What Makes a Product Craveable These Days?


“Craveability” is a hot topic in the food biz, but what does it even mean? We explore the historical meaning and modern definition, then provide a couple creative angles on how to achieve this much sought after characteristic.


Definition of Traditional Craveability

The old Definition

Craveable: A product with qualities that engender an intense desire for more.


the old Approach

Food manufacturers used to be able to succeed in achieving crave-worthy food and drink products by dosing formulations with large amounts of salt, sugar, and fat. Food brands accomplished slam-dunks of repeated purchase by taking advantage of basic nourishment needs of electrolytes, glucose, and fat.


As time went on…

As the field of taste physiology and food chemistry advanced, food manufacturers began to understand more about the psychological and sensory factors that impact an “intense desire for more”. Some of the approaches food scientists took:

  • Umami taste boost: The intensely savory/meaty 5th taste was discovered by Japanese scientists in 2006. “Simply put, it just makes the food taste more delicious.” MSG Resource

  • Rapid Flavor Loss technique: How do you get a person to want more? Give them an intensity of desired flavors, then pull it away immediately. You better believe they’ll reach their hand in the bag for more. The topical seasoning on a chip is an ideal substrate to apply this technique.

  • Enhancement of “crunchy” texture: A loud crunch is accompanied by a sound that triggers the auditory senses. Many consumers identify the multitude of senses as deeply satisfying.


Definition of Modern Craveability

Consumers have become increasingly more savvy as access to abundant information has expanded. Craveability cannot be tricked anymore, it must be earned by consumers. The element of choice is a critical psychological factor in the modern purchase process. Consumers want to be able to conduct independent research.

Whether it’s a quick Google search, a thumb flick through the brand’s Instagram page, or an ingredient search on Go Clean Label, consumers want to determine if the product is fit for them to purchase on their own and do not want food manufacturers to tell them what they should purchase.

As the market continues to rapidly evolve and consumer purchase power continues to increase, so does the definition of “craveable”. Now more than ever, the product characteristics that achieve crave-worthy signals revolve around consumers like a solar-system.


Modern Definition

Craveable: A relevant, adaptable, share-worthy, lifestyle-centric product aligned with values, situational needs, and expectations that consumers choose to keep coming back for more.

  • Relevant: Having staying power with contemporary interest.

  • Adaptable: As consumer needs quickly evolve, so does your product.

  • Share-worthy: Consumers must have motivation to digitally share their experience.

  • Lifestyle-centric: Must be seamlessly adoptable into day-to-day ritual and behaviors.

  • Values: Business mission and ethics must resonate with trust.

  • Situational Needs: Product design must be based on experiential-discovery to define and address contextual user needs.

  • Expectations: Consumers demand their expectations to be met and their voices to be heard.


How to Achieve Craveability Nowadays

More Consumer touch points

Since the characteristics that signal craveable are directly linked to consumer needs and expectations, a sustainable approach to achieving crave-worthy products is to embed more consumer touch points in the product development process. This means food manufacturers should begin to look at consumers as more than just final purchasers, but co-creators.


Make Small Bets: Build, Test, Learn

Is this hibiscus flavor too floral? Should the chip be crispy or crunchy? Semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate? Glass jar or recycled plastic? How much should a single serve unit cost? Am I using the right product description on my e-commerce page?


Waiting until beta-testing or launch-time to test a product can be catastrophic to its lifecycle. Reformulating minimally-viable products (MVP) foodstuffs after receiving real-time consumer feedback from the market can be extremely costly (not a feasible option for lean innovation initiatives or startups). Placing small bets along the product development process and refining as you go is the much more efficient, strategic approach to getting products optimized with crave-worthy attributes before bring the product to market.


What does it all mean?

When you boil it down, a craveable product has earned fans that adopt the product into ritual. It goes to show that crave-worthy product characteristics are determined by consumers, with consumers — making the consumer an indivisible part of the journey to modern craveability. So the next time you aim to build a craveable product, you just might consider looking to consumers before digging into the ingredient toolbox.


Consumer Engagement Services


Prototyping Service

Theresa Cantafio