Along with this is the 100-calorie portion size, the latest "trend" in the ever evolving world of health trends. It is noteworthy that this is a return of the diet of 1923 when consumers were told to eat foods in 100 calorie portions.
In Mini Delights, Quaker has managed to bundle convenience with craveable snacking under the aura of healthiness.
Quaker Mini Delights are available in six-pack boxes of 90 calorie portion packs at $2.99. At the time of this writing, three flavors are available: buttered popcorn, cinnamon streusel (think of a famous cinnamon bun!) and chocolatey drizzle. For our consumer panel, we chose chocolatey drizzle.
Along with the snacks, the box has a photo of a big chunk of chocolate. The snacks are in a 0.7 oz (20g) foil bag with the same imagery replicated on the bag. While this is a snack that may be targeted against cookies and other craveable foods, it is shelved with the rice cakes, so this "cookie alternative" can be difficult to find.
Texture is key to a snack experience; textural complexity is critical to the cookie experience. The texture of Mini Delights is crunchy and crisp while the chocolate drizzle is smooth and soft. After chewing, the snack melts in your mouth to form the same flavor and texture of fudgey shortbread cookies.
The grain base (wheat, corn and rice) forms the familiar balling in the mouth as when you chew a cookie or cinnamon bun. This is unlike snacks that shatter when eaten (potato chips) and must be washed down with a beverage. So this product has a signal that is more like a cookie or a cinnamon bun. The chocolate taste is strong and lingering and supports the perception of cookie in your mouth.
The mini cakes are small and round with a slight dusting that adheres to the fingers (just like a shortbread cookie). Most people had no problem popping the snacks in their mouths and eating them. The product shape supports eating directly out of the package.
The bag fits into your purse, backpack or pocket and so can be taken with you on the go. Due to the flavor, both women and men enjoyed the eating experience.
Mini Delights come in under the 100 calorie paradigm of healthiness. At only 90 calories, one shouldn't be shocked that 30 percent of the calories are from fat (3.5g). Add just 85mg of sodium, and these snacks seem fairly healthy. The one drawback was the scant 1g of fiber, a surprise since it is made from whole grains.
Does the product deliver?
This is a craveable snack. The crisp texture satisfies crunching needs, the contrast against the chocolate drizzle fulfills the softer texture cravings. The flavor can banish the need for a cookie. This is an analog that really works while still maintaining its healthfulness.
The Quaker rice cakes brand is positioned toward women trying to mange their weight. But this product will be enjoyed by consumers who do not eat rice cakes and are looking for a good snack. It was surprising to see the number of men and teens who liked this product. The challenge is to attract teens and men who may like the product but would not consider buying it based on the brand positioning.
How to make the idea bigger: This is a great product; a snack that has a healthy halo and tastes great. Creating more flavor/ texture analogs of other craveable experiences might be an option. Understanding how the product breaks down in the mouth to deliver the experience the analog is replicating is critical.
Another suggestion is to increase the amount of fiber in the product so it can stand with more health benefits than just low calories.
Rating: This product is very good. It leverages a flavor that is common to higher-calorie items; it has a complex texture which causes one to "look again"; and it has a familiar brand, which carries strong health associations yet allows for the replication of a craveable product.
Market potential: Good. The product will connect with the targeted user group and is broad enough to reach other potential user groups to make this line extension do well -- as long as consumers can find it in the store. This is an example of creating an experience through the linking of certain tastes and textures associated with other categories of products.
Hollis Ashman is chief strategist and Jacqueline Beckley is president of the Understanding and Insight Group, a strategy, business and product development firm that connects with consumers using qualitative and quantitative approaches. For more information, see www.theuandigroup.com.