Today, the line between snacks and foods is blurring.
People snack anytime of the day on anything they want, and everything is considered a snack – from a packet of chips to a pack of ramen noodles, Mogelonsky told BakeryandSnacks at Snackex, held in Vienna, Austria, in June.
This is obviously a challenge for snack manufacturers when producers of other foods are trying to grab a share of the snack category.
However, Mogelonsky said there is considerable room for more innovation in the salty snacks category.
“Everybody wants a health snack – sometimes; but most of the time, they want unhealthy snacks,” she said.
“People are constantly justifying their urge to eat bad snacks and validating their idea to eat good ones. So, there is room for both.”
Got to taste good
The main reason people snack, though, she said, is they want something to satisfy their craving for taste.
“[First and foremost, a snack producer] has to be innovative with flavors because people like to experiment around flavor,” said Mogelonsky. As flavor trends do not usually last long, a producer has to be “nimble and flexible.”
Current flavor trends are for ‘smoked’ and ‘burnt’ – possibly a spin-off from the growing popularity of barbecues around the globe – but there are lots of interesting ethnic flavors in play, too.
In the US, there is a glut of Hispanic and Asian flavors in snacks, while in Europe, North African and even Jamaican flavors, like jerk chicken, are popular.
“People will try anything that looks innovative and different. They might not love it, but they will at least try it,” said Mogelonsky.
Mintel data shows that 18% of Spanish snack eaters aged 25-34 consider sweet flavors an important factor, while 33% of German snackers over the age of 55 consider savory or spicy flavors like wasabi or chili to be an important factor when buying salty snacks.
The architecture of a snack
What Mogelonsky terms ‘the architecture of a snack’ is changing.
“It used to be that flavors had the same foundation – that is, a potato chip – but now the foundation has changed,” she said.
There is a strong emergence of chips made from other ingredients, such as lentils, pita and chickpeas. Mogelonsky said she’d also seen a cabbage chip.
Sorghum, too, is making an appearance – albeit still small – but it is a “very interesting grain as it can be popped like a popcorn, but can also be used to make a chip base.”
Nuts, potato chips and more
According to Mogelonsky, nuts are still popular because of their intrinsic health and protein profile.
Potato chips are enduring forever, and popcorn comes and goes – “it has gone from being the diet snack to the indulgent snack”.
The biggest improvement is in fruit and vegetable snacks, again emerging in different formats – from freeze-dried, baked, fried, dried and puffed.