However, Sebastian Emig warned that for legume-based snacks to succeed in Europe, products must not stray too far away from traditional favorites.
Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com, Emig said that the 2013 market is set to be shaped by NPD in healthful, legume-based snacks.
“Industry is looking into whole grains, fiber, lentils and other legumes – for example chickpea-based products,” he said.
“Focus and use of new raw materials like lentils will be the top wave of NPD. There has been a great success with this in the US and if we can construct products that are not too dissimilar to favorites; those not too wide a step away from current usage; I think there might be a chance for a good market entrance.”
However, the director-general said that uptake of such products across Europe would not be as strong as it had been in the US.
“We need to put on our thinking caps to push these products forward because the European consumer per se is still a bit traditional. For example, Paprika is the most popular flavor for potato crisps in Germany and has been for years. It will only be with new generations in two to three years to come that we will start to see real demand for new and different snacks,” he said.
Cleaning up a bad image
“Manufacturers and brand owners are very well aware of what image our industry has. There is quite a bad image in terms of nutrition – it comes time again"
Hefty investment into NPD using alternatives to maize, corn and potatoes has been fuelled by consumer desires for authenticity and naturalness – the new consumer buzzwords for 2013, Emig said.
“These are linked to the usage of fewer additives. Consumers are looking more in depth at product content – they are looking for something that has not been tampered with too much. They are also looking for local, regionally-produced products.”
ESA’s director-general also said that focus on alternative raw materials was also powered by the continued need for industry to overcome its ‘bad image’.
“Manufacturers and brand owners are very well aware of what image our industry has. There is quite a bad image in terms of nutrition – it comes time again. We are being challenged and questioned by many NGOs [non-governmental organizations] although those cries are unfounded.”
“We are however responding. We are reformulating on a constant basis and investing heavily in research and development [R&D] and innovation for better-for-you products.”
Catering to ‘a bit of a schizophrenic consumer’
Emig raised the point that while European consumers are pushing for healthier, better-for-you snack options, price remains the one outstanding factor they consider.
“There are strong signs of growing awareness of health issues, and consumers being asked often respond that when they shop they would look for healthier, better-for-you options. However, in the current economic climate, many consumers are becoming increasingly price-aware and eventually shop for the best deal.”
“We are dealing with a bit of a schizophrenic consumer. The challenge lies with industry to try hard at combining the best of both worlds.”
Emig said that this push for health and the need to find a balance on price is an opportunity for manufacturers and one set to be a key focus for 2013.