Premiumization evolves to meet modern food needs

When people hear the words “premium” and “food” together, a few other words might spring to mind: indulgence, treat, reward, decadent.

Indulgence is certainly one of the main reasons consumers decide to spend a bit more — or a lot more— for that extra-special cake, drink or entree. The need to escape the everyday and reward yourself with something special is a perennial human need. And of course it has to be delicious.

But food premiumization is an increasingly complex concept, with new, evolving associations. Real, healthy, authentic, experience, local, exclusive and exotic are a few of the other words that pop up in discussions of premium today.

Whatever the words used to describe it, “premium” is a concept that always pairs well with “baked goods.”

“Consumers relish the opportunity to consume the highest-quality products, including baked goods,” said CJ McClellan, global marketing manager for Lenexa, Kan.-based Corbion. “In general, premiumization typically signals better quality or a higher degree of value that motivates consumers to indulge in a product they want or need.”

These days, that value proposition often includes healthfulness, McClellan said. In many cases, premiumization and the trend toward healthy eating go hand in hand. “Many health attributes, such as whole grains, gluten-free, real ingredients or allergen-free, help consumers justify paying a higher premium for baked goods.”

Consumer surveys confirm that the trend toward premiumization is dovetailing with the trend toward healthfulness. About 43% of consumers globally are actively trying to reduce their consumption of products that contain sugar, while 44% consume them in moderation. Forty-six percent say that real ingredients would make them choose one brand over another.


Within baked goods, the snacking category is the one most associated with premiumization today, McClellan said. “Premiumization helps give consumers a reason to indulge because food is now more accessible,” he says. “Baked goods and snacking applications that are made with whole grains and real ingredients can be used in marketing to justify premium pricing.”

In addition to snacking, Corbion has seen a big push for premiumization within the artisan breads category, McClellan said. “This is especially true among corner bakers, who continue to differentiate themselves by offering more innovative, unique and nostalgic baked goods made with premium, local ingredients that support their communities and meet consumer expectations for taste, texture and consistency.”

Corbion has also found that some consumers perceive premium breads, such as artisan breads, to be healthier. Others, McClellan said, simply like the taste more than standard white or wheat bread and will select a finished application made with premium, artisan-style bread over traditional bread.

Local also plays a big role in how consumers perceive premium. “Many consumers simply want to support their communities and see an opportunity to do so by purchasing premium, made-from-scratch baked goods from smaller, nearby bakeries,” McClellan said.

Another factor at play in the evolution of premium is consumers’ desire for experiences. Premiumization signals better quality to consumers and allows individuals to indulge in a brand experience. This is valued among those wishing to treat and reward themselves. Sixty percent of consumers find that trying a new experience is more exciting than trying new products. As a result, marketers would be wise to develop a brand experience consumers can indulge in.

In addition to creating new experiences, whether it’s an authentic, artisan, crunchy French baguette they had at a café in Paris or a spicy harissa chicken flatbread they had in Morocco, consumers are looking to recreate those experiences at home.

The association of premium with personal and social values also is growing. According to GlobalData research, 36% of those polled say cite authenticity/genuineness as a factor that influences their decision to buy premium foods. Another 35% cite environmental friendliness, and 44% say they’re willing to pay more products that support a cause or belief they believe in.


When it comes to premium, not all generations are created equal. Age plays an important role in the development and evolution of this trend, especially among younger consumers.

Millennials appear to be the most dominant generation, eating significantly more premium products than other generations. In fact, nearly half (46%) of millennials consume premium food products, a significantly higher number than other demographics.

“Millennials are one of the primary driving forces behind the premiumization trend,” McClellan said. “Additionally, growing demands for higher quality and local ingredients have also contributed to the trend. In fact, nearly half of millennials regularly eat premium food products, and two-thirds of them say higher-quality ingredients encourage them to buy premium products.”

According to GlobalData, younger consumers are more receptive to quality-related attributes such as superior ingredients and experimentation. Nearly two thirds (65%) of millennials agree that higher-quality ingredients encourage them to purchase premium offerings. In contrast, only 39% of the Silent Generation agree with the same statement. And millennials exhibit a stronger preference for more exciting and indulgent experiences, which aligns well with the premiumization trend.

In addition, millennials demonstrate a greater understanding for brand experiences, experimentation and quality, driven by their desire to be more unique and independent. Driven also by their cravings for perceived higher quality, millennials exhibit greater curiosity and openness to unorthodox concepts.


Regardless of how Corbion’s customers and consumers think of “premium,” the company has a solution to fit their needs, McClellan said. And however you define it, premiumization is here to stay — and growing. Forty percent of people consider themselves to be spenders rather than savers, and 38% say they always purchase premium or luxury food offerings. And with an increase in global wealth, more and more people are able to satisfy their cravings for premium foods.

“In a market that never stops changing, where consumers are on the constant look out for the next delicious thing to be excited about – you have to be nimble and Corbion offers the tools that make that simple,” McClellan said. “Our easy-to-use bakery blends help customers deliver consistent quality and delicious baked goods for their consumers with less hassle and waste. We’re continually working to expand our offerings in this area to help customers meet growing demands for premium baked goods.”