Nutritional snacks? Manufacturers misread consumers, says Datamonitor Consumer

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Nutritious snacks have not boomed because manufacturers overwhelmed consumers in a category where indulgence remains more important, says the head of food and drink at Datamonitor Consumer.

Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com at Vitafoods Europe 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland, Mark Whalley said the cereal and snack categories had split in terms of nutrition trends.

“The snacks category is perhaps not developed as much towards the idea of positive nutrition as maybe we would have thought it would a couple of years ag. Whereas in cereals, we’re really seeing companies ramping up their NPD towards positive nutrition – fortified cereals with added vitamins, minerals and functional benefits,” he said.

Snack makers got consumers wrong

Whalley said industry over-estimated consumers’ willingness to compromise on the indulgent factor of snacks. Mass efforts to quickly fortify snacks and position them as healthier had also not helped, he added.

“I think they [industry] started to befuddle and overwhelm consumers and that has led to consumers seeking out more simple messages and more natural products.”

Cereal consumers are in a different mind-set

Asked why mass nutrition claims hadn’t confused cereal consumers, Whalley said it was all to do with the time of day the product was consumed.

“You wake up in the morning you’re probably more in the mind set to start the day with the best intentions possible and I think throughout the day that tends to fall off,” he said.

The future of cereal would continue to be one filled with health claims and healthy ingredients, he said, but it would start to be shaped too by cultural influences.

“It will be not necessarily about developing more and more sophisticated functional ingredients; it will be about experiencing different cultures and tying healthy messages into something that might be a little less familiar to consumers.”

Snacks need more time…

He said there was a clear place for nutrition in snacks – and there was a plethora of products to cater to that – but consumer expectations would take a little longer to catch up.

Whalley said once the health notes in the breakfast aisle became the norm, consumers would expect it in snacks because breakfast products were a pre-cursor to snacks.

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