Happen: billion dollar FMCG chocolate challenge

Written by Martin Lucas

Happen Group is a global innovation company focussing on global projects which raise innovation success rates for businesses serving global, crowded consumer markets. They do this by pairing unmet consumer needs with commercially viable solutions.

They called us in to to work on a billion-dollar FMCG company who wanted to discover ways to position a non-added-sugar chocolate bar, to identify trends related to this, and ultimately to create a successful strategy for this innovative concept. Here is what the Innovation consultant at Happen, Natalie, has to say:

“We wanted to uncover subconscious cues that we could leverage through claims about a no added sugar chocolate bar so that we could create an idealised proposition for consumers. We wanted to get behind what consumers say to us, to try and dig into impulse rather than reasoning. This allowed us some provisional insight into that behaviour that cannot be explained out, the natural impulse for preference or choice.”

Natalie Aylward, Innovation Consultant, Happen

Where we came in was helping them explore their challenge not from a just product innovation point of view but a human-centric view. We enabled the understanding of the potential success of a new low or no added sugar chocolate bar by exploring the behavioural factors that underpin how people make purchasing decisions.

We began with a run down of ten of what we considered to be the most relevant factors for a consumer product of this nature.

My favourites:



After a full rundown of these insights, we then began to apply the insights to the chocolate proposition. In doing so, we explored a wide range of decision making factors with thinking that was directed at:

  • Understanding the appetite for alternatives without messing with trusted formulas and customer loyalty.
  • Developing understanding on whether to make such a proposition stand out as a clear alternative to their more heritage products or become an evolution of an existing product.
  • Recognising the role of rational and irrational judgement when it comes to unknown or unusual ingredients or any sweetener that comes with a laxative warning.
  • Thinking more carefully about the specific audience. Identifying which audience segments would be more interested in the proposition and how this can impact the recipe and positioning.
  • Clarifying what no added sugar really means as a proposition. This enabled thinking to be diverted away from sugar alternatives to ideas around the use of more natural and less processed sugars.
  • Asking ‘so what?’ to dig down and discover what no added sugar would really mean for a consumer, whether it be awareness of a trend, seeking health benefits.
  • Understanding the different claims that could be made with different propositions. For example, making sugar swaps doesn’t necessarily mean fewer calories.
  • Determining how much consumer education is required to bring a proposition to a mass market and therefore the ability to compete with more niche brands.
  • Ensuring that unnecessary confusion isn’t added with mixed propositions.
  • Recognising the pros and cons of different sugar alternatives from a consumer understanding and behavioural viewpoint, particularly how the associated emotions play a role in their decisions.
  • We also looked at the role of time and occasion and a concept known as the ‘treat factor’. For example, a no added sugar bar might be a more permissible treat during certain parts of the day, such as a mid-morning snack.
  • Creativity around the use of language and the labels that conjure up different thoughts and emotions. For example, there is a big emotive difference between the negative starting point of ‘reduced sugar’, as opposed to ‘increased cocoa’.

We also tried to leverage your understanding of behaviour to discover which would be the most motivating claims to use on pack. Insight from this session was used to prioritise claims and routes for consumers to talk through in further research.

Natalie Aylward, Innovation Consultant, Happen

By providing this behavioural insight we have enabled the client to explore this proposition (and future propositions) through a behavioural lens, helping them to recognise the underlying cause and effect of their decisions amongst their customers.