarding taste experience, chocolate represents comforting reward and soothes the hardships of everyday life.
When it comes to why consumers purchase chocolate, four broad motivators were revealed, with macadamias well positioned to play a role in all of them.
Macadamias ripe to disrupt the category
Nuts and chocolate have an established relationship, with consumers globally familiar with chocolate products containing peanuts and hazelnuts in particular.
However the research found that while these are popular pairings, they have also become commonplace and routine, exposing an opportunity for disruption within the category.
The findings concluded that macadamias are the ideal disrupter, as they can build on the established nut and chocolate relationship but also inject extra excitement. There are four key benefits that only macadamias can bring to chocolate:
1. Accessible luxury: macadamias are widely regarded as a premium ingredient, with Australia considered to be a known and prestigious origin
2. A more indulgent experience:while many consumers use chocolate to indulge, when macadamias are added, it takes the experience to new heights and enhances the role that chocolate can play in their lives
3. Novelty and intrigue: consumers regularly remark on how special and novel they find macadamias, and the numbers explain why. Of the 13,246 chocolate products launched globally in the last year, 1,864 featured hazelnuts, 577 featured peanuts, while just 72 featured macadamia nuts1. Their relative rarity makes them a more exciting and less expected inclusion in chocolate.
4. Preferable flavour profile: many consumers find hazelnuts too bitter in chocolate, while the peanut-chocolate flavour pairing has become routine. The buttery smooth flavour of macadamias is well suited to chocolate and less expected.
The desire to eat well versus the temptation to indulge
One of the key tensions consumers wrestle with when considering a chocolate purchase is the desire to eat healthy, wholesome food because ‘health is wealth’, versus the temptation to throw caution to the wind and indulge, because “life is for living”. Consumers will typically manage this permissibility tension by opting for chocolate that is healthier, darker, smaller, lighter or more special – all spaces to which macadamias can add value.
This has created the demand for chocolate products that offer ‘permissible indulgence’. Macadamias meet this demand perfectly, as their health benefits add a level of permissibility, while their status as a sophisticated ingredient answers the need for indulgence, more so than any other nut.
While consumers want permissible indulgence, they don’t want it to involve compromise, so product innovation must deliver permissibility without detracting from the integral experience of chocolate.
Universality versus ubiquity
While chocolate is universally appealing and accessible, in Western markets it is becoming ubiquitous, with emerging perceptions that chocolate is “everywhere and on everything” threatening to dilute its specialness.
As a result, Western consumers are seeking out innovation via products that are more experimental, gourmet, selective or indulgent, all of which macadamias can deliver to. As a relatively infrequent addition to chocolate, macadamias are a compelling proposition to consumers as they seek out novelty and excitement in chocolate products.
Innovation opportunities for macadamias in chocolate
The study identified four key innovation hotspots for macadamias in the chocolate category.
#1: PERMISSIBLE INDULGENCE:
A healthier expression of chocolate focusing on quality and integrity, with additional ingredients that offer health benefits. Macadamias can add health associations via their protein and healthy fat content and cholesterol-reducing potential, alongside luxury cues that make them more special than other nuts in the eyes of consumers.
#2: NOVEL CREATIONS:
Fun flavour and texture combinations that add surprise and joy to everyday chocolate. Macadamias can add textural intrigue via their unique eat journey that complements chocolate so well, and a sense of the ‘extra-ordinary’ as a more novel and less expected ingredient.
#3: CREATED WITH INTEGRITY:
Chocolate that has an origin and craftsmanship story that speaks to consideration, attention and refinement. Macadamias can add natural and wholesome cues and a halo of integrity and high quality.
#4: REFINED SOPHISTICATION:
Premium chocolate that delights the adult palate through flavourful taste combinations. Macadamias are a sophisticated and luxury ingredient that lend themselves to gourmet flavour combinations. Their taste profile can bring sweetness to more bitter chocolate and also carry saltier, savoury flavours to balance out sweeter ingredients such as white chocolate.
Need more inspiration?
These findings are the latest in a collection of consumer insights research carried out of the last 2 years, exploring innovation opportunities for macadamias in the ice cream, bakery and snacking categories as well as our 2017 study of global food and beverage trends that provided a macro backdrop to the category-specific research.
In addition, the world-first Macadamia Innovation Challenge generated a host of unique and exciting concepts for new packaged food products containing macadamias, and they are now available for trial by food manufacturers and product developers globally.
The insights referred to in this story are from the research project Chocolate Confectionery Category and Macadamias: Western and Asian Consumer Insights conducted by independent research agency GALKAL, 2019.
1 Mintel Global New Products Database, products released in past 12 months globally