It is no longer nostalgia — it is new-stalgia where brands and products of the past have been re-invented and re-imagined.
Brands are using the pandemic disruption as an opportunity to re-invent themselves & come back even stronger. And it is working because we’re all in a comeback state of mind — pining for the simplicity of fun & indulgence of summer. We want the comfort of the past reimagined for the future.
ON THE UP: New-Stalgia
There’s velocity for “New-stalgia” — bringing back old trends with a twist and making them relevant for new audiences. This trend is gaining traction by hearkening back to a more innocent and youthful time. What Shakespeare coined our Salad Days.
New-stalgia has already touched so many sectors this year.
- Fashion: Golfcore & Crocs
- Music: Female GenZ artists like Tate McRae with song Wish I loved you in the 90s
- Social Media: Dispo
- Entertainment: Friends The Reunion
The latest to lean into new-stalgia: food. Think Krispy Kreme, McDonald’s High C, Burger King’s crown-shaped chicken nuggets, Carvel’s Fudgie the Whale and Nathan’s. Consumers are giving these brands & menu items a second chance as they come back in their evolved state.
In the summer of indulgence, we are appreciating every moment and not taking anything for granted. We are craving the simple pleasures and spontaneous experiences that come with nostalgia food. Like seeing the “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign in a Krispy Kreme window, smelling the fresh-baked donuts, and going inside to grab yourself a box for a quick hit of happiness. Just because you can.
With momentum for mental health pinned at 100 for the past year, brands are tapping into new-stalgia to make their consumers feel comfortable, confident, and relaxed.
They are capturing both the original fans and new, younger generations who have “phantom nostalgia” (a love for the simplicity of a time before always-on social media that they never actually lived through).
After more than a year of maximum uncertainty, consumers won’t pivot quickly into a less fearful and more confident state. This is important to understand as consumer psyche has an enormous influence over what they need and want and how open they are to being challenged by new experiences. In this case, most consumers will be less willing to take chances in their behavior and will look for new, but still safe, familiar experiences.
Here’s how food brands are leaning into the new-stalgia movement and hitting on all 5 drivers of momentum.
DISRUPTION: Krispy Kreme is planning a comeback that will get consumers & investors to see them as more than just an indulgent treat. Krispy Kreme will list on Nasdaq under the DNUT ticker after announcing record revenues. They want everyone to see them as a smart investment by returning to the US stock market after a five-year gap.
Sales of Krispy Kreme doughnuts went soaring as customers treated themselves during quarantine and now the re-opening. Krispy Kreme is hoping to show the company in a revitalized way, riding the success and relationships built with customers over the pandemic while also appealing to investors and stakeholders.
Sales of Krispy Kreme’s sugary doughnuts jumped to $1.1B in 2020 — a 17% increase compared with 2019. 2020 was the first time Krispy Kreme’s annual sales rose above $1bn in its 83-year history.
Krispy Kreme hopes to target international expansion in a market for “indulgences” that it said was worth $650bn, as well as increasing the frequency of regular customers at cabinets in supermarkets. The stock market filing said that “almost all consumers desire an occasional indulgence”.
INNOVATION: Nathan’s Famous, the fast-food chain best known for its annual hot dog eating contest, is bringing back old restaurants with a modern twist. Nathan’s is relaunching Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips, a quick-service seafood restaurant chain.
Arthur Treacher’s is credited as the reason fish & chips became widely popular in the US. At its peak in the 1970s, Arthur Treacher’s had over 800 locations around the US. Now there are about 10.
Nathan’s Famous is revitalizing Arthur Treacher’s, revamping the traditional menu with “upgraded proteins” and starting off with ghost-kitchens, kitchens set up for delivery-only meals.
With plans to open physical restaurants down the line, ghost kitchens give Nathan’s Famous the ability to test their new-stalgia concept in a cost effective way.
POLARIZATION: The summer of indulgences. Summer typically inspires consumers to shift towards healthier eating. This summer consumers are balancing healthy habits with indulgences.
McDonald’s is leaning into this tension with its relaunch of the Hi-C Orange Lavaburst beverage — a new-stalgia menu item that still appeals to consumers interested in keeping up their healthier habits.
Hi-C gained popularity in the ’80s and ’90s and is being brought back as the lowest calorie beverage (behind an unsweetened ice tea) on the McDonald’s menu.
STICKINESS: “New-stalgia” is all about storytelling and leaning into the brand’s legacy as a differentiator.
- Pizza Hut is bringing back all the nostalgic “feels” with their brand campaign that captures the concept of “New-stalgia” — celebrating all the elements people love and associate with the brand — from Book It!® pins, classic arcade games, red cups and Tiffany-style lamps and the iconic Pizza Hut pizza.
- As part of the campaign, Pizza Hut is leaning into the trend of bringing classic menu items back from the dead by bringing back its ’90s pie ‘The Edge’ — a thin-crust pizza packed with loaded toppings from edge-to-edge, slathered in tomato sauce, garlic, plus herb and cheese seasoning made exclusively for this pie.
- Pizza Hut also partnered with PAC-MAN to offer a limited-edition PAC-MAN box, featuring an augmented reality version of the game printed directly on the packaging that fans can play using their smartphones.
- Carvel’s brand legacy is a key differentiator as Carvel increases paid advertising four times beyond what it used to spend, says Nicolle DuBose, VP and chief marketing officer at Carvel.
- Carvel is leaning into its brand’s legacy & new-stalgia by bringing back its founder’s voice in a Fudgie the Whale throwback ad ahead of Father’s Day to sell the classic whale-shaped cakes. There’s also a new number that people can call (1–833-FUDGIE1) to hear dad jokes.
- Heinz Ketchup is leaning into its classic and iconic “slow pour” and encouraging consumers to get back out there by turning summer traffic into a fun thing. Notorious for its iconic slow pour, Heinz Ketchup partners with Waze and Burger King® to provide those stuck in summer traffic with complimentary Ketchup and Impossible Whopper.
SOCIAL IMPACT: The stories behind some of this country’s most beloved dishes are finally being told, thanks to a new Netflix series “High on the Hog” — about how African American cuisine transformed America
- “We have, for many years, been overdue for a serious look at the contributions that Black folks have had to food culture in the U.S.,” says Stephen Satterfield, host of the show
- “The show is one about resilience,” Satterfield says. “For African American people, the foundational relationship that we have with this country is one of servitude and forced labor,” he said. “And that is rooted in agriculture, right? That is rooted in rice and the food that we eat. And so it is at times a difficult story to tell. But it is a true and necessary story to tell. And I think that the overarching theme and the vibe of the show is about our resilience.”
- The four-part series, which started streaming last week on Netflix, shows Satterfield traveling in Benin and throughout the U.S. to meet chefs and learn about the history of foods that are central to African American culture.
- One clip from the show includes an interview with a woman who comes from “one of the great Black catering families of Philadelphia,” and whose family helped popularize mac and cheese in the U.S., for example.