Functionality is a key driver. Consumers want to know what their food will do for them – what additional value does it bring? Does it contain additional nutrition, for example vitamins or minerals? Or is it full of Antioxidants? Does it support digestive health or help people to feel full for longer?
A second trend is uniqueness. People crave novelty and want to try something different. This desire is being met, for example, by the growth of artisanal-style pack formats and branding. Last, but not least, the demand for products which are free from allergens, gluten and dairy, continues to grow exponentially, and is driving much of the sector’s NPD activity.
Gut health is going to be an increasing focus going forwards. This is fuelling the drive to use ingredients such as fermented goods and those rich in dietary fibre, which are thought to have a positive impact on the digestive system.
Ancient grains, such as bulgur, buckwheat, aramanth and chia are thought to be healthy too, and are finding their way into bakery and snack products as a consequence. So to is plant oestrogen and our own freeze-dried fruit, vegetables and pulses.
They are all incredibly popular with NPD teams who are wanting to make positive claims, on packs, about health and nutrition.
However, we still have more to do to explain to people what a healthy vegetable snack looks like. A grape’s natural long-chain sugars are destroyed by the raisin making process, and a fried beetroot is no better or worse than a fried potato crisp.
In contrast, freeze-dried fruits, vegetables and pulses make great, crunchy snacks and are selling incredibly well in the USA. The freeze-drying process retains all of their natural flavour, colour and nutritional value – qualities which are diminished by any other drying process.
Naturalness and organic
In the UK, naturalness is incredibly important – the cleaner the label the better. Organic ingredients and products are less important now, and have made way on supermarket shelves for ‘free from’ ranges. ‘Free from’ is the fastest growing category in UK supermarkets. Organic options remain popular elsewhere, especially in Northern Europe and Scandinavian countries.
Asian flavours dominate right now. In particular, we can’t seem to get enough of wasabi, miso and teriyaki – everything in fact that is Japanese. But other Asian cuisines and tastes are flourishing too from Thai and Vietnamese to Malaysian and Indonesian. These flavour trends have much further to go.
The snacking evolution: From snacks to mini meals
Large numbers of consumers are switching a main meal for a snack or mini meal. Breakfast is a great example. People, especially the under 35s, are skipping a traditional breakfast all together in favor of a breakfast bar, smoothie or piece of fruit. Lunch is heading that way too. Where sandwiches once dominated the food to go section of the supermarket shelves, you’ll now find lots of competition in the form of salads, chicken bites, hummus dips with carrot batons etc.
Consumer tastes are more diverse than ever, which represents both a huge challenge and a great opportunity for the bakery and snacking sector.
New processing technologies
Looking ahead, we believe in developing processes that can make better gluten-free products, or those which can produce crispy snacks without frying. The Pop Chips process is a good example – we think more will follow.