Datamonitor Consumer’s latest Innovation Tracking tracked two sweet potato cookie launches – one in Argentina from Productos Emery under the Terepin Pepas brand launched in November, 2013 and another in Japan from Nissin Cisco launched in January 2014. Nissin Cisco developed the product after consumers in the country voted sweet potato as the top flavor they wanted to try in a cookie. Biskotto also launched a sweet potato biscuit in Vietnam at the end of last year.
Ghina Romani, food and drink researcher at Datamonitor Consumer and lead author of the report, said the health value combined with the familiar taste properties of sweet potato made it a clever choice for cookie manufacturers looking to spark dual appeal between indulgence and health.
“It’s a combination of flavor and health because sweet potato is really rich in vitamins and iron but at the same time, from a flavor point of view, it’s sweet and familiar to consumers,” she told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“Consumers are definitely looking to have more healthy alternatives but at the same time, most of them like to try new flavors, especially flavors they already have in their daily lives. So, when they see this mix, it can prompt purchases,” she said.
She said sweet potato cookies played into the sensory indulgence consumer trend where consumers wanted new flavors in combination with a familiar, indulgent product but added it also hit on health notes – another important consumer trend.
In addition to that, she pointed out that sweet potatoes would be a fairly inexpensive ingredient for use in cookies.
Global trend set to grow, even beyond cookies
The fact that products can be found in Argentina and Japan – two very different markets – indicated that the use of sweet potato had global potential, Romani said. “Sweet potato is such a common flavor, so globally consumers will go for it.”
In the same way, she said cookies were consumed across the globe so the mix would be well suited to a host of markets.
According to Mintel NPD data, between 2011 and 2013 there was a 130% growth in global sweet biscuits and cookie product launches that contained sweet potato as an ingredient. Most of the new product development activity came from Japan (45%), followed by Argentina at 17% and the US at 7%.
Romani added that sweet potato also held potential as an ingredient for the broader bakery sector.
She said there had been plenty of veggie bread launches in Canada, the US and Europe that indicated sweet potato could be a welcomed ingredient in that sector.