A new year can be a difficult time for the bakery and snacks sectors, with consumers committing to new goals, better habits, healthier choices. The first few months of the year are typically defined by consumers’ desire to improve their overall health and wellbeing.
But while the target remains the same, the journey has taken on a different slant.
“Re-examinations of the harmful consequences of overly restrictive diets and the experience of heightened stress and deprivation during the pandemic are leading consumers to reject traditional diet culture,” said Johan Cerstiaens, commercial director of SVZ, one of the largest suppliers of processed fruit and vegetable ingredients to the F&B industry.
“Now the focus for many is maximising nutrition, enjoyment and sustainability, with less regard for metrics like calorie or fat content.
“For snack manufacturers, this more permissive environment means opportunity. By developing products that deliver complete satisfaction, brands stand to win big in the new snacking landscape – and fruit and vegetable ingredients are the tools they can use to make this a reality.”
The Netherlands-based SVZ shared its top three tips to engage consumers who want more from their snacks in 2023.
1. Delicious and functional
It’s an old adage, but taste remains king.
“This priority certainly hasn’t gone away in today’s shifting snack culture, but functionality is now arguably as important as flavour in consumers’ minds,” said Cerstiaens, highlighting Mintel data that reveals 45% of American adults want their food and drink to contribute to both their mental and physical wellbeing. This sentiment is echoed among a slightly bigger (50%) cohort of European shoppers.
In the past, ‘healthy snacking’ has tended to focus on topics such as energy density or sugar reduction, but more recently, these have been joined by other wellbeing trends like personalised nutrition, immunity, mood enhancement and digestive regularity.
“Fruit and vegetable ingredients are ideal inclusions for snacks aiming to satisfy shoppers’ flavour and functionality requirements,” added Cerstiaens.
“As a general rule, most consumers (74%, according to Fi Global Insights) consider a snack to be healthy if it contains a serving of real fruit, but individual ingredients have their own unique benefits to bring to the table.”
Citrus fruits, for example, are inherently associated with immunity (think honey and lemon beverages for colds and flu), whereas classic flavours like blackcurrant or strawberry evoke a sense of calming nostalgia.
Cerstiaens noted fruit and vegetables are also a valuable tool for reducing sugar content without compromising on taste.
“Not only do they help brands navigate consumers’ increasing rejection of artificial sweeteners by providing a source of natural sugars, but they also bring interest and depth that processed sugars can’t replicate. After all, ingredients like carrots aren’t just sweet, but earthy and slightly savoury too, helping create lower-sugar snacks which still deliver a well-rounded flavour profile.”
2. Bite-sized adventures
A key trend this year will be crafting unexpected flavour pairings.
As seen at last year’s Sweet and Snacks Expo, ‘sweet heat’ – combining ingredients like peach or mango with habanero chili’s, or Korean gochujang spice paste with caramelised apple – is on the menu for 2023.
“While less obvious than the functional snack trend, offering consumers novel taste experiences maps well onto the concept of guilt-free snacking as it plays into the idea of mindful indulgence.”
According to Mondelez’s 2022 State of Snacking report, 88% of consumers believe a balanced diet should include a little indulgence, with 85% eating at least one snack a day purely for a sense of enjoyment.
“Shoppers looking for their small treat of the day are therefore more likely to reach for a new and exciting option that speaks to their curiosity as much as their need for indulgence,” said Cerstiaens.
However, this trend isn’t only about adventurous combos, as single ingredients are equally capable of capturing consumers’ attention.
“This could manifest through the use of exotic fruits like guava or lychee to spice up traditional snack formats like jam tarts or yoghurts, or more unusual ingredients such as gold kiwi, pumpkin or rosehip.”
Critical to formulating with strong or unfamiliar flavours is balance.
“Consumers may be looking for new experiences but overwhelming their senses with unfamiliar tastes or textures could discourage repeat purchases,” said Cerstiaens.
“SVZ’s latest innovation – Carte Blanche white vegetable purees – overcome this challenge. The white carrot and white pumpkin purees are naturally neutral, nutritious and lower in sugar, making them the ideal solution for bulking out a spicy snack-bite filling or smoothie mix without overpowering the fresh flavours of the star ingredient.”
3. Zero waste, full flavour
Guilt-free snacking today is as much a question of environmental impact as nutritional value. Indeed, data from Food & Beverage Insider suggests 55% of European consumers are more likely to choose a snack with some form of sustainability claim.
“A major advantage of fruit and vegetable ingredients in this context is that they are naturally clean label, and in many cases, support zero-waste consumption.
“This is because purees and juice manufacturers take imperfect (or wonky) fruit and veg that are typically rejected for sale in retail and transform them into value-added ingredients ideal for adding credible environmental credentials to snack products,” said Cerstiaens.
Snack producers can further boost the ethical appeal of their products by choosing the right supplier for their purees and juice ingredients.
“While all fruit and vegetables are inherently natural, not all are created equally when it comes to sustainable farming practices and transparent sourcing,” he explained.
“For complete peace of mind, snack producers should look for an ingredient partner with extensive experience in sustainable agronomy, and working with farmers to ensure every blueberry, carrot and squash is as good for the planet as it is for healthy snackers.”
What’s guilt got to do with it?
Consumers are re-evaluating what concepts like ‘healthy’ or ‘fulfilled’ mean to them and are increasingly rejecting ‘guilt’ as a major factor governing their food choices. The outlook now is more focused on the positives: Does a snack offer functional benefits? Will I be transported on a new taste experience? Is it sustainable, climate smart or zero waste? Does the brand owner take steps to support the environment?
“As natural, nutritionally dense and versatile ingredients already known and trusted by consumers, fruit and vegetables will be an invaluable asset in building a guilt-free future for the snack industry,” said Cerstiaens,