“A key development this year has been a real drive from consumers and manufacturers to improve diets,” Andrew Curtis, director general of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at Snack, Nut and Crisp Manufacturers Association (SNACMA), told Bakery&Snacks.
With the UK government clamping down on products deemed high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS), British companies have had to ramp up to meet the HFSS legislations, along with the growing mass of consumers who are adopting healthier lifestyles.
In fact, in June, Kantar reported the better-for-you segment in crisps and snacks saw an 18% growth.
Many companies are trying to innovate to comply with HFSS product restrictions, most of which are small-medium businesses (SMEs), Curtis told this site.
“It will always be a bit of a struggle for some ingredients and products that will never be able to reformulate to be classified as non-HFSS,” he added.
However, there remains a role for indulgence, led by the ‘Big Night In’ concept, the continual search for new and intense flavours, texture and exciting ‘new’ ingredients. Unguilty pleasures is a new level of indulgence, Mintel revealed in its annual APAC Food and Drink Landscape report.
Soft drink brands should implement comforting and traditional confectionery flavours into their formulations, while the fact that Gen Zs tend to favour nighttime snacking habits opens opportunities for brands to create products for evening eating, said Mintel
Almost three out of five consumers in the US say they snack to relax, while two out of five eat to relieve stress. With salty snacks such as chips and nuts a firm favourite, brands should explore the addition of adaptogenic ingredients to help consumers relax as part of a good sleep hygiene routine.
“There is obviously a fine balance between cost - businesses adapting to price rises driven by shortages of oils and other raw materials - agricultural inputs, energy price rises and staff wages, plus an understanding of pressures on consumers in terms of the cost-of-living crisis and their perception of value-for-money,” said Curtis.
Crisps are the UK’s top snack
In 2023, the UK crisps and savoury snacks market was estimated at £3,483m, with nuts valued at £367m; popcorn at £144m; and meat snacks at £60m. The UK represents around 2.7% of the agrifood sector’s total value.
According to SNACMA, recent market data confirms that regarding turnover, ‘sliced potato crisps’ remain the largest single product type within the category. Sliced potato crisps’ appeal remains even though savoury snacks - a much broader term covering various product types, including tortilla chips, baked snacks, extrudes and pellets - has increased in popularity over recent years.
Though turnover has increased, volumes have primarily remained static.
“The category was one of the most severely affected by the supply chain crisis over the past couple of years,” said Curtis.
“We still haven’t fully recovered, although things are looking much healthier as we move into 2024.”
Specifically in terms of potatoes, 2023 has been a challenging year as the weather at the start of the year meant planting was delayed, leading to some shortfall in the market and a limited amount of importing of potatoes from North Africa around June-July.
The UK’s 2023 growing season has been wet, which has been good for replenishing water courses and aquifers - much needed after two hot summers - but this may also impact the sector’s ability to lift potatoes from the fields and the quality of potatoes going into storage for next year, he added.
Europe, however, has the opposite issue. With a very hot summer, their overall volumes are expected to be down slightly, which could lift prices for anyone reliant on the spot market rather than contract.
Dutch family-owned company Schouten Europe launched its plant-based veggie snack earlier this month, designed to appeal to corporate global customers in the retail, out-of-home and food industry channels.
The Vegetable Bites contains 46% veggies, including corn, carrot, garden pea, onion and red bell pepper. As the Dutch Nutrition Center recommends consumers eat at least 250g of vegetables a day, Schouten is hoping it will appeal to consumers looking for health-focused, nutritional snacks.
“We hope our new product will stimulate children and parents to healthier and plant-based snacking,” Mark van Noorloos, commercial manager at Schouten, told this site.
The Giessen-based producer hopes that as “the vegetable intake will be higher, it may promote healthier eating habits and contribute to improved overall wellbeing among consumers.”
Maartje Hendrickx, market development manager for GNT Group, reiterated the consumer desire for natural plant-based ingredients.
“Consumers are becoming more health-conscious and want natural, healthier products with simple ingredient lists,” she told Bakery&Snacks.
The use of colour is evolving quickly in the snacking space.
“Until recently, snacks positioned as natural and healthy had tended to feature muted, earthy, and neutral colours or were even colourless,” added Hendrickx.
“There’s now much more emphasis on using eye-catching colours to help emphasise products’ healthy credentials.”
Many brands now promote hero ingredients such as veggies, superfruits, ancient grains, botanicals and spices. Brands manufacturing ube crackers, spirulina bites or vegetable chips use striking colours as a visual signal to indicate product goodness.
To help brands really catch the consumers’ eye, GNT Group has made its Exberry Colouring Foods available in vibrant shades from across the spectrum, while allowing for clean and clear ingredient declarations.
“They can be used to support the ‘veggie as a hero’ story in snacks through front-of-pack claims such as ‘coloured with fruit and vegetables’,” said Hendrickx.
In less healthy snacks, simple ingredient lists can help ease consumers’ guilt.
“This is where plant-based colours can shine because they’re made from recognisable, better-for-you ingredients.”