Snacking has never been more important.
While the snackification – or all-day, every-day grazing – movement has become more prevalent under normal circumstances, these strange and unsettling times have seen consumers rush to stock up on snacks – perhaps because they undoubtedly offer a quick and convenient source of nutrition and energy, maybe to break the boredom of isolation, or even for a bit of solace.
According to Mondelez International’s first State of Snacking report, more than half of the consumers they surveyed believe ‘snacking is the future of food’.
But will this remain the case post-COVID-19? How will the onslaught of the disease affect people’s eating habits?
Social needs are shifting
BakeryandSnacks chats to a selection of players in the snacks sector to find out what’s driving the trend, the challenges, the opportunities that lie ahead and, possibly most importantly during these times, how coronavirus will affect the industry.
Joining the debate is Mike Hughes, head of Research & Insight at FMCG Gurus; Adrian Ling, MD of Plamil Foods (also touted as ‘The Vegan Willi Wonka'); Mark Ahern, commercial & technical manager, EMEA, Univar Solutions; and Reed Doyle, director of Sales & Business Development at Klersun.
“Where we might have been talking about BREXIT, we obviously have a new thing to talk about and that is COVID and I don’t think this will be a small event, I believe there will be a massive shift in how people snack,” said Ling.
“This is because what we do as an industry is meeting a need or desire from the consumer – that may be a nutritious snack, an indulgent moment, just an emotional moment, food on the go or for whatever reason.”
He added that many of these social needs will shift, meaning that manufacturers may decide to change their marketing message for the same product or develop different products to meet new needs.
But whatever the outcome, “I think it’s going to be a real reset in analysing what the snacking industry is actually going to be providing because quite clearly in six months’ time, there’s going to be a completely different type of market,” said Ling.
Coming back to health
Hughes concurred the current trends are being disrupted by COVID-19.
“Historically, what we’ve associated with snacking was something that was an occasional treat where consumers perhaps didn’t pay that much attention to nutritional intake,” he said.
“What’s happened is our mealtimes have become more fragmented and the structure of the mealtime occasion has evaporated … and consumers are now turning to snacks for nutritional value.”
Although that trend will continue in the long term, added Hughes, the short term will be impacted by the disease … with people snacking more because they’re at home, they’re stressed, they’re seeking out moments of comfort, sometimes even doing so just it’s in front of them.
“I imagine over the next couple of months snacking occasions will become increasingly less healthy where consumers are motivated by comfort … wanting to escape the pressure of daily life.
“But then, what will happen is that consumers will have increased focus on why they should be healthy, what is the best way to reduce the chance of illness, to maximise health and this will continue to evolve the snacking market away from kind of traditional offerings towards high protein, low sugar alternatives that are seen as guilt-free and conveniently nutritious, something that can act as a real meal substitute,” said Hughes.
The debate also touches on numerous other trends, including convenient nutrition, portion sizes, the rise of alternative lifestyles, conscious consumerism, what keeps consumers coming back for more, the importance of offering them a proactive approach to health and the influence of social media.
The podcast is highly informative and entertaining – listen in.