The pandemic was instrumental in honing an already growing focus on health, and today 50% of consumers are looking for healthier snacks all or most of the time, according to Mintel. In the post-COVID climate, consumers are also scrutinising labels more, which has boosted the number of new product (NP) launches with health and wellness claims.
Euromonitor data places EMEA as the largest snack market globally and predicted to have a 5% CAGR between 2021 and 2026. It is growing so fast that almost 60% of consumers have ditched the traditional three meals to take up all-day grazing on snacks.
“However, while consumers are increasingly demanding and exploring snacks, there is a growing consumer appetite for snacks that are guilt-free,” Janin Zippel, strategic marketing manager, Bakery, Snacks & Confectionary, EMEA at Ingredion, told BakeryandSnacks.
The biggest consumer demands are for snacks that are ‘low in sugar’, ‘low salt’, ‘high in protein’ and ‘high in fibre’, as well as ‘reduced, low or fat-free’, particularly across categories including crackers, savoury snacks, cereal bars or biscuits.
Zippel said the demand for plant-based snacks has also risen, with NP launches featuring a plant-based claim increasing by a CAGR of 60% globally.
“This can be attributed to the fact that while 5% of millennials are already meat-free [Euromonitor], more consumers are changing their diets to become flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan,” she said.
“Driven by a growing number of those diagnosed with coeliac disease, and a growing number of consumers choosing to eliminate gluten from their diets for health and wellness reasons, there is also a clear and growing demand for gluten-free snacks.”
Balancing snacking complexities
Success is about more than a label claim.
“While on-trend nutritional claims influence a consumer’s first purchase, re-purchases are based on satisfaction. An emphasis on functionality over form and eating experience doesn’t hold up.”
As such, she added, manufacturers must recognise the three most important criteria of healthy snacking, namely, nutrition, texture and taste.
“Creating ‘healthy indulgence’ requires nutritional balance,” said Zippel. “Therefore, improving the nutritional profile of products to meet today’s snacking trends requires innovative ingredient solutions.”
To help producers create exciting snacks, Ingredion’s range of pulse proteins provides a higher protein content compared to protein concentrates, without intruding on taste or shelf-life stability.
The company’s pulse flours made from faba bean, chickpea, lentil and pea contain almost twice the protein as cereal grains, and have the added benefits of being naturally gluten-free.
Its proprietary high amylose maize comprises around 53% resistant starch and 40% digestible starch, enhancing the nutritional profile of snacks such as muffins and crackers. It also contains fewer calories than regular flour.
Designing texture and boosting taste
“Healthier formulations can result in less desired texture and mouthfeel,” said Zippel. “It is therefore vital that manufacturers build back texture in nutritious snacks when formulating with less fat or sugar, and more protein, to regain optimal processability characteristics, as well as deliver the desired mouthfeel to consumers.”
To overcome this challenge, Ingredion’s waxy rice-based flour is designed as a water binder and texturiser for low moisture systems such as snacks. It imparts a smooth, short texture with a creamy mouthfeel, but maintains the product’s natural and clean label positioning.
With that in mind, to rebalance the taste of sugar- and salt-reduced snacks, its range of flavour modifiers offer sweetness quality improvements, and suppresses the aftertaste and bitter off-notes often associated with enhanced protein. Flavour modifiers can help formulators create a broad spectrum of taste sensations across a range of applications – all with a ‘natural flavour’ label, too.
The ultimate balance
“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,” said Zippel.
“However, it has never been more important to deliver a healthy-indulgent balance, without compromise on taste and texture.
“Therefore, it is vital that manufacturers partner with leading ingredients manufacturers to deliver exactly that – whether they’re looking to innovate, renovate their portfolio, manage costs or comply with regulations.”