Tajín, bulgogi, furikake and za’atar are trending in the salty snacks category

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Flavor Salty snacks Trending

While consumer interest is peaked by international flavors not widely known, they’re also looking for something familiar, like cinnamon, mac ‘n cheese, sweet potato and pork. We take a dive into T. Hasegawa’s April Flavor Flash.

While indulgence is defined as an occasion to allow yourself something enjoyable, especially something that’s not good for you, it’s typically associated with something sweet like chocolate. For most consumers, indulgence in the salty snacking sector is all about taking tastebuds on a journey around the globe. So, as always, savory brands aiming to captivate indulgence must focus on taste.

Tastebud travel

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A recent Mintel survey found more than 60% of consumers citing flavor as the leading purchasing motivator – and the bolder, the better. Well, for some. International flavors are a big focus for Gen Zers, especially those from far flung corners of the world, like tajin, adobo, masala, bulgogi, furikake and za’atar. However, T. Hasegawa’s survey found less than one-third have increased their trial in the past year, which represents a glaring opportunity for brands to fill the gap between curiosity and action.

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Brands should collaborate with other brands to create unique profiles and ingredient pairings to enhance the experience, says the flavor house.

“Despite their unique appeal, not all global flavors are equally well known among consumers,” write the authors.

“Brands can leverage the popularity of other established foods and flavors to generate interest and encourage trial of lesser-known options, such as furikake."

Beyond taste, texture can also be used as a gateway to flavor expansion and education.

“For instance, drawing similarities between the texture of flaky, crunchy toppings like furikake and other trendy options like chili crisp or Tajín used in popular dishes like elotes can help alleviate consumer concerns about trying something new and unfamiliar,” says the company.

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That said, consumers continue to seek out the familiar, and flavors like pickle, dill, BLT and olive are resonating, particularly among US consumers. Upgrading classic flavors like barbeque and ranch with additional taste has also become popular and ‘tangy’ is an umbrella term regularly used to highlight the sharpness and intensity or describe snacks that are sour or have a distinct acidic taste.

Salty snack brands can take it to the next level by adding a familiar flavor not typically seen in the sector, like mac ‘n cheese, sweet potato, sweetcorn and pork.

And of course, incorporating sweet flavors, like cinnamon, can be a great way to connect with consumers, especially those that are piquing the more adventurous with sweet heat, like, hot honey and spicy maple.

Getting back to the topic of indulgence, more than 50% of consumers in a recent Mintel survey considered a sweet and savory combo to represent that state of euphoria, while 44% associated cheese with indulgent snacks and 38% veered towards meat flavors.

Best of both worlds

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Whatever their preference though, consumers have a balanced approach when it comes to choosing snacks – brands that weigh exotic flavors with limited-time offerings will appeal to the widest cohort.

However, if you’re targeting a specific demographic, it’s wise to know what will appeal. Millennials want bolder flavors and newer ingredient combinations, while it’s all about versatility for a wider range of pairings and uses for Gen Zers and Gen Xers.

Across the board, the line between snack and meal has blurred and more than a quarter of consumers consider snacks and meals as interchangeable. Snack brands can take the concept of the ‘girl dinner’ across dayparts through pairings, especially with better-for-you components that can balance the perceptions of indulgence and satisfaction.

TikTok’s vital ‘girl dinner’ is the easy meal you turn to after a tiring day when you just want to stay home. The phrase was coined by influencer Olivia Maher, who posted a video in May discussing how much she enjoys the simple pleasure of a meal of just light snacks. Some have criticized the trend, arguing it may lead to unhealthy eating habits, but it certainly underscores the snackification trend and opened opportunities for the snacking sector.

Better-for-you aspirations

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There is also growing interest in flavors inspired by preparation techniques, such as salted, roasted, toasted, buttered, smoked, caramelized, grilled and spiced.

“Although health concerns are often cited as the main reason for avoiding snacking, there is a growing interest in flavors inspired by preparation techniques that are bold, sweet and exciting,” write the authors.

“This paradox reflects a broader trend toward moderation that emphasizes quality, flexibility, and balance. Instead of depriving themselves of taste, consumers are now seeking ways to indulge in snacks that treat their tastebuds and promote a sense of wellbeing.”

Functionality can also add value without subtracting flavor. More than 21% of consumers are looking for snacks that come with health and wellness functionality claims, and exploring snacking innovation that delivers on this functionality is a great way of winning back lost customers who often skip snacking due to health concerns.

“It’s fascinating how snacks can serve multiple needs and occasions, making them inherently functional. However, consumers today are always on the lookout for something better. In recent times, younger consumers have been driving the demand for snacks that come with health and wellness functional claims. Given that health concerns are the main reason for a decrease in snacking, functional claims may be the key to winning back some lost customers.

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“But perhaps the real prize lies in capturing the attention of those who are gravitating towards healthier snacking options and those who want energy-boosting snacks that can replace a meal without compromising on nutrition.”

In summary:

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