Hygge: Comfy-Cozy and the Opportunities in Food & Beverage

February 15, 2018
Trends Savory Health

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Coziness, contentment – who wouldn’t want that? Derived from a Danish term for well-being, hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a popular lifestyle movement rooted in the idea of staying in, relaxing and enjoying simple pleasures. That of course means dining in as well. This concept has spread beyond Scandinavia, particularly taking off in the U.S. and UK. Let’s take a look at the key trends and the best ways for food and beverage companies to help consumers hygge.

A Little About Hygge

It was a finalist for Oxford’s word of the year and the topic of several best-selling books. So what is hygge? The closest English word to hygge is “cozy,” chef and food writer Trine Hahnemann told Idaho Public Radio. “But it can also be in the summer, at 10 o’clock, with a drink somewhere,” she said. “It’s celebrations, but also a day-to-day thing. Morning coffee is hyggelig. Understanding all the little special moments during the day, where you have a pause, where you relax a little.”

Comfort foods and good company are key to hygge. According to Boise State Public Radio, “more often than not, it’s just about foods that evoke calm and comfort — cheesy toasts, porridges and pancakes, sticky cakes, and a glazed turnip soup that can gently burble on the stove for a few hours as friends drop by.”

If Hygge was a taste, would it be kokumi?

In order to make food and drink products more hyggelig, or pleasant, products could use kokumi- enhancing ingredients. Kokumi is often described as the taste from slow-cooked foods or rich, flavorful gravies. While umami delivers a pleasant, savory taste profile, kokumi imparts a separate basic taste described as providing continuity, mouthfulness and thick flavor. Kokumi can work synergistically with umami, boosting umami flavors as well as improving other attributes, such as mouthfeel. -Mintel

Embracing Imperfection

According to the experts, living out hygge is also about embracing imperfection. Imperfection in your home or in your cooking ability. Gourmet food, fancy clothes and formal arrangements are out — comfort food and cozy fires are in.

“Invite people over, don’t worry about cleaning your house,” says Tasting Hygge author Leela Cyd. “Don’t worry if you don’t have a table! Eat at a coffee table — the more casual and intimate the better.”

What does this mean for you?

Toss the fussy canapes — instead, simmer the soup… Low-key, comfy things just sound good. -Boise State Public Radio

Help your consumers embrace the imperfection in their own lives. Providing convenient, comfort-food options to eat at home is one opportunity. (It’s ok you don’t have time to cook a five-course meal.) But even marketing initiatives that speak to hygge can grab attention for your brand and products. Help consumers feel better about taking in the little moments of joy in their lives. Show them — it’s ok that they’re not perfect. (After all, no one is.)

Hygge: Health, Wellness & Indulgence

Consumers are increasingly leaning towards habitual better-for-you and flavorful treats that are indispensable elements of physically and emotionally balanced lifestyles. -Boise State Public Radio

Seemingly a bit of a contradiction, hygge has elements of both indulgence and a wellness focus. In essence, it’s all about balance. The idea is that embracing the moments of hygge in life can lead to a happier (and therefore healthier) life. Several recent articles call out the indulgent-yet-healthful balance:

According to USAToday, hygge includes a focus on the quality of life, and Parade calls hygge one of the hottest trends in health. According to the New Yorker, Danish doctors recommend “tea and hygge” as a cure for the common cold. Prevention magazine says ,“hygge is more than a response to stress…it’s to nourish the things that bind us together. And if it comes with a homemade cinnamon bun, all the better.”

What does this mean for you?

Find the balance in your products. There is still room for comfort foods and convenient indulgence in a wellness-focused lifestyle. Consider too that hygge is about wellness of the mind and spirit and finding moments of joy, but what that means exactly can vary from consumer to consumer. One thing that doesn't vary by consumer, especially those interested in hygge: taste. Prioritize the taste experience for your consumer.

Take note: Research shows that as consumers embrace health and wellness at levels never seen before, they are not opposed to indulgent foods on occasion. According to a January 2018 report from Mintel, "consumers are increasingly open to finding a balance between healthy eating and indulgent treats."

Products of Note

“Brands and retailers that help foster an atmosphere of hygge for consumers, especially at a time when some Americans feel uncertain about the future, could stand to gain.” -Mintel

• MATILDE CLASSIC CHOCOLATE MILK is said to be part of the Danish ‘hygge’ culture, which means sharing time with family, friends or just enjoying time alone. The cold and fresh drink can be enjoyed when studying or drunk warm when sitting on the sofa with a hot water bottle, and now it can also be enjoyed on the go. Denmark

• FATDANE GINGER WITH LIME & CHILLI SPARKLING DRINK is described as a premium, organic, unfiltered, pasteurized product made in Denmark, and it contains no artificial preservatives or colours. The product description says that the FatDane brand is all about fun, or ‘hygge’, the Danish way of embracing and sharing the good things in life. Denmark

• INA PAARMAN’S KITCHEN READY TO SERVE ROAST ONION GRAVY has been repackaged with an updated design. This hearty, nourishing vegetarian gravy is made with caramelised onions and roasted mushrooms, and is said to embody the essence of comfort food. The halal and kosher certified product is microwavable and suitable for vegans. South Africa

The Takeaways

How can you capitalize on hygge in your products? The key word is balance. After all, part of the appeal of hygge is that you can envision little moments of peace in what are otherwise hectic times. Work towards that balance (and help them do so as well) in the life of your target consumer. Perhaps it’s a convenient comfort food product that frees up time to relax. Keep in mind also that consumers are attracted to hygge because it gives them permission to be imperfect – can you speak to that in your marketing and brand initiatives? Whatever way you choose to hygge, take note that taste is essential. No matter your category or application, if your product doesn’t provide an enjoyable, flavorful taste experience – it’s just not hygge.

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