Snacking has long been positioned as a ‘between meal’ event, but the perceived hyper-fast pace of the modern world has elevated snacking from a stop-gap to a main event.
In the US, for example, 62% of healthy snackers snack in place of a meal. A similar pattern is seen in Europe, where Polish (43%), German (35%) and, to a lesser extent, French, Italian and Spanish snackers frequently eat snacks instead of eating a proper meal.
Driven by taste and texture
With snacks standing in for meals – and still popular as a between meal interlude – consumers are open to a broad range of products that fit the ‘snack bill,’ but taste continues to be the major driver behind product selection.
It’s not just the taste, however, it is also the texture: In the UK, for example, 59% of crisp, savory snack and nut eaters agree that the crunchier crisp or crisp-type snacks are, the better they are.
These snackers are driven by texture and taste; the products that meet their criteria could be traditional potato crisps, wheat-based thins or cracker chips.
What about health?
What we have seen over the past year is a shift from ‘calorie counting’ to a more focused approach.
In Europe, for example, instead of monitoring calorie intake, consumers look for the presence or absence of specific ingredients that suit their personalized diet plans.
As a result, snackers are likely to check both the ‘high’ and ‘low’ qualities of a snack. Clear, on-pack labeling that indicates both the ‘low in’ and the ‘high in’ attributes of a product will drive consumer interest in specific healthy snack products.
Other trends we are watching in 2019:
Some of the most popular snacks introduced globally over the last year have included cheese, meat, fruit and vegetables.
The range of ingredients included in snack packs has been growing to include such categories as olives and sweet or savory biscuits; pickles, too are finding their way into the snack format, but few of these combination packages contain any salty snacks beyond nuts and pretzels.
This presents an opportunity for salty snack manufacturers: consumers are looking for more grab-and-go options, especially as they find that their perceived busy lifestyles make snacking a necessity.
Innovations in packaging have made it possible for snack packs to contain shelf-stable and refrigerated foods in the same container (e.g. Sargento Balanced Breaks, comprising cheese, fruit and nuts).
Texture is one of the most important attributes consumers want in potato chips, tortilla chips and other salty snacks.
With more efficiently designed packaging, these snacks can retain their crispiness while being paired with snacks of other textures and temperatures. This leaves room for broadening the snack mix segment.
Since flavor continues to be the major driver when choosing a snack, we are keeping an eye on flavor developments. Some things we have seen:
- Honey butter took Asia by storm, but it is only slowly moving into other markets Honey butter chips were launched in South Korea in late 2014 and soon became an Asian sensation, in demand throughout the region. But, while the flavor resonates with Asian consumers, it is only very slowly catching on in other regions. While a handful of examples can be found in the US, for example, it is notable that no major manufacturer has picked it up. PepsiCo's Lay's for example, launched honey butter chips in Indonesia in 2018, but it has not launched the flavor in any other markets.
- Chocolate gains across markets While honey butter's allure is centered in Asia, chocolate is a flavor with universal appeal. The ingredient lends itself well to the ‘sweet and salty’ taste that has become popular across regions. Chocolate first appeared as a salty snack flavor in the US with products appearing as early as 2000; by 2018, however, chocolate-flavored salty snacks are found across the globe. Indeed, in 2018, more chocolate-flavored salty snacks were launched in Japan (11% of all chocolate-flavored salty snack launches) than in the US (8%).
- Salted Egg Yolk continues to be strong in Asia, but has not yet appeared in other regions.
- Vegetables: Brussels sprouts or broccoli are rarer in salty snacks than beets, kale or carrots.The flavor originated in the US and Europe, and is still rare in Asia.
- Fish-flavored snacks. Although meat snacks have a presence globally, fish remains primarily an Asian snack. With a move away from meat protein, however, fish may soon become more popular in Europe and North America.