Snacking is becoming more of a lifestyle than simply a between-meal indulgence for time-strapped US consumers, which means more opportunity to innovate in flavor, nutrition and delivery formats for snack food manufacturers like Snyder’s-Lance Inc.
“Snacking has evolved at a remarkable pace over the past five years with many notable trends developing beyond just ‘better for you’ snacking growth,” Eric Van De Wal, vice president of marketing at Snyder’s-Lance, told FoodNavigator-USA. He noted that now almost 90% of the US population says they snack, adding: “More interesting is that snacking frequency has also increased during this time. The percentage of people snacking three times a day has doubled to over 50% of the snacking population since 2010.”
Exotic flavors are growing up, says Innova
US consumer palates are becoming more and more sophisticated, owing in part to the shrinking of the globe in today’s information age, along with the meteoric rise in the popularity of chefs, food and cooking through networks like Food Network and Cooking Channel. As a result, interest in ethnic cuisine has become more nuanced—with regional flavors (Oaxacan, Peruvian and Malaysian) taking the place of the more general “Latin American” or “Asian”. Not only that, but consumers are demanding more heat and bolder flavors.
A visit to the Innova Market Insights booth during this week’s Institute of Food Technologists’ 2014 Meeting and Expo in New Orleans reinforced that more mature flavors are carrying over into the snack category. The market research firm used infographics to display its picks for the top flavor trends inspiring snacks (in seven categories), with each showing signs of more sophisticated consumer palates: gorgonzola and goat cheese (dairy); thyme, smoked chili and lemongrass (herbs), chargrilled, braised and roasted (cooking methods), Sriracha, malt vinegar and soy (condiments); cranberry, coconut and mango (fruits); sundried tomatoes, lentils and olives (vegetables); and chorizo, sticky ribs and fillet steak (meat).
Similarly, gourmet ingredient combinations continue to evolve in the savory snack category, with all-encompassing meal flavors providing another route to flavor sophistication in snacks, according to Innova. Meal flavors finding their way into snacks include fine dining (lemon thyme roast chicken, beef bourguignon); soup and appetizer (prawn cocktail, hot & sour soup); ethnically inspired (New York deli, Tuscan); fast food (cheeseburger, fried chicken); specific ethnic (Massaman Thai curry, Japanese teriyaki); and center of the plate (roast duck, rack of ribs).
“What was once considered exotic, ethnic, or overly spicy, is now moving quickly into the mainstream within the snack world,” Van De Wal observed. “Bolder, more authentic and adventurous flavor combinations that deliver what we call a ‘dynamic contrast’ [i.e., sweet and savory], are very appealing and satisfying to consumers. The key is to deliver bold, authentic flavor and not just heat. Consumers’ palates are becoming increasingly sophisticated and adventurous at a pace never seen before. As such, as we develop new products we need to ensure that we are meeting current flavor trends and well as those that are emerging.”
Launches like Lance Bolds sandwich crackers (with flavors that include Buffalo wing blue cheese, bacon cheddar and pizza), Cape Cod Buffalo Cheddar Waffle Cut Kettle Chips, and Snyder’s of Hanover Sweet and Salty and Salted Caramel pretzel Pieces exemplify this.
The firm is also experimenting with emerging ingredients, such as incorporating vegetables and various nut butters—which show growing promise for the snack category, as Van De Wal noted. Indeed, during the 2012-13 period, Innova saw a 48% increase in product launch activity for savory biscuits/crackers with vegetable and legume inclusions.
Better not just about less fat; portability becoming increasingly important
As total snacking and snacking frequency continue to grow, there is growing demand for "better for you" snacking options. For Lance, that has translated not only to expanding its reduced fat and reduced calorie options (such as 40% Reduced Fat Cape Cod chips and 40-calorie-per-cup Kettle Corn ), but also by venturing further into positive nutrition claims—such as added whole grains, organic options, more protein—“up to 6 grams” in certain Lance sandwich crackers—or preservative-free claims.
The firm is elsewhere capitalizing on the growing appeal of grab and go, partly because of the inherent portability of its Lance sandwich crackers (currently one of its top-selling brands).
“’On the go’ or portable snacking options have long been a sweet spot for Snyder’s-Lance,” Holly Patterson, senior brand manager for Lance sandwich crackers, said. “Our Lance sandwich crackers have always been one of the original and best options for the on the go snacking occasion.”
Van De Wal added that when consumers are asked about their snacking needs, nearly half now consider portability as a necessary attribute, which led the manufacturer to refurbish packaging on certain products.
“Because of this growing trend in the desire for portable snacking, we have recently introduced several of our most popular snacks like Snyder’s of Hanover flavored pretzel pieces in convenient, portable, tubular, single-serve packs,” he said.