Snacking at the forefront of innovation for Kerry

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07 Aug 2017 --- As consumers demand a return to real food products, Kerry Taste & Nutrition is responding with better, more authentic and nutritious taste experiences. Kerry’s focus on Taste & Nutrition combines multi-sensory aroma and texture experience with in-depth knowledge of consumers and their nutritional needs.

Through the company’s recent research into European consumers, Kerry has identified two key themes that are driving the taste trends in the snack market, authenticity and adventure. According to the research, 72 percent of consumers want snacks made with simple ingredients, nothing artificial, and local or traceable ingredients where possible. Consumers are also looking for adventure, shown by their experimentation with new tastes and formats. When it comes to taste, the influence of global cuisines has definitely been a key driver of innovation in the snacking category.

FoodIngredientsFirst caught up with Conor O’Rourke, Business Development Manager for Snacks at Kerry Europe, who discussed the consumer research into snacking habits. “In relation to authenticity, we know that the bulk of the sales in the market is from a core range of well-known tastes and while consumers are certainly interested in trying new flavors, they are still looking to taste their favorite familiar flavors in snacks providing they deliver on their expectations.”

“We have definitely seen an evolution of many existing big brands to become more authentic in terms of their ingredients and also more nutritious with lower levels of sodium and fat for example, but we will also see many new types of snacks being launched, targeted at the many different need states of consumers whether that is a healthy, guilt-free snack format or premium snacks that offer some indulgence.”

“The continued rise of Asian influences over the past few years has inspired considerable innovation in the flavor space and we are seeing a rise in Mexican and American flavors,” he explains. “The global street food trend along with innovation in the foodservice, have been the key drivers in introducing consumers to these tastes.”

In addition to consumer desire to try new cuisines, O’Rourke also notes an interest in new flavor combinations and sensorial experiences. “Consumers are interested to try sweet and savory combinations along with dessert inspired flavors,” he says, “Particularly in the popcorn category which has seen a lot of innovation in flavors.”  

For Kerry, reducing the amount of sugar in snack products is certainly something that the company is seeing a demand for. O’Rourke confirms that “a number of customers have been asking about sugar reduction recently and in particular for popcorn and other snacks with sweet tastes”.

According to O’Rourke, indulgence has always been a key part of the snacking category and it will continue to be important in the future. “From our research, 76 percent of consumers said that their ideal snack would be an indulgent snack. Therefore, while manufacturers need to ensure they meet consumer demands for their snacks to be healthier, it’s important not lose sight of the need to fulfill the moment of indulgence that many consumers seek from their snacks.”

Are there global differences when it comes to snacking? “Snacking tends to vary wherever you go in the world,” he states. “From a product perspective snacks may differ in terms of the formats that are popular and also the flavors that are preferred by consumers in these markets. In addition, consumers may have different attitudes towards snacks which can influence their choices of products.”

Through Kerry’s recent research into European consumers, O’Rourke says the company has seen some interesting similarities and differences between consumers in Europe. “French consumers talked about pleasure, indulgence, gourmandize and relaxation which indicates that snacking is very much seen as a treat and a rewarding experience.”

“In contrast, UK consumers like to see and use words like “tasty”, “hunger”, “quick” and “treat” which would indicate some similarities with French consumers in that they do enjoy great tasting snacks, however, the snacking occasion is viewed as much more of a quick convenient nature of snacks to satisfy hunger,” he  explains.

Given that a lot of UK snack consumption happens on the go, consumers associate snacking with something that can be consumed quickly which will taste good and satisfies their hunger. “There is a consumer perception, however, that traditional savory snacks such as potato chips or extruded snacks may not be as healthy as other snacks in the market, something which is driving the growth of better for you alternatives,” O’Rourke notes.

He adds that when you look further afield there are also interesting differences in snacking taste preferences. “While dairy taste profiles are long established in Europe, these would not have been core tastes at all in Asia as dairy products did not form part of the staple diets in this region,” he continues, “With the increased exposure that Asian consumers have had to Western cuisines in the last number of years, cheese is now one of the fastest growing flavors in this market.”

What can we expect to see from future snacking innovations? There has definitely been a trend towards snacks made from bases that traditionally haven’t been associated with the category in the past due to the healthier connotations that consumers have with certain ingredients,” explains O’Rourke.

While 81 percent of consumers said that their ideal snack is a treat, alternative bases can provide a healthier halo and new texture and taste experience for consumers. Consumers are substituting these alternative bases for traditional snacks as they look for snacks that can help them stay fuller for longer and give them energy.

With respect to pulses, the likes of lentils and chickpeas have a lot of further potential in terms of their growth in the market.  O’Rourke believes there will be a lot of focus on exploring what can be done with these ingredients as a base for snacks. “Into the future,” he continues, “I think you will see a number of companies innovating and creating interesting snacks from different pulses, in particular from different types of beans.”

“Innovation will not be limited to pulses, however, as we also see a lot of innovation and growth in vegetable based snacks, such as pea and sweet potato, along with whole grain and multigrain snacks,” he finalizes.

By Elizabeth Green

Kerry

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Kerry is responding to consumer demand for real ingredients with better, more authentic and nutritious taste experiences. With 40 years’ experience and 24,000 staff on six continents, Kerry has a renewed focus on Taste & Nutrition where the science of taste merges with the science of nutrition. They combine a deep understanding of taste with an in-depth knowledge of people, culture, life stage and daily nutritional needs. By partnering with Kerry, customers are taken on a journey to make food, beverage and pharma products that people enjoy and feel better about. Kerry calls this Leading to Better.

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