Mindful consumption is on the rise as consumer demands for ‘healthy’ and ‘natural’ snacks that ‘taste good and do good’ continue. The rise in demand for snacks that deliver a natural and wholesome appeal has encouraged manufacturers to adapt to meet the needs of adventurous consumers and maintain relevance. Innovation is everywhere, and it’s as important as ever. Almonds, with their clean label, sustainability story and nutritional value, have already been utilised by manufacturers to help meet these demands, being the most popular nut for product introductions in Europe in 2018.
Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights delves into the top three trends set to drive innovation in the snacking sector this year.
The plant-based ‘revolution’
Coined by Innova Market Insights as the year of the ‘plant-based revolution’, 2020 is set to see plant-based snacking “move beyond a trend to food revolution”. Consumers are interested in health, sustainability and ethics, which tie into the broader consumer lifestyle trend towards cleaner living through consumption of plant-based foods and beverages. As such, natural, trusted and easily recognisable ingredients continue to drive innovation, as shown by the increasing use of ‘clean labels’ on packaging and renewed demand for other sustainable ingredients, including ancient grains and nuts. Products that make health benefit and clean label claims front and centre consistently resonate with consumers.
Innovation in plant-based protein is expected to move in a new direction, with grains, seeds and nuts taking centre stage. Williams said: “This is a huge growing trend, as the term ‘plant-based’ continues to resonate with more and more consumers who are seeking convenient, flexitarian options that also meet their health requirements. To address this additional challenge, product developers need to be able to deliver alternative ‘plant-based’ products, that also benefit from ‘clean label’ claims.”
Dariela Roffe-Rackind, director Europe & global public relations at the Almond Board of California, said: “Almonds are a great example of an ingredient that not only deliver plant-based protein, but are packed with essential nutrients, whilst also delivering on taste, versatility and sustainability. As testament to this, product developers are utilising all 15 almond forms across categories, from functional smoothies, to almond protein powder and defatted flour to blended burgers.”
Consumer preferences for healthy food innovations are constantly evolving. Williams continues: “This is largely dictated by the focus on certain macronutrients, such as protein, from the media and scientific community. Although macronutrients taking the limelight tend to be exclusive, consumers are seeking more balanced & complete concepts, that don’t compromise on flavour or simplicity.”
Almond-containing products often feature numerous claims pertaining to general health, macronutrient content, and, increasingly, functional properties and sports performance. Roffe-Rackind added: “Almonds are a healthy ingredient for new product development, seen by consumers in France, Italy and the UK as the ‘healthiest nut’. Even in Germany, a market that has traditionally seen almonds as a baking ingredient or sweet seasonal treat, almonds are seen as the second healthiest nut.
“Increasingly, consumers are seeking out ingredients that are convenient, healthy and sustainable, without sacrificing on taste. Product developers are tapping into the nutritional appeal and extensive versatility of almonds to grow and innovate within their product lines.”
Natural, earthy & botanical flavours crowned as king
Consumers are also increasingly recognising the influence of texture and flavour in food and beverages on sensory experiences and feelings of indulgence.
According to Williams, “Consumers are seeking opportunities to indulge without sugar, resulting in the rising popularity of floral and botanical flavours, which we’ll continue to see feature in introductions across categories. Unique sensory experiences are increasingly popular amongst consumers, which is giving way to more spice and earthy ingredients like seaweed and traditional West African flavours.
“Exciting hybrid concepts that mix taste profiles exemplify this trend further, combining subtle natural flavours with extravagant sweet, savoury and spicy flavours.”
Roffe-Rackind concluded: “This flavour trend is something we’ve really seen grow this year in North America and other markets and it’s one we’re expecting to develop into Europe as we go in to 2020.”