Eating between meals has gone through a makeover. Where snacking once pointed to poor eating habits, many consumers now see snacks as part of a healthy lifestyle providing nourishment, pleasure and functional benefits.
In the past, snacks satisfied hunger cravings between meals. Traditional snacks consisted largely of potato chips, chocolate and sweets, delivering limited nutritional value. As lifestyles evolve and adapt to the coronavirus crisis, consumers are looking for healthier options. Snacking has also become a valuable source of comfort with consumers turning to food to help their moods. With many more consumers working from home, access to snacks is as simple as heading to the kitchen.
Food for thought
Driven by the desire for pleasurable and balanced diets, buyers are incorporating comforting and even indulgent snacks into their eating to reduce stress and strengthen connections with those around them. To cheer themselves up, 41% of UK consumers say they are more likely to eat unhealthy food or drink.
Since certain comfort foods act as a key purchasing driver and consumers are looking for healthier choices, how can producers deliver satisfying, and above all healthy snacks, even from their sweet treats?
The lines between foods that are considered ‘good for you’ and more indulgent treats are likely to increasingly blur as buyers factor wellbeing into dietary choice. To address this, producers should focus on offering high quality, natural ingredients that let them experiment with new textures and offer exotic flavors to indulge the senses.
There has also been a real shift in the types of snacks consumers are looking for. These uncertain times have underlined the value of wholesome in maximizing health, in a range of food formats. Chocolate or yogurt-covered rice cakes, protein bars and energy balls are all making their way onto increasingly health-conscious consumers’ shopping lists. Snacks such as nuts, seeds and trail mixes are associated with health and wellness. Alongside grains, fruits and beans in snack bars, all these ingredients can provide high protein and high fiber healthy alternatives. They can also boost energy levels and mental focus, improve stress management and rejuvenate the body.
With snacking on the rise and the conventional notion of ‘three meals a day’ becoming less popular, cultural patterns around mealtimes are eroding. That means that for many, snacks are fulfilling the role of more traditional meals.
For busy consumers, snacking is not only more convenient but also delivers valuable health and lifestyle benefits, allowing them to refuel throughout the day and meet their need for energy, clarity, and focus. As a result, premium snacks that deliver a meal’s worth of nutrition in just a few bites are gaining in popularity.
Producers can address this ‘grab-and-go’ market through their snack foods’ formats. Bars and bites, for example, are popular thanks to their convenience and nutritional density.
Getting enough protein and fiber is another priority for buyers, with 50% of UK consumers cutting their meat intake. This segment wants to add more plant-based protein to their diets along with fiber, whole grains, antioxidants and probiotics. This is an opportunity for manufacturers to develop solutions that are not only nutrient-dense, but also deliver in terms of pleasure and purpose.
With food increasingly used to distract from the realities of lockdown living, people are expecting more from their snacks; not just as mood boosters and meal-replacements, but also as a means of delivering specific dietary benefits.,
Today’s consumers are more than ever tuned to how foods and beverages affect their body and overall health. This is behind the increased popularity of specialty diets like gluten-free, keto and flexitarian, as well as the growing demand for clean label products. These more conscious buyers are looking for snacks that can deliver it all: wholesome nutritional value, excellent sensory characteristics and on-trend flavors, all with traceable, recognizable ingredients.
Arguably, the current coronavirus pandemic has intensified these demands. For many of us, life has become less active and life in lockdown has reduced many typical day-to-day activities, such as walking to work and sports, leading us to reconsider lifestyle and food choices.
This is a prime opportunity for producers to create clean label products, particularly among younger audiences. For example, 40% of 16-24 year-olds in Spain say that premium, organic products represent good value for money, while 42% of Italian consumers are actively seeking products with all-natural ingredients. Experimenting with responsibly sourced, nutritious, whole-food ingredients such as fruits, nuts, grains, pulses and seeds can help brands tap into this demand for greater protein, fiber, wholegrains and vitamins.
Delivering high-quality snacking solutions
Snacking is becoming part of a healthy lifestyle. With so many new, healthy snacks, manufacturers and producers can find meeting consumer expectations overwhelming.
At ADM, we offer a comprehensive portfolio of solutions to help create crave-able snacks that fit wellness lifestyles while being both sustainable and indulgent. These solutions include natural flavors and extracts, natural colors, innovative plant-based proteins, fiber enhancing ingredients, carbohydrate solutions and oilseeds. We can also offer producers natural, clean-label, sweeteners such as ADM’s Fruit Up®, which can bind protein bars and enhance foods’ sensory properties.
From labor shortages to border closures and supply-chain delays, we understand the challenges many producers are facing. We are therefore leveraging our manufacturing capabilities, international footprint and traceable global supply chain to add value at every stage, from raw materials to expertly crafted final ingredients.
Thanks to our technical expertise in formulation and applications, more than a century of experience and global infrastructure, we can support our customers by offering security of supply, consumer and sensory insights, assist you with reformulation where needed, and, above all, the highest possible quality ingredients to help your products stand out on the shelf.
 Mintel, How food & drink is responding to COVID-19 globally, page 16
 Mintel, How food & drink is responding to COVID-19 globally, page 17
 Coronavirus: Should I worry about my lockdown eating?, Vibeke Venema, 25 April 2020, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-52329529
 Research by the University of East Anglia - Tracking the health of the nation during lockdown, http://www.uea.ac.uk/about/-/how-lockdown-could-affect-our-long-term-health
 Younger consumers more likely to pay higher prices for organic food and drink: Mintel, 4 October 2029, https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2019/10/04/Younger-consumers-more-likely-to-pay-higher-prices-for-organic-food-and-drink-Mintel#