New research revealed that even America’s healthiest eaters cave into indulgences based on their emotional states. The study, conducted by Foodmix Marketing Communications, Elmhurst, Ill., 40% of U.S. food brand lovers who rated their daily diet as extremely healthy agreed with the statement, “When I’m feeling down, I eat something indulgent to make me feel better.” The study breaks out a large group of brand lovers into smaller, differentiated and more actionable consumer segments. 

The proclivity to indulge happens in spite of the healthiest eaters’ rigorous attention to how they eat in their majority lifestyles. Most (70%) care a lot about how their food is produced, and make sure to look for cleaner labels when food shopping (69%). Most (57%) purchase organic over non-organic food. Most (53%) are highly attuned to food news, and are among the first to react to food warnings and new nutritional recommendations. And, most choose a health food over comfort foods and tasty treats. 

In a food culture where most Americans are trying to eat healthier, the findings show that America’s love affair with indulgent foods has reached even the most disciplined group of eaters. It’s likely that members of this group need to give themselves “permission” to indulge, and may turn indulgence food into a sort of self-care.

“For those in the food business, the takeaway is that consumers’ need to indulge has permeated the food culture, and is unlikely to diminish any time soon,” says Bill Sherman, director of research. “Even organic supermarkets and health-oriented restaurants should offer some indulgent foods, perhaps in smaller portions, to capitalize on the growing indulgent factor in America’s food culture.”

The new study used a needs-based segmentation methodology to create six segments of brand lovers based on their unique combination of attitudes, preferences and behaviors.

“We believe that the food renaissance – in which food is becoming a central part of our culture and being used by consumers to help define themselves – is driven by consumers who are passionate about food,” says Dan O’Connell, chief executive officer. “For food companies, foodservice operators and food retailers and distributors, we believe that the most desirable consumers are those most passionate about food brands. That’s because these brand lovers behave in ways that directly impact a company’s bottom line. Compared to other consumers, they are more loyal, more resistant to competitive offers and more likely to try brand extensions. They are also more willing to pay a premium and to advocate for your brand.”