Nostalgia has never tasted so good (except in the good old days, of course). A world-rattling pandemic has increased our need to seek comfort in the familiar, with nostalgia shaping many aspects of our lives.
There are countless TV reboots either new on air or in the pipeline – Gossip Girl, Sex and the City and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to name a few. 2021 has also been a big year for sequels to decades-old films, like Space Jam, Top Gun and Coming to America. In 2022, we’ll even see Michael Keaton play Batman again.
The same thing is happening in live music. Nostalgic line-ups are set to rock 2022, like the Queens of Hip Hop Tour with Queen Latifah and Lil Kim, and LA’s Just Like Heaven festival, featuring bands that were big in the 00s.
While we’re used to reboots and come-backs in popular culture, what’s really surprising is seeing this trend in the food and drink industry. Aren’t consumers always chasing the next taste sensation?
It appears that after the shock of a worldwide pandemic, we’ve had our fill of new experiences. From chocolate bar comebacks to retro marketing campaigns, let’s take a look at how brands are catering to our increased appetite for nostalgia.
Sweet food is particularly associated with childhood memories, and there is a strong link between the pandemic and a craving for nostalgic treats. According to BBC Food, searches for trifle and bread and butter pudding recipes increased significantly over lockdown.
How are brands tapping into this craving for treats gone by? New flavours based on old favourites, such as the new Kit Kat Chunky Caramel Popcorn, Cadbury Caramilk and Malteser Orange Chocolate Buttons.
Going back to original recipes is another way of satisfying consumer sentimentality. In India this month, the biscuit brand Milk Bikis relaunched a special edition featuring its original recipe and packaging, which has evolved over its 45-year history. The brand decided to launch this nostalgic edition after seeing memes online, based on people’s fond memories of eating Milk Bikis as children.
Some brands have gone one step further, by bringing back discontinued chocolate bars and sweets. Ferrero’s Kinder Bueno Coconut, last seen on shelves in 2017, is back this year by popular demand and last month Mars revived the original Opal Fruits name, which was changed to Starburst in 1998. For Christmas 2021, Cadbury is bringing back its Cadbury Pud, which disappeared from stores in 2003. While all these products are limited edition, it shows that there is an appetite for childhood favourites.
Speaking of childhood favourites, Iceland has enlisted Timmy Mallet to promote its new range of ice lollies, inspired by retro Barrett sweets. The Youtube series sees the brightly dressed kids’ TV presenter taste lollies in a ‘wacky’ set that looks straight out of the 80s. While the idea received a lot of positive press and social media mentions, the actual videos have received no more than 200 views each, suggesting that Iceland have taken the nostalgia trend a little too literally.
More successful was last year’s revival of the Set the Juice Loose tagline for Maynards Wine Gums. Just like M&S Food’s This is Not Just Food line, brought back in 2019, Set the Juice Loose was so iconic first-time round that it is still associated with the product years later.
Crucially, both these marketing campaigns are familiar but with a contemporary twist. Set the Juice Loose has the same line but a completely different concept, while M&S Food’s advertising has a much more down to earth tone than the original ‘food porn’ ads.
Will consumers move on?
While our need for comfort and familiarity makes sense mid-pandemic, trend forecasters have predicted that health and sustainability will become key drivers in the near future.
However, as food is tied to emotion for so many people, we think the future is a combination of the two – familiar products and flavours that have been innovated to be healthier and better for the environment. A chocolate bar that tastes exactly the same as it did when you were a kid, is packed with health benefits and has a lower carbon footprint? We can’t wait.