UK start-up The Savourists want to tackle the domination of sweet snacking bars in the category. The brand has created savoury bars that deliver “palate popping punch”– the slogan it uses to guide its product development.
First to roll out in mid-September are two SKUs – a Black Olive & Nori Seaweed and Sundried Tomato & Herb (RRP £1.80/37g) – which will appear in independent grocers and health food stores.
Made from pumpkin seeds, chia, flax and sunflower seeds, each 100g serving provides around 22g of protein, 4g of sugar and 445 calories.
Founder Harry Turpin says the idea for the savoury snack bars came while he was working as a sales executive at Cawston Press, around the time the sugar tax was announced.
“We went through reformulation and evolvement of the Cawston product and it just got me thinking about sugar and how sugar is used in products, particularly in snacks,” he tells Food Spark. “I did a bit of market research by going and trying different bars and realised that protein bars are just an evolvement of the confectionery aisle. You’ve got a Mars Bar and amarket-leading protein bar – all that is an evolvement of the Mars Bar with a bit of added protein in it. We realised quite quickly no one was doing a savoury version.”
Digging further into these protein snacking bars, Turpin discovered some included as much as 15g of sugar through the use of fruit like dates.
“They use dates to combine the ingredients, but it stuck with me that a lot taste really similar and actually the nutritional content isn’t even that good. They claim high protein and all sorts of really – I wouldn’t say misleading, but healthy names that make you think you’re having a health product,” he comments. “I just think as time has evolved, consumers are looking for something slightly more exciting with a more grown-up palate.”
In particular, Turpin was bored of the same flavour profiles appearing – a slew of chocolate, caramel and ginger – and turned to more exotic offerings inspired by street food.
“We were going: ‘Why can’t we take a little bit of the foodie flavour and adventurous flavour and put that into on-the-go format?’ Because you’ve got your staples, your chocolate protein bars, your popcorn, crisps, nuts and seeds, but no one has really taken the exciting flavours like nori and black olives and put that that in an on-the go bar,” he says.
Like a glass of wine that keeps delivering
It took almost two years to get the products right. Not wanting to add any sugar meant dates were out – an ingredient that is very handy when it comes to binding – and a lot of experimentation was involved.
The Savourists also turned to London food production consultancy Tastehead during the process, which included the expertise of an ex-sommelier.
“When developing these bars, we wanted to get the layers of flavour that you get with a glass of wine or an alcoholic beverage – when you can smell the aromas in the glass. We wanted to develop the same experience, but through a snack bar,” explains Turpin. “So when you first bite into it you get that tang of sundried tomato, but also as you continue through eating it. All our branding has surrounded the layered flavouring when you eat that product.”
The black olive with nori seaweed and sundried tomatoes with herbs were chosen as the starter flavours because Turpin wanted something that would evolve the category but would still be familiar to consumers.
“There was an option for us to look at chilli or barbecue flavours, but we really stuck to our guns as we feel there are other people doing chilli or barbecue in the crisp category, and we really want to focus on gourmet on-the-go-type flavours,” he reveals.
“We did experiment with loads of different options and we have some super exciting NPD that we’re working on at the moment that will launch probably next year where we develop those foodie flavours even more. But to start with we wanted flavours that people would go, ‘Wow, that’s interesting,’ but it wouldn’t be polarising and put them off trying.”
Turpin is adamant about one thing: the brand will never cross over into sweet bars. At one stage they toyed with the idea of a cranberry and cocoa bar, but it bordered on the sweet, and they quickly tossed it.
“We are going for savoury and that real hit of umami flavour,” he says. “I think if we start to work you will see other brands popping up in that savoury space and really evolving that category along.”
In the future, Turpin would love to target other categories that are predominantly sweet, like a savoury version of Munchies.
The brand has just secured around £130,000 from angel investors via the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, which will be spent onbranding and product development, along with manufacturing scale-up.
Taking the sweet into savoury territory is a broader trend happening across the industry. It's appearing in categories in retail like cereals, yoghurt and ice cream through to foodservice in areas like patisserie, including eclairs, and bubblewraps.