The future of snacks? Popped, ancient grains and the rise of craft brands

Snack makers also needed to consider market positioning, Innova Market Insights analyst Yasemin Özdemir said. Does the product appeal to health-focused morning consumers or indulgent evening snacking?

Craft snack brands will lead innovation because of their fresh take on an old market, and balancing health and indulgence will be top of the agenda, says Innova Market Insights.

While health would continue to define the future of snacks, indulgence must be considered an equal product dimension, said Yasemin Özdemir, market analyst at Innova Market Insights.

“Health is obviously big, but indulgence is still a big driver, especially for snacks,” she told at Vitafoods Europe 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland earlier this month.

However, she said it would be nifty craft players, new to the market, that would lead innovation in the space.

‘Look out for the small guy’

Innova Market Insights flagged ‘look out for the small guy’ as a top trend for the future of food - a trend Özdemir said was particularly relevant for snacks.

“The small players are driving innovation, rather than the big ones because they start from scratch,” she said. “They are new, they look at the market the way it is now, and they can find a new space by launching something really interesting.”

She said that particularly with health, indulgence and flavor development, it would be craft snack companies directing innovation.

The market should look to these smaller companies, she said, particularly as snacks continue to diversify.

Striking a healthy indulgence balance…

The snacks category saw plenty of innovation around health last year, Özdemir said, which was likely to continue in 2014.

Quinoa and kale chips, super foods incorporated into bars and fruit snacks were just a handful of products that ate into the market, she said.

Use of such ingredients would continue to be an NPD strategy taken on by some of the snack majors this year, she added. “Using new grains or ancient grains that are perhaps rich in vitamins, minerals and protein can lead the way for more healthy innovation for the big players.”

Popped chips would also continue to gobble up market share, she said, along with popcorn – both associated with health because of the lower oil and fat content.

What would underpin success for these product formats was that they also tapped into indulgence, she said, because of the unusual texture and flavor strength. “Flavor is important because the texture in those types of snacks is a bit different; a bit more airy, so you can get this flavor burst,” she said.

There had already been a host of unusual flavors launched onto the market like Hoisin Duck, she said, that really played up the indulgent aspect of savory snacks. But, she said manufacturers should also consider inclusions like nuts or fruit to develop indulgent textures and flavors even further.

Innovating around day-parts

Özdemir said the success of a snack product would depend on its market positioning, particularly in terms of the time of day it appeals to.

For consumers, the drivers behind snacking differed depending on the time of day, she explained. “In the morning, you want more nutritious snacks, so you bring yogurts with you to the office or maybe some protein bars. Whereas in the evening, you tend to grab more unhealthy snacks like chocolates and potato chips because you care a bit less about health.”

This, she said, was important for snack manufacturers to be aware of when marketing their products as it would enable them to differentiate in a competitive market.

“Snacking will be much broader. It is already broader than it used to be. So, basically anything could serve as a snack, which means it’s all about how you position it… It’s really important to think about how you put it in the market,” she said.

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