Hit Habit Forecast: Guilt-free food

Apr. 27, 2021
  • Viewpoints

Hit Habit Forecast is a regular column of the Hit Habit Makers, a group of young planners at Hakuhodo HQ that gamely stood up to say they were going to create hit habits—not hit products—as consumption shifts from purchasing things to purchasing experiences. Analyzing social media accounts and purchasing data of highly sophisticated users and conducting analysis on popular articles, etc. in a variety of media that have their fingers on the pulse of social trends, this is the bold, new challenge of forecasting hit habits that are about to break.


Hello. I’m Kozue Muto of the Hit Habit Makers. How are you all doing?

The topic in this edition is “guilt-free food.” This refers to food and drinks you can consume without guilt or hesitation. So what food and drinks does it mean in particular?

First, we have non-alcoholic beverages.

The other day, I said cheers with non-alcoholic sparkling wine when I met friends for lunch for the first time in a long while. I chose non-alcoholic wine because it felt funny drinking during the day, even though it was a non-work day. It tasted just like sparkling wine and was great for a lunchtime toast.

Drinking something alcohol-like without drinking. It made me think: this is what guilt-free feels like.

There are also many posts on social media, like: “Supporting izakaya pubs [that are not permitted to serve alcohol due to COVID-19 restrictions] by drinking non-alcoholic drinks from lunchtime!” “Going alcohol-free at a BBQ,” and “Drinking non-alcohol to give my liver a rest.”

When I searched nonarukōru (non-alcohol) on Google Trends, it was trending upward, as expected.

Source: Google Trends

Drilling down further, I discovered the mokuteru (mocktail), meaning a non-alcoholic cocktail. These will enable people who would like to have a drink but can’t, those who don’t drink, and those who are driving to enjoy the party and drink without worry, I thought.

Another example is sweets.

Sugar-free, gluten-free, calorie-free; these make indulging stress-free. Sweets are becoming guilt-free. Sweets that you can enjoy without a care when you’re worried about putting on weight, when you’re concerned about consuming too many carbs, or when you’re on a diet. Such sweets are all the rage. For instance, cakes made with sugar-free chocolate that are given a sweetness boost with dried fruit and the like, and cookies made with rice flour and the fermented rice drink amazake have made a splash on the internet for tasting as good as regular sweets.

Finally, we have “meat” dishes.

We have dishes made with “meat” produced using a base of low-carb, cholesterol-free soy beans. Variations include hamburg steaks, curry, deep-fried “chicken,” spaghetti with “meat” ragu and nikujaga, a Japanese stew of sliced “beef” and potatoes. You’ll find all kinds of recipes on the internet. Staying home more, we have more opportunities to cook recently. Cooking guilt-free food that you can eat more of without worry, and that’s actually good for you? Sounds like a plan to me!

So why is guilt-free food becoming more popular?

One reason, I think, is that you don’t need to suppress your appetites with them. Suppressing the desire to eat or drink is stressful, right? Conversely, even if you manage to suppress your appetite, you might end up revenge binging on food and drink anyway. Not having to suppress their appetites and actually getting satisfaction must be a boon for those who need to watch their body fat, carbs or the amount they drink, and in these times of social restrictions due to the pandemic, such as restrictions on going out.

Another reason could be rising health consciousness. This is when people live life paying attention to their health. Looking at guilt-free foods, they are appealing for such things as showcasing the flavor of the ingredients without adding anything unnecessary and using fermented foods like kōji mold (Aspergillus oryzae), so you can get healthy while eating them.

Finally, let’s consider potential guilt-free food business opportunities.

Examples of guilt-free food business opportunities
■ Collaborations with fitness companies. Create guilt-free sweets that clients can eat when they get peckish after exercising
■ Create guilt-free food sections at supermarkets
■ Create guilt-free snacks for pets
And so on.

That we shouldn’t overindulge, no matter how guilt-free a food is, goes without saying. Taking care to enjoy in moderation, without denying ourselves: that seems to be the ticket!


Kozue Muto
Member of the Hit Habit Makers
Integrated Planning & Creative Division
Hakuhodo Inc.
Kozue Muto is a huge travel, movie and music buff. Now that it is warmer, she enjoys cheerful walks. Her goal is to soak in a hot spring at a hot spring resort once a month.
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