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Healthy snacks might see unhealthy American diet as an opportunity, Mintel suggests

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Douglas Yu

By Douglas Yu+

17-Jan-2017
Last updated on 18-Jan-2017 at 14:03 GMT2017-01-18T14:03:32Z

Consumers are seeking healthier components in snack foods, including protein, fiber and whole grains. Pic: ©iStock/Yulia Davidovich
Consumers are seeking healthier components in snack foods, including protein, fiber and whole grains. Pic: ©iStock/Yulia Davidovich

A latest Mintel report shows only 42% of Americans consider their diet to be healthy, while less than 38% consumers agree that healthy foods are worth the added expense.

“Despite the fact that we’re seeing such a widespread and growing interest in healthy foods, relatively few Americans believe their diet is healthy,” senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, Billy Roberts, said.

“With consumers largely wary of even regulator-approved health food options, marketing healthy foods to skeptical consumers requires far more than merely an on-pack promise,” he added.

So, does this give healthy snacks a better chance to be incorporated into consumers’ diet?

Roberts told BakeryandSnacks that healthy foods of all types appear to have a better opportunity to reach more consumers with the growing number of nutritious options and better-for-you ingredients.

“Interestingly, consumers are seeking healthier components in foods, such as protein, fiber and whole grains, in particular. A number of consumers are also being seen to avoid sweeteners, with half seeking to avoid high-fructose corn syrup, 47% trying to avoid sugar, and 43% trying to cut their consumption of artificial sweeteners.”

Despite the fact that healthy snacks appear to meet the consumer demand for convenience, Roberts added, they have to promote their lack of artificial elements and entice consumers with an increased protein and fiber content.

Senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, Billy Roberts

Protein remains of distinct interest to consumers, only slightly ahead of the level of interest in fiber. This could present a significant opportunity for snacks to highlight their fiber and protein content, if applicable, to meet consumer demand.

Challenges imposed by stigma against processed foods

Roberts said most shelf-stable processed foods, including snacks, are generally regarded by the consumer as “almost inherently unhealthy.”

“When asked to describe foods they consider healthy, consumers were much more likely to choose such descriptors as natural, organic and free of pesticides and preservatives,” he mentioned.

Roberts maintains this year’s biggest challenge for food and snack brands will be in the area of genetically modified ingredients.

“Last year saw significant legislative efforts aimed at encouraging brands to identify GM elements, and it may well have awakened consumer concerns about genetic modification.”

Mintel reported the multi-outlets sales of better-for-you snacks reached $1.1bn in the 52 weeks ending June 12, 2016. This represents an 18% year-over-year increase, and a 35% gain since 2014.

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