Clean-label and gluten-free prominent in savoury snacks
Despite ongoing economic difficulties, new product activity in the global snack foods industry appears to be continuing unabated, with launch numbers recorded by Innova Market Insights showing a strong double-digit increase in 2011.
Savoury and salty snacks accounted for just under two thirds of the total, and snack nuts and seeds the remainder.
Asia and Latin America saw the biggest increases in snacks launch numbers over the year, with high levels in these relatively underdeveloped regions disguising lower levels of growth in more mature markets, particularly the USA, but also parts of Western Europe.
Launches in Asia accounted for nearly 40 per cent of total snacks introductions, ahead of Europe with just under 30 per cent. Within Europe, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands had some of the highest levels of product activity, reflecting relatively high per capita consumption levels in these countries.
Lu Ann Williams, research manager at Innova Market Insights (www.innovadatabase.com), feels despite the increasing competition from other snacks, savoury snacks and nuts are more than holding their own, largely via growing emphasis on authenticity, originality, with strong and exotic flavours.
More convenient packaging concepts are often supported by a healthy or natural angle and strong branding.
There is often a fairly low level of consumer interest in health with purchasing decisions for impulse products such as snacks. Nevertheless, nearly 40 per cent of launches recorded in 2011 had a health positioning of some kind, mainly with regard to passive benefits, such as wholegrain, organic, gluten-free or low and light.
To a much lesser degree, active benefits, such as vitamin- and mineral-fortification, levels of omega-3 fatty acids or bone health were included. Health positioning rises to over 60 per cent in the USA.
Interest in 'clean-label' natural and additive-/preservative-free products has risen steadily in recent years in line with rising consumer awareness.
Over 22 per cent of global snacks introductions in 2011 were given either a natural or an additive-/preservative-free positioning or both. This compares with 16 per cent five years previously.
In contrast, low-fat lines accounted for less than seven per cent of global launches in 2011, probably reflecting some of the leading brands' efforts to improve the nutritional profiles of their standard lines.
There is also some indication of interest in new methods of production, with traditional fried and newer baked products seeing more competition from air-dried lines, as well as pressure-cooked products.
The rise of gluten-free products has also been fairly dramatic, with nearly ten per cent of global snacks launches using that platform in 2011, rising to over 20 per cent in the USA. The number of gluten-free launches internationally has trebled over a five-year period.
The snacks market benefits from the fact that many basic snacks ingredients, such as potatoes, corn and soya, are naturally gluten-free, so it is a claim relatively easy to achieve in many instances.
A wide range of more unusual ingredients were also used to replace wheat in gluten-free snacks in 2011, however, including cassava, sweet potatoes, brown rice and black beans.
In terms of flavours, many countries are seeing growth in strong and hot flavours, with increasing use of chilli, spices and garlic, as well as more sophisticated multi-component blends.
Trends identified with regard to particular countries over the past year or so include the use of co-branded lines in the USA, where branded hot sauces are being used to flavour savoury snacks ranges.
High levels of activity in ridged potato crisps have been notable in the UK, while in Germany, 2012 has already seen relatively high levels of interest in barbecue flavours ready for the coming summer period.