Snack attack: Better-for-you, healthy, spicy and savory NPD drivers


18 Sep 2018 --- More consumers frequently snack throughout the day. Salty snacks are competing not only with each other but also with a myriad of other categories as more food and drink products have become “snackable.” Also, busy lifestyles, concerns about long-term health and the desire to get health-boosting benefits from daily food and drinks have also affected the snack aisle.

Innova Market Insights reports a snacking evolution, whereby snacks are not only becoming healthier, but more wholesome, satisfying, hearty, and nutritious, blurring the boundaries between snacks and meals. For example, the market researcher has reported a 20 percent CAGR in snack launches with a clean label claim in North America from 2013-2017, followed closely by Europe on 19 percent. Innova Market Insights reports 34 percent average annual growth in snack launches with a high/source of protein claim (Global, CAGR 2013-2017), with snack nuts & seeds and meat snacks being the leading subcategories for such positioned launches in 2017.

According to BENEO, consumers are increasingly checking out ingredient lists and opting for healthier options of their favorite snacks. 

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Salty, savory and spicy flavors are all
hallmarks of salty snacks

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Thomas Schmidt, Marketing Director at BENEO, says: “Innovation in the salty snack category continues to be dominated by launches in potato-based snacks according to recent data. However, there is growing competition from a range of other ingredients such as corn and vegetable-based snacks (carrots, beets) and grains (quinoa).”

Salty, savory and spicy flavors are all hallmarks of salty snacks. But, according to Schmidt, over the past year, the flavor horizon has been veering to sweet-salty, sweet-savory and just plain sweet. “Matching the occasion to the sweet-salty snack may be a challenge, but it is also an opportunity for food manufacturers,” he says. “European respondents opt for their ‘favorite flavor’ when choosing crisps, nuts and salty snacks, showing that it is still a powerful purchasing influencer.”

It seems that flavor holds global appeal. Schmidt believes that Chinese snackers are often encouraged to buy a new salty snack if it offers a unique flavor. Brazilian snackers find unusual or exotic flavors of salty snacks are appealing and often US consumers buy crisps more readily if there are new flavors to try out.

“While enjoyment and indulgence play a key role in the salty snacks category, health considerations are also driving growth in better-for-you popcorn, nuts and meat snacks. As consumers perceive pulse-based snacks to be healthier than potato-based ones, there is also scope for further new product development in the segment,” he explains. 

“As UK snackers focus on health, over half of them perceive snacks made with pulses to be healthier than potato-based ones and across the globe in Latin America, over a third of Brazillian snack eaters would be interested in healthier versions of their favorite snacks,” Schmidt notes.  

As a result of these trends, BENEO is working closely with a range of manufacturers to help them develop better-for-you snacks. “BENEO’s ingredients enable the creation of healthier, reduced-sugar and high-energy solutions that can play a role in ensuring that snacks can fuel consumers’ nutrition and energy needs,” Schmidt continues. “For instance, by replacing high-glycemic sugars, BENEO’s Palatinose slow-release carbohydrate serves as a source of sustained energy and promotes fat-burning during physical activity, so is proving popular in snacks targeted at sport-focused consumers,” he adds. 

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Ethnic flavors have developed as consumers continue to look for
more variety and exciting eating and drinking experiences

Meanwhile, Kalsec sees consumers “grazing” more frequently when it comes to the consumption of snacks. Gary Augustine, Executive Director, Market Development at Kalsec tells FoodIngredientsFirst: “Consumers are looking to snacks to provide not only a fun eating experience but sources of energy and protein in-between meals.”

Augustine also maintains that there will always be a place for potato-based snacks, but alternatives such as vegetables, beans and ancient grains are growing in appeal and have a healthier perception among millennials.

“A continuation of heat-related flavors that include combining heat and sweet flavors. The trend in ethnic also continues this heat-related trend such as in Asian, Middle Eastern and North African flavors found in tikka masala, harissa and gochujang,” he continues. 

Innova Market Insights notes that bold flavors are refining the snacking experience, with 31 percent average annual growth of snack launches with exotic flavors (Global, CAGR 2013-2017) and 14 percent average annual growth of snack launches with chili flavors over this period globally. Heat has evolved into a more specific and complex profile. It’s not just about heat, but about provenance and flavors along with the heat.  Ethnic flavors have developed as consumers continue to look for more variety and exciting eating and drinking experiences. Also, as consumers become more exposed to cultures through travel, cultural integration and the internet, they want to experience these cuisines, says Augustine.    

“We are continuing to develop natural ingredient solutions to make our customers’ products look better, taste better and last longer. This means focusing on providing and developing snack solutions related to the emerging trends in plant-based proteins, ethnic cuisines, and hot & spicy foods,” he notes.  

Ongoing market demand for almond inclusions in salty and savory snacks has expanded, according to the Almond Board of California, with growth drivers such as the rising awareness of the health attributes of almonds, the variety of available forms, demand for global flavor profiles and market advances that have allowed for the development of new coatings and flavor systems. 

Speaking to FoodIngredientFirst, Dariela Roffe-Rackind, Director, Europe & Global Public Relations, says: “The range of savory snacks featuring almonds continues to widen beyond traditional raw or salted nuts to include smoked and caramelized variants that offer limitless potential.”

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According to Innova Market Insights, salty snacks led trends for
almonds as an ingredient, with product launch numbers
growing 19 percent year on year in 2016

Almonds are one of the few natural ingredients that meet the diverse needs of product manufacturers, with appealing taste, texture, versatility and nutritional benefits. They continue to be included in NPD launches across a wide variety of sectors. Almonds are the number one nut in new product introductions in Europe for the second year, according to Innova Market Insights’ Global New Products report. Specifically, almonds are also the top nut specifically in both the snacking and bakery categories, with snacking introductions up by 32 percent. 

The latest innovations include a variety of nut, plant and protein ingredients that lend themselves to signature blends and offer an easier approach to balancing flavors and textures. These are brought to life across a variety of forms including bites, clusters, crisps and thins.

According to Innova Market Insights, salty snacks led trends for almonds as an ingredient, with product launch numbers growing 19 percent year on year in 2016. “Most commonly in chopped format, almonds had a wide variety of applications in salty snacks as a filling or coating, or to provide a distinct flavor. In the salty snack category, almonds are also commonly used in crackers, thins, and crisp alternatives, usually combined with other nuts, seeds and vegetables. Beyond their textural benefits, almonds’ inherent gluten/wheat free properties, make them ideal for salty snack applications like crisp alternatives,” explains Dariela Roffe-Rackind. 

Chef Rob Corliss, a spokesperson for The Almond Board of California and has been working on a range of inspirational snacking recipes. He explains: “Almonds have a subtle flavor and multidimensional texture that complements without overpowering. Almonds are recognized as a great flavor carrier, pairing well with many different ingredients – sweet and savory.” 

“Thanks to almonds’ unique ability to blend with and carry such a wide variety of flavors, there are products in the market ranging from more traditional ‘softer savory’ profiles like honey, lemon and ginger. These stronger flavor combinations are particularly prevalent in roasted whole almonds, and one of the reasons for this is that lightly roasting adds a level of sophistication and elegance, deepening the flavor by releasing the almond’s essential oils and bringing out the sensory components to the almond notes. It also adds a crisper texture and amplifies the crunch, which consumers have come to expect from savory snacks,” he states.  

Addressing acrylamide
On the food safety front, reduction fo the carcinogen acrylamide in snack products also plays a major role in the snacks industry. A recent consumer survey found that while consumers are still largely unaware of acrylamide – those who do know something about it, know enough to be concerned, according to a new report from DSM's Global Insights Series. DSM’s survey, conducted among consumers in France, Germany, the UK and the US, shows that once knowledgeable about acrylamide, consumers expect food manufacturers to find solutions.

In July 2018, DSM launched PreventASe XR, an enzymatic solution that prevents the formation of acrylamide in high-pH applications such as corn chips, biscuits, and crackers. PreventASe is positioned as a trusted acrylamide-reduction solution proven to reduce acrylamide in processed foods by up to 95 percent. While PreventASe is suitable for a broad range of applications, the new PreventASe XR is optimized for higher-pH applications. DSM explains that PreventASe and PreventASe XR are asparaginases that prevent the formation of acrylamide in a wide range of baked goods and snacks such as bread, cookies, crackers, breakfast and infant cereals, french fries, tortilla chips, and pretzels without impacting taste, texture or shelf-life. Using the PreventASe range, food producers can reduce acrylamide levels by up to 95 percent, depending on the type of application. 

Starch supplier Emsland is also responding to these trends. “We see some changes in the tradition of frying the final snacks. It is more and more in common to use proceedings such as air puffing or baked. These snacks are very trendy since they are not fried like traditional potato snacks and therefore contain a much lower fat content,” Thomas Pruter, Director R&D Emsland, tells FoodIngredientsFirst

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Acrylamide reduction and high protein trends
play a major role in the snacks industry.

The company also sees a big trend in healthy snacks with low salt/low sugar and low-fat content. “The reduction of salt and sugar and low fat in snack formulations is important and an advantage for us, as we (Emsland) use potatoes as a natural source for all our products and the can fulfill this healthy trend due to their composition. They are rich in minerals, proteins, vitamins and low in fat content the Overal Nutritional Quality Index of potatoes is rated in a NuVal score of 93 percent.”

“Also high protein-enriched snacks are on the rise. Empro pea protein, for example, is beneficial for this due to its excellent amino acid profile and good digestibility,” notes Pruter.

“Recently, we see a growing awareness for clean label and clear labeling within the snack industry. For customers it is more and more important, to have a cleaner transparent labeling snacking opportunity,” Martina Herrmann, Head Food Application at Emsland, explains. 

Emsland offers a one-stop-shopping clean label opportunity with clean label starches as well as potato flakes without any E-numbers. In combination with Empure KF clean label flakes and Empure AKJEL 200, the products of Emsland Group allows the customers to be in the comfortable situation to be able to manufacture clean label snacks.

“Consumers have also implemented trends like authenticity, natural products and a healthy way of life, also due to latest food scandals worldwide. Trends like protein enrichment are mainly based on customers in the US. Here we see a huge growth since years regarding protein intake,” Herrmann reveals. 

Due to the growing trends, Emsland is working continuously on optimized protein qualities and higher protein content, i.e., in extruded snacks. “The protein sources are based on European peas, around 85 percent of the peas coming from Germany with an increasing ratio of contract farmed peas,” Herrmann concludes.

High protein, clean label and addressing concerns around acrylamide are just some of the key issues being addressed by an ever-innovating snacks sector, with ingredient suppliers stepping up to the plate with on-trend solutions.

By Elizabeth Green

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