Snack makers moving beyond pure indulgence to functionality, says European Snacks Association

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

The sensible snacking concept is evolving at a rapid rate, said Sebastian Emig, director general of the European Snacks Association (ESA).

He said there is a major move towards authenticity and natural ingredients, including more proteins and fiber, and going gluten-free.

"I have seen a lot of snacks being made from pulses, beans, rice and even entirely out of egg whites," ​Emig told BakeryandSnacks at Snackex, ESA's biannual trade show, held in Vienna, Austria, in June.

In the past, snacking was perceived as an indulgent albeit convenient alternative to traditional meal times and not particularly wholesome.

However, this is changing as the sector answers consumer calls for healthier snacking options.

“Our members are committed to playing their part in helping people to build balanced diets. They are continually investing in order to improve the taste and nutritional quality of their products,”​ said Emig.

“They also make a difference by promoting healthy diets and lifestyles as part of their consumer communication policy, and by participating and financing national initiatives, sports, education and exercise programmes.”

ESA represents around 200 companies in 40 countries worldwide – thus going beyond the EU.

Ask and you shall receive

According to Market Research Reports, the retail value of the European savory snacks market amounted to over $22bn in 2015, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.8% between 2011 and 2015.

The market researcher noted the trend was towards increased personalization of snacks to provide individual and unique sensory experience.

“Our mission is to look at what consumers expects from the snack industry and make sure we are ahead of the curve before they even ask for it,”​ said Emig.

“Consumers say they want healthy lives and we need to give them what they want. This involves improving nutritional composition in snacks.”

New production techniques

The industry also has a collective aim to reduce saturated fats and sodium levels in snacks, and has introduced new baking and frying techniques.

“You have entirely new production techniques, too. For example, using only pressure and heat for a popping effect, not only limiting this to the popcorn segment but for all sorts of snacks,”​ said Emig.

This has presented challenges, he admits.

“Our members have a plethora of questions, such as ‘where can I really make a dent in the market?’; ‘what are my competitors doing?’; ‘where can I position my snacks?’ and ‘on which course should I steer my R$D department?’”​ said Emig.

“It’s ESA’s job to position the sector to best serve the consumer.”

Pic credit: DepositPhotos​/marilyna

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