Newstalgia combines a longing for familiar foods with a desire for novelty

23 Oct 2023

Hype & Trend Signal
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In the whirlwind of our fast-paced lives, consumers are tugged by conflicting needs and desires. On the one hand, they crave novelty, the excitement of the unknown and the thrill of discovery. On the other, people yearn for the comforting embrace of familiar flavors, the warmth of cherished childhood treats, and nostalgic foods that transport them back in time. 

Discover "Newstalgia" in the bakery and patisserie industry: a culinary phenomenon that melds the desire for the cutting-edge with a yearning for the comforting and the classic. Where the old and new fuse and tradition and innovation meet. 

What exactly is "newstalgia"?

Newstalgia can be seen as a fresh take on nostalgia. It’s a sentiment that combines a longing for the familiar with a desire for novelty. It involves reinvigorating old elements, blending enduring trends or concepts with a contemporary twist to offer something entirely new. Unlike traditional forms of nostalgia that romanticize historical moments, the aim here isn't to idealize or pay homage to the past. Instead, it's about harnessing the past's essence to craft something innovative and relevant for today. 

As our worldwide Taste Tomorrow survey among 20.000 consumers in 50 countries pointed out, 73% of global consumers likes to have a familiar element when trying new types of food. In 2021, that was just 67%. 

Smells like teen spirit

Food lends itself particularly good for the application of nostalgia, because smell is the sense that is most conducive to nostalgic feelings. There is a strong link between odor and emotions, because the nose is directly connected to the limbic system of the brain which houses emotions. Research found that the smell of baked goods is the greatest olfactory stimulus of nostalgia. Other cooking scents such as pasta, bacon and meatballs came in second.

Return of childhood snacks

The foodservice and food retail industry is all over this Newstalgia trend. Think of Campbell’s Spaghetti-O’s pasta in retro cans or the entire nostalgia-themed campaign by Pizza Hut. Consumers could relive their childhood experience of playing arcade games in the pizza restaurant through an augmented reality retro Pac-Man game that was featured on pizza boxes. 

Patisserie & quality

In the bakery and patisserie industry, there was a relaunch of Dunkaroos. This children's snack, featuring a to-go packaging with cookies and a separate glaze to dip them in, was first released in 1990 by Betty Crocker. Now, the snack is back. This time with nostalgic millennials as its target audience. The vintage packaging, retro 90s website and social media channels packed with memes are all made to induce the nostalgic feelings of the people who used to eat this snack during their school breaks. The innovation comes from new flavors – yogurt and chocolate chip – and product spin-offs such as cookie dough, cereal, pancake mix, and a separate frosting pack. Those snacks combine childhood comfort foods with the craving for innovation.

According to research by Symrise, 76% of people aged 22 to 55 love things that remind them of their past. And 70% of people over the age of 65 feel the same way. No wonder these age groups are an important audience for newstalgic products. Think of last year’s Oreo campaign that relaunched their Oreo Cakester with the ultimate '00s throwback” by taking over the last remaining operating Blockbuster video store in the U.S.. Millennials are the last generation that recognize the now extinct concept of a physical store to rent movies. 

This year, Oreo temporarily brought back its Cotton Candy flavor. Not only should the golden Oreo cookie with side-by-side pink and blue cotton candy flavor creme invoke nostalgic feelings of visiting the carnival, but it also brings back memories from 10 years ago when the cookie was first released. Making it a double nostalgia whammy. On the other hand, for younger consumers the product is new. Together with the short-termed availability as a limited-edition flavor, the Cotton Candy Oreo is contemporary. This makes re-releases the perfect nostalgic option: it offers a new product without the risk, since there is a guaranteed fanbase that has often begged for the flavor to return. 

Try it yourself

We can expect to see a lot more newstalgic product releases in the future. Especially because research shows that people are more likely to spend money when they feel nostalgic. Consumers who were asked to think about the past were willing to pay more for products than consumers asked to think about new or future memories. Put that to your advantage by launching products that conjure positive feelings about the past, while also offering new experiences.

Pastry chef Christina Tosi made nostalgia her trademark with Milk Bar

Christina Tosi is obsessed with home baking, grocery store staples and classic American sweets and she loves boxed cake mixes and artificial vanilla flavors. Combined with her extensive culinary skills and endless creativity, this leads to many nostalgia-driven hit creations at her pastry brand Milk Bar. Discover all about her cereal milk and birthday cake creations.

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