How snacking is creeping into every part of the day

Termed snackification, there is a movement towards eating smaller bits on the go, with children’s snacking among one of the many categories ripe for expansion.

28 November 2018
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image credit: Getty Images

'Snackification' is a word that's gaining increasing traction this year, as a growing number of people ditch regular eating for mini meals throughout the day – so what’s all the buzz about?

Robert Rona, director of new markets, products and services at The Triangle Nutrition, said snackification has become more popular due to a shift of lifestyle, with people spending less time in their homes for the meals of the day.

“Consumers are swapping sit-down meals for ‘snackfast’ options in the morning and meals-on-the-go to make lunch and dinner options much easier, relying on easy-to-make breakfast bars, porridge pots, protein shakes, noodle and pasta pots, ready-made salads and sandwiches which require minimum effort,” he said.

“Consumers might eat first thing in the morning and then again at 10am, or eat something en route to a meeting at 11.30am and again at 3pm when it’s finished. The flexibility and convenience of the health-conscious snackification movement means consumers can eat what they want, when they want – without worrying about calorie intake or nutritional levels.”

Innova Markets Insights research found that between 2013 and 2017, there was a 17% increase in the growth of snacks with health claims and a 22% rise in those with a nutrition claim. Protein claims in particular grew by 31% during that period, with nuts and seeds and meat-based snacks leading the category last year. The data showed plant-based snacks have also grown by 44% – an area Whole Foods reckons will continue to develop in 2019.

This food movement is one that retailers should embrace more, according to Rona. “Ultimately, it provides an increased opportunity to upsell to customers. Rather than grabbing one meal, those who prefer to eat little and often will pick up all four or five ‘meals’ in one sale,” he commented.

“It also allows retailers to evolve their cross-category selling. We have the standard meal deal of a sandwich, crisps and drink, but there’s nothing stopping retailers from incorporating pot-based meals, ready-to-drink shakes, meal bars and more.”

Reinventing the old

With 94% of adults sneaking a snack at least once a day, according to Pladis, Allene Bruce, director of New Nutrition Business, said that snackification is an increasingly important trend.

She identified bakery and dairy as areas where snacking products could grow. “Cheese is underserved in snacking but consumer interest is growing,” she said at Food Matters Live.

Currently, the formats that cheese is sold in at supermarkets is a barrier to snacking, as its generally big blocks, she pointed out. Brands could also look to innovators like the Icelandic dairy producer Skyr, which reinvented the old by taking yoghurt out of big tubs and dishing it up in single serves with a highlighted health claim of being high in protein.

There are other innovators Bruce identified who have remodelling everyday products. Brands like Oh Snap, which took pickles and put them in individually wrapped packets, removing the messiness of brine and juices, to create a convenient snack. Then there’s Giving Tree who have turned single florets of broccoli into crisps that are sprinkled with salt, overcoming a taste barrier as many people find the vegetable bitter, explained Bruce.

Research from Pladis also found in the future that consumers are expected to demand added functional benefits, new textures and sumptuous flavours when it comes to their snacks, expecting a multi-sensory experience, including a focus on unusual combinations and taste sensations like bitter, sour and umami. 

What next?

Innova has also looked into the crystal ball and identified a number of trends it believes will drive snacking in the future.

Much of it centres around health, with consumers looking for snacks that are low or free of sugar, as well as practising mindful snacking where products are natural and can be indulged in guilt-free.

Meanwhile, as also singled out by Bruce, savoury snacks are growing in popularity, with meat, cheese, herbs and spices set to invigorate the category, Innova predicted. Artisan-style snacks will also lead product development with rustic-looking crisps based on traditional recipes to hand-popped corn made in small batches – a trend Food Spark has previously noted – as craft products seem to evoke an association with quality.

Convenient snacking will continue to grow with easy-to-use snack packs that are re-closable, portable or pre-portioned, while a growing trend will be to providing fuss-free healthy snacks that can be enjoyed at the desk, like Unilever’s Prep Co snack pots in flavours like Mediterranean couscous, Thai green curry, Indian spiced lentils and Mexican chilli rice.

There is also a growing role for nuts in snacking. They already hold appeal, but can be taken to the next level by manufacturers experimenting with smoky, spicy, caramelised or seasoned versions, while adult snacking where products are flavoured with booze will also see a boost, like Spanish company Patatas Torres’ sparkling-wine-flavoured crisps.

Playful products

Healthy kids’ snacks are also entering the playpen. The team behind the fast-growing chickpea puffs Hippeas have created a children’s brand called Mavericks, with debut savoury and sweet products expected to arrive early next year, according to Food Spark’s sister site The Grocer.

The range will encompass fruit-based snacks, cookies and protein balls and would compete against the likes of OddPops, the healthy crisps brand unveiled in June by Ella’s Kitchen for kids aged four to seven. 

Mavericks is seeking to change the world of kid’s snacking after the success of Hippeas, whose sales soared over the past year, hitting £3.1m in September.

Over in the US, there is a brand called ThreeWorks that makes apple chips with ridges to recreate the taste and crunch of potato crisps, with flavours engineered just for kids like cinnamon, berry, mango, cherry and caramel. The crisps are not fried, there are no added sugars or artificial flavours, and they are free-from gluten and nuts, as well as being a good source of fibre.

There’s surely more child and adult’s play to come.

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