Striking a balance in snacking: Suppliers weigh in on “healthy reasons to indulge”
18 Aug 2022 --- While consumers are increasingly demanding and exploring snacks, there is a growing consumer appetite for “guilt-free” varieties. There is also heightened scrutiny of labels for healthy ingredients and nutritional claims rise exponentially. FoodIngredientsFirst takes a deep dive into the world of snacking.
According to Innova Market Insights, health, wellness, and indulgent claims are leading snack launches in Europe. This increasing demand for healthier snacks has seen consumer scrutiny of labels for healthy ingredients and nutritional claims rise exponentially.
These include “low in sugar,” “low salt,” “high in protein,” “high in fiber,” as well as “reduced, low or fat-free,” particularly across categories including crackers, savory snacks, cereal bars or biscuits.
Harbinder Maan, associate director trade marketing and stewardship, Almond Board of California, says that across many European markets, consumers’ top concerns are now focused around both personal and planetary well-being.
“This has led to an increase in demand for healthy, sustainable snacks which has allowed plant-based snacking to cement itself into the mainstream. In fact, according to the latest Innova Market Insights Global New Product Report, 11% of new snacks introduced held a vegan claim, compared to 6.7% the previous year.”
Janin Zippel, strategic marketing manager for Bakery, Snacks & Confectionary for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Ingredion, says that the region is the largest snack market globally, and predicted annual growth will be 5% between 2021 and 2026.
“So much so, 57% of consumers are now ditching traditional mealtimes and instead, opting to graze throughout the day.”
Replacing traditional ingredients
Dr. Antony J.I.X, vice president for innovation at olam food ingredients (ofi), says that while consumers seek indulgence, adventure and taste, they are also looking for snacks that support their well-being and active lifestyles. Ultimately, this leads the way to expanding the “better for you” snacking trend.
“As consumers look for more natural, healthier ingredients in their snacks, manufacturers are finding new ways to replace traditional ingredients with high-quality alternatives, without compromising on flavor, texture or nutrition.”
Meanwhile, Orfhlaith Nagle, senior marketing manager for Taste at Kerry Europe, believes that health and wellness have grown in importance since the COVID-19 pandemic pushed a need for consumers to prioritize health and focus on immunity.
“This means consuming foods that can be healthier while still addressing the need for indulgence,” she explains.
“While health and wellness is rising, the category is all about balance. A large majority of consumers still turn to baked goods and confectionery for indulgence, a decadent delight. This is their ‘me moment’ to have a permissible indulgence often as a treat or reward.”
Nagle says that one way forward is for bakery and confectionery manufacturers to include health and wellness ingredients such as probiotics, vitamin supplementation or plant protein fortification in their baked goods to give consumers a “healthy reason to indulge.”
Regulatory pressures grow
With the regulatory landscape constantly evolving in Europe and increasing pressure from governments and organizations, the only way for manufacturers to stay ahead of the curve is to innovate and reformulate to comply with incoming labeling changes.
“The current differences in front of pack (FOP) labeling across European countries, as well as new and incoming promotional restrictions on products high in ‘negative’ nutrients, such as the high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) restrictions in the UK, show that manufacturers should already be looking to optimize the nutritional quality of their products,” explains Nagle.
“In addition to regulatory pressures, there is increasing demand from consumers for greater transparency and healthier products, particularly for snacking. So, manufacturers taking Nutri-Score into account also align to consumer preferences.”
Meanwhile, Zippel at Ingredion believes that manufacturers can deliver a healthy-indulgent balance – without compromise on texture and taste – “while proactively providing front-of-pack labels like Nutri-Scores and tackling the HFSS initiative.”
“The ultimate formulation challenge for manufacturers is to develop bite-size, healthy yet delicious snacks in support of the growing importance of supporting a healthy lifestyle,” she says.
“However, it has never been more important to deliver a healthy-indulgent balance without compromising on taste and texture. Therefore, manufacturers must partner with ingredient manufacturers to deliver exactly that – whether they’re looking to innovate, renovate their portfolio, manage costs or comply with regulations.”
Maan at the Almond Board of California, adds that on-pack health messaging in general is now a key priority for manufacturers.
Salt and fat reduction across snacks
Nagle believes the most significant challenge for savory snacks is reducing the salt and fat content while maintaining great taste.
“For example, salt is much more than just a salty perception; when salt is reduced, sourness and bitterness can also increase. Therefore, to overcome the salt reduction challenge, manufacturers need a solution that will bring back the eating experience.”
Similarly, fat reduction presents another key challenge and is not always possible in savory snacks, given the effect on functionality and eating experience.
“However, where additional fat is added in the seasoning application process for taste or functionality, it is possible to find solutions to overcome this challenge and bring down the fat content,” she says.
“Of course, rebalancing sugar content may not be the top concern in savory snacks; however, when taking a holistic approach to creating nutritionally optimized snacks, even minimally reducing sugar content can help the overall Nutri-Score,” notes Nagle.
Another challenge arises when manufacturers fortify their snacks products with positive nutrients, such as protein and fiber. “Although this is a great way to improve the overall score of the product, fortification can often lead to off-notes, so masking is an important challenge to overcome,” she comments.
Beyond sensory experiences
2022 has also brought a big opportunity for more innovative and exciting snacks, explains Maan at the Almond Board of California.
“According to Innova Market Insights, more than one in two consumers globally say that post-pandemic, they want to be more adventurous with their food and snacking choices, and taste and texture play a big role here. We’ve seen growing opportunities for niche flavors in snacks using almonds with flavors such as coffee and seaweed being explored.”
She also underscores how almonds’ versatility and extensive portfolio of formats means are endless ways for developers to incorporate almonds into increasingly exciting and innovative products. “They also have an appealing taste and texture and are recognized for being a great flavor carrier as they pair well with so many different sweet and savory ingredients.”
Further, J.I.X at ofi maintains that “flavor mashups” are having a moment, with seemingly contradictory flavors combined to deliver an impactful sensory experience.
“A third of consumers agree that interesting or exotic flavor combinations influence their purchasing decisions,” he states.
“Chilies and chocolate, for example, come together to make a treat that’s both sweet and spicy.
Last year, “flavor mashups” emerged as the first of Innova Market Insights’ Top Ten Flavor Trends for 2021. Hybrid flavor innovation is increasingly being used to deliver new sensory experiences as consumers become progressively adventurous, said the market researcher.
By Elizabeth Green
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