Thins, late-night indulgence and ethnic: 8 snack trends to watch from Datamonitor

By Hal Conick

- Last updated on GMT

'Ethnic snacks' like hummus chips, plantain chips and pita chips are the fastest growing snack in NPD data
'Ethnic snacks' like hummus chips, plantain chips and pita chips are the fastest growing snack in NPD data

Related tags Snack food

The global savory snacks market pulled in $93bn in 2014 alone, but what is trending and where is the market potential for future growth?

The global snack market is poised to grow 4.2% each year until 2017, according to data presented by Datamonitor Consumer in its Snack Attack: Emerging Trends in Snacking and Snack Foods​ online webinar yesterday.

And Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director at the research firm​, said there were a number of important, emerging trends that manufacturers had to innovate into.

The emerging eight:

. Ethnic snacks on the rise

. The later in the day, the less healthy

. Home snacking

. Thin and puffy

. Sensory snacks

. Odd flavor variety

. Gluten… still out

. Recognizable ingredients

‘Ethnic snacks’ and odd flavors

When looking at the percentages of new products launched in snacks from January 1, 2014 to May 31, 2015, ‘other’ came out on top at 34%.

But what exactly does this mean? Aside from pretzels and popcorn, two forms of ‘other’, Vierhile said ethnic snacks, such as hummus chips, plantain chips, pita chips and more, have gained a lot of ground across the world. Ethnic snacks, he said, are now the fastest growing snack form for new product launches; seeing a 7.3% increase over this time period. recently spoke to a number of alternative chip manufacturers who said there was a huge market for these alternative snacks​, driven by consumer desires for better-for-you and something that seems interesting.

In terms of flavor, he said snackers are getting bored which has sparked new product development (NPD) to try to fill that void.

Companies have introduced 'edgier products' that have a bit more adventure to them, he said, with more companies trying odd flavor combinations and innovations, such as chili and lime, or sriracha and ranch, or even quince and camembert cheese.

Late-night indulgence and home snacking


Vierhile also said how and when consumers ate was a very interesting trend of interest.

He said timing changes what consumers look for - the later it is in the day, the more they tend toward less healthy snacks. Early in the day, he said there were plenty of fruits and vegetables in the average diet; but closer to the evening, it moved towards cookies or crunchy snacks.

“As we go later into the day, snacking becomes a little more indulgent,”​ he said.

Companies were already beginning to innovate to meet consumers here, Vierhile said, with one example being NightFood - a product made to satisfy nighttime food cravings with ingredients that are healthy.

Home snacking was also a big category, he said, with more than half (55%) of consumers snacking at home, versus 27% at work and 12% while traveling.

This, he said, was worthy to note given all the focus and innovation towards on-the-go snacks.

Thin, puffy and sensory

Crackers wholewheat snacks

In terms of format, Vierhile said one emerging trend that stood out was thinner crackers and cookies.

“The reason they’re getting thin is that consumers want the crunch, but they want fewer calories​,” he said. “Global weight concerns could really, this ‘thin is in’ trend.”

He said weight loss was one of the concerns driving the thin trend, with 42% of consumers trying to lose weight and 29% trying to maintain weight. Vierhile said carbohydrates were one of the things consumers actively looked to avoid, as they equated them with weight gain.

Puffed snacks, he said, such as pretzel shells with the middle hollowed out and Doritos 3-D, helped consumers cut down on both calories and carbs, but still let them snack.

These snacks, he said, could also be heated or chilled to give them a different feel and give a “more social snack experience”. previously covered Frito-Lay’s patent for microwavable snack packs​ – something that tapped into this sensory trend.

Gluten still out, recognizable ingredients in


“Poor gluten,”​ Vierhile said. “It really needs a PR agency to help out.”

Currently, 14% of new snacks made gluten-free claims​, he said, as food allergies continue to be an issue for consumers. This trend, he said, would continue to guide snack innovation, as many consumers continue to avoid glutinous ingredients.

In terms of other ingredients, recognizable food labels was important to a large number of consumers, Vierhile said, withtwo-thirds of consumers saying they wanted to be able to recognize all ingredients and 40% saying simplicity was key.

Vierhile said versatility fed into this trend as well. Rather than always using corn, wheat or potatoes, he said there would be a greater move toward seaweed, vegetables, lentils and other slightly off-kilter bases.

A consumer survey indicated a desire for alternative snack ingredients, with 84.1% wanting to see whole grains; 81% brown rice; 79.3% almonds; and 71.7% hazelnuts.

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