Suppliers shed light on “meal time fragmentation” and sophisticated snacking themes
01 Jun 2022 --- Consumers are increasingly moving away from traditional patterns of consuming three meals a day, while a more sophisticated way of snacking has become prevalent. Options that offer greater convenience are driving the space while plant protein demands continue to soar. FoodIngredientsFirst explores the latest themes in meal occasions.
According to Gilbert Verschelling, director of business development and innovation at DSM Food & Beverage, more people are turning to smaller, snackable options.
“Over 60% of global consumers who skip meals say that they regularly substitute meals for snacks, thanks to their quick and easy appeal.”
The concept of what constitutes a meal and a snack is becoming increasingly blurred, says Fiona Barnett, business development, Food Starch at Cargill. “Meal-time fragmentation continues, with meal skipping and on-the-go consumption becoming more common.”
Snacks are often used as a substitute for skipped meals – meaning product choice is more considered.
“While snacking as a substitute for hunger remains the main driver, consumers demonstrate a variety of need states. There have been noticeable increases in the proportion of consumers snacking for indulgence, health, and comfort purposes over the last two years,” she explains.
Consumers are leading increasingly fast-paced lives and are seeking convenience foods that fit their lifestyles.
“However, many people are recognizing that irregular meal patterns and less nutritionally complete snacks can be detrimental to their health in the long term,” DSM’s Verschelling notes.
“Many of these consumers are now complementing purely indulgent snacking with ‘better-for-you,’ nutritionally rich snacks, such as protein crisps, nuts and bars.”
Moreover, there has also been a noticeable rise in consumers bridging indulgence with health over the last few years.
“This is unsurprising given many continue to seek out decadent snacks for a moment of escapism. In fact, 55% say the reason they snack is to treat themselves. For producers, it’s an exciting time to innovate and develop solutions that meet consumers’ taste, texture and health preferences.”
Bold, multidimensional snack flavors and formats also excite consumers’ senses in the post-pandemic paradigm.
Plant-based advances forward
The desire for plant-based protein is gripping the snacking sector as a whole.
Innova Market Insights’ number two trend for 2022 is “Plant-Based: The Canvas for Innovation,” which taps into the desire for diet variation.
DSM believes that a key trend influencing meal occasions is the flexitarian movement, with 29% of consumers saying that they plan to increase their intake of plant-based foods.
“Plant-powered options are now frequently appearing in a variety of meal time settings and even taking the coveted center of plate spot. But to ensure satisfying meal times for flexitarian consumers, it’s essential that manufacturers deliver the sensory experience they expect,” notes Verschelling.
He explains how taste and texture are repeatedly cited as the most important factors for consumers in determining whether they would buy plant-based products.
“In fact, 25% of global consumers say that they are concerned about the taste of plant-based options and 17% about the texture.”
“The rise of plant-based products is going hand in hand with the rise in protein claims,” says Barnett.
“In Europe, meat alternative and dairy alternative manufacturers are keen to win over flexitarian consumers who continue to consume products based on animal protein but who also more frequently consume plant-based products.”
Adding pea protein claims on the pack of plant-based products can help to increase the general positive health perception that flexitarian consumers have over plant-based products and cast away doubts that plant-based products contain too few proteins, she notes.
Earlier this month, Canadian plant-based company PIP International unveiled what it calls the “Ultimate Pea Protein” (UP.P), with an “elevated appearance” and functionality for use in plant-based applications.
Many applications and brands have been playing on protein enrichment for some time already, and Cargill expects protein enrichment to continue to be one of its number one claims.
According to Innova Market Insights, around 80% of global launches of meal replacements now contain a “high in protein” or “source of protein” claim, while close to half of all launches in sport nutrition and meat substitutes have a protein claim. In cereal and energy bars, as well as in pet food products, that figure is just around 30%.
“The appeal for protein is gaining traction in other applications as well,” notes Barnett. “We are seeing a host of dairy products (ranging from cheese, yogurt, desserts and dairy drinks) playing a lot more on their protein content.”
“That is the case for both the traditional animal-based dairy products as well as for plant-based dairy alternatives.”
Consumer demand for protein-rich foods and beverages shows no sign of abating, according to Cargill, and Barnett says what is changing is their openness to and interest in newer plant-protein sources, influenced by consumers perceptions related to health and sustainability.
“In the short term, look out for continued diversification of plant-based protein options, which could include such raw material sources as cereals, beans and even oilseeds. Longer-term, alternative proteins from insects, single-cell proteins and algae may find a place in the market,” she laments.
Cargill has noted the demand for sugar-reduced products continues to rise, evidenced by recent launches such as Premier Foods’ new range of better-for-you fibrous-full cakes and pies with 30% less sugar and increased natural fruit, under the Mr Kipling brand.
Data from Innova Market Insights shows that utilization of sweeteners is on the rise. The use of sweeteners in F&B launches increased globally by +3% year-over-year when compared with 2020 and 2021 launches.
“The pandemic has accelerated sweetener scrutiny, leading consumers to reduce their sugars intake and manufacturers to increase their efforts further into delivering products with a lower sweetener content without compromising on taste and mouthfeel,” comments Barnett.
This lower sugar drive comes at a time in which front-of-pack labeling systems, such as Nutri-Score, are swaying consumers toward healthier options, and drawing attention to the fiber content in products.
“Most consumers are falling well short of the recommended daily intake of 25 g of fiber per day. As nature-derived, familiar, and simple ingredients with positive consumer perceptions, they help meet the consumer demand for label-friendly solutions too,” she concludes.
Earlier this year, Sweegen rolled out its newest advancement in sweetening solutions, the high-intensity sweetener brazzein, branded Ultratia. Brazzein is 500 to 2,000 times sweeter than regular sugar and low-calorie, making it an excellent alternative to sugar, artificial sweeteners and old generation nature-based sweeteners such as stevia rebaudioside A.
The upcycling trend is also expanding within the sweetener space. Finnish confectionery brand Fazer, for instance, is upcycling oat hulls generated at its mills to create xylitol, a sugar replacer with 40% fewer calories (2,4 kcal/g), starting its commercial production.
By Elizabeth Green
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