According to Innova Market Insights, there has been a 14% average annual growth in global food and beverage launches with a snacking claim (CAGR 2014-2018).
Nearly two thirds (63%) of millennials are replacing meals with snacks because they’re simply too busy, an Innova survey showed. Reflective of hectic lifestyles, many businesses are stocking nutrient-dense snacks for their employees to grab during the work day.
An All-Day Occasion
New product development has begun to reflect that snacking is an all-day habit. As competition for the U.S. snacking dollar intensifies, pressure is mounting on the salty snacks category to adapt and diversify in order to maintain its relevance. New product development (NPD) is already reflecting the industry’s push toward added value in both nutrition and taste.
While 46% of U.S. consumers eat salty snacks between meals in the afternoon and 37% in the evening, according to Innova, more consumers are also replacing traditional meals with quicker bites. The numbers of consumers who are consuming salty snacks at lunchtime (23%), dinner (17%), and even breakfast (8%) are on the rise.
This substitution of meals has encouraged many consumers to choose snacks with enhanced nutritional value. The salty snacks industry is clearly working to meet this need, with launches of snack nuts and seeds growing at a CAGR of 11% between 2014 and 2018.
Snack mixes also appear to be benefiting from this trend, with introductions up at a 16% CAGR over the same period. Many mixes contain naturally nutritious fruits, nuts, and seeds, but they can also include sweeter, more indulgent elements such as chocolate-coated ingredients.
“Enjoyment is still a very strong driver behind snack purchases,” said Lu Ann Williams, head of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “When asked why they buy salty snacks, 40% of Americans named taste and a further 22% said it was to treat or reward themselves, so innovators need to balance nutrition and taste to ensure that salty snacks remain competitive for all snacking occasions.”
Once seen as guilty pleasures, snack foods have and will continue to evolve to be eating occasion solutions for a nation of consumers constantly on-the-go, according to The NPD Group and its “Future of Snacking” report. Americans consumed nearly 386 billion ready-to-eat snack foods in 2018, with the vast majority of those eaten between main meals; and snack food growth is happening at most dayparts with more use at meals and as meal replacements.
“Snack foods continue to evolve both as between-meal snacks and as part of main meals,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor. “Each of these snack food roles is changing in different ways in reaction to Americans’ desire for balance, portable snack foods, and holistic wellness.”
Snack food preferences expected to grow in the near term embody wellness benefits, like snacks with more protein, portability, single-serve snack foods that fit into busy lives, and unique flavor mash-ups, according to NPD. Even indulgent snack foods are staging a comeback by walking a line between health and enjoyment. Low-calorie, high-protein ice cream is an example of a beneficial snack food. Brands that support moderation as a rationale to indulge are also benefiting, like thinner versions of cookies.
NPD also found that consumers snack food choices aren’t limited strictly to flavor. Emerging attributes for consumers are snacks that encompass uniqueness and sensory elements such as texture, heat, and aromatics.
“Snacking is no longer just about eating when you’re bored or eating for additional sustenance,” said Portalatin. “Today and in the future, snacking is about solving small problems for consumers, and those problems present opportunities for food marketers across a variety of dayparts and needs.”
Demand for plant-based foods and beverages has been accelerating as mainstream consumers adopt “flexitarian” diets that limit animal protein.
In fact, data from the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) and the Good Food Institute showed U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods have grown 11% in the past year, bringing the total plant-based market value to $4.5 billion.
“Plant-based foods are a growth engine, significantly outpacing overall grocery sales,” said PBFA Senior Director of Retail Partnerships Julie Emmett. “We are now at the tipping point with the rapid expansion of plant-based foods across the entire store, so it is critical for retailers to continue to respond to this demand by offering more variety and maximizing shelf space to further grow total store sales.”
Data represents retail sales of plant-based foods that directly replace animal products, including meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy, as well as meals that contain plant-based alternatives, and was obtained over the 52-week period ending Apr. 21, 2019 from the SPINSscan Natural and Specialty Gourmet, and SPINSscan Conventional Multi Outlet (powered by IRI) channels.
The plant-based meat category alone is worth more than $800 million, with sales up 10% in the past year. Plant-based meat now accounts for 2% of retail packaged meat sales. Refrigerated plant-based meat is driving category growth with sales up an impressive 37%. In comparison, sales in the conventional meat category grew just 2% during the same period.
The leading drivers of plant-based sales continue to be plant-based milks; plant-based dairy such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream; and plant-based meats. Across the store, plant-based food sales are growing rapidly, while sales of many conventional animal products stagnate or decline. Sales of plant-based milks have grown 6% over the past year, now making up 13% of the entire milk category. Meanwhile, cow’s milk sales have declined 3%.
Emerging plant-based dairy categories are growing even faster as more households are introduced to other plant-based dairy items. In the past year, plant-based yogurt has grown 39%, while conventional yogurt declined 3%.
Interest in plant-based products has grown in part as people have become more concerned about the ecological impact of consuming meat and animal-derived products.
Mintel said it expects consumers will further prioritize plants in their diets, with environmental health in mind. Successful companies will help improve the health of both the planet and its population.
“In the next decade, consumers will be hungry for leadership and demonstrable change on environmental issues, ethical business practices, public health, and other important causes,” said Jenny Zegler, associate director, Mintel Food & Drink. “Consumers will reward brands that take action and improve important societal issues. The companies that will win in the next 10 years will be those that fuel the new era of conscious consumption. Tomorrow’s conscious consumers will be looking for eco-friendly packaging and products, while also seeking guidance on how to make their diets more sustainable.”
Mintel noted two other key trends it predicted will shape the global food, drink and foodservice industries over the next 10 years: technology-enabled personalization and trust in food science.
Consumers will gain a better understanding of what makes them unique using health testing services, artificial intelligence-enabled apps, and increased personal data collection, the market research firm said. Meanwhile, with consumers expected to live longer, many will want to learn how their diet can benefit long-term cognitive health.
“Looking ahead, more consumers will be able to gain in-depth knowledge of their biology through personal health testing kits which will empower them to personalize their diet and health regimes,” Zegler noted. “Analysis of these tools will inform consumers of the steps they need to take to address every aspect of their health, including brain and emotional well-being. As a result, in order to succeed over the next decade, brands will need to offer more personalized product offerings, develop smart home solutions and assist consumers in addressing mood and brain health.”
With technology advancing rapidly, brands should leverage science to create new products, shorten production time, and confirm trustworthiness, Mintel said. Meanwhile, new ingredient growing regions, such as those in Africa and India, and agricultural innovations, including floating farms, will emerge to tackle global food insecurity.
“Science will interlace with the food supply chain to boost yields and combat climate change,” Zegler said. “Celebrating the sustainable, health and cost benefits of lab-grown food will be crucial in educating consumers about nature-identical alternatives. But the food and drink industry will be compelled to elevate the role of nature, and humans, in the storytelling of these new, modern solutions. Transparency of information is essential to building trust in a future where scientists play as integral a role as farmers. And championing the people behind the food—whether it is grown in a laboratory or a field—will remain a timeless way of building trust with consumers.”
‘Real’ Sport Performance
Snacking and convenience trends are making their mark among active consumers, 51% of whom skip meals “most” or “all” of the time, often due to time pressures, according to market research from FrieslandCampina Ingredients, a global innovator in healthy and functional ingredients, and consumer insights firm FMCG Gurus.
There is clear demand for products that are both nutritious and convenient—requiring no preparation and suitable for eating on the go. On average, 30% of respondents claim to have opted for healthier snacking options in the past two years. In addition, 54% of respondents said they expect snacks to offer a nutritional boost, and 27% said that they would like to see ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages with healthy positionings.
“Active consumers are looking for healthy options throughout the day and in varying formats,” said Vicky Davies, global marketing director, performance and active nutrition, FrieslandCampina Ingredients. “This presents a huge opportunity for manufacturers of foods, drinks, and supplements alike. The key is ensuring we make it as quick and easy as possible for people to obtain the nutrition they want.”
FMCG Gurus’ research found 61% of active consumers have tried to improve their overall health and wellness in the last two years. Consumers recognize that all elements of health are interlinked and should not be treated in isolation. As such, they are making fundamental changes to their diets and lifestyles to improve all aspects of their health. Major areas of focus include digestive health and sleep.
“There’s increasing recognition that digestive health and sleep are crucial to living well,” said Mike Hughes, head of research and insight, FMCG Gurus. “What’s more, people are aware they’re likely to live to an older age than previous generations did, and staying healthy not just now, but also into their senior years is a clear priority. That means a better balance between activity and sleep, which can be strongly influenced by diet.”
Just as sports/active nutrition has gone mainstream, the whole, real food movement has influenced the competitive athletic performance market.
“Both professional and amateur athletes are increasingly dropping gels and sports bars laden with ‘artificial’ ingredients from their diets, and making instead ‘real food’ choices, like peanut butter and flapjacks to maple syrup, Nutella and traditional Italian panforte,” noted Julian Mellentin, director of consultancy New Nutrition Business.
The trend is powered by sports dietitians. The Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association, which represents America’s leading sports dietitians, has adopted the “food first” principle that “whole foods are the best fuel.”
“‘Real food’ is a message that resonates with a wider audience—not just serious athletes—as in more and more countries, consumers are trying to build activity and maintaining weight wellness into their everyday lives,” Mellentin said.
“Regular” food and drink businesses are enjoying success by positioning products as “real food for sports”—some by re-inventing established, traditional products, others by creating new products. Not only are they gaining volume, they are almost always earning premium prices.
For example, California-based Clif Bar, which has become a $750 million annual sales supermarket brand by firmly tethering its identity to sports and activity and the idea of “naturally healthy.”
Soreen is a fruit-based cake from the U.K. whose re-positioning for recreational cyclists has driven a 70% increase in retail sales, despite selling at a 100%
Low-sugar protein bar Grenade Carb Killa markets its products in the confectionery aisle as a real food alternative to sports nutrition bars and has become the third fastest-growing brand in the U.K. grocery market.
“Any product that offers on-the-go convenience with benefits such as more protein, less sugar, fewer carbs or better-quality carbs can use the ‘real food’ strategy to get good growth,” Mellentin added.
Buying Into Bars
Meanwhile, the nutrition bar market saw some consolidation in 2019. For example, in August, the Simply Good Foods Company, which markets Atkins-branded nutritional foods and snack products, agreed to acquire healthy lifestyle food company Quest Nutrition for $1 billion. Quest is a fast-growing active lifestyle brand with a highly engaged consumer base. Its philosophy focuses on creating snacks that contain high protein levels with minimal sugars and net carbohydrates.
The pairing of Atkins and Quest unites well-established brands with attractive growth profiles that results in a nutritional snacking company with combined estimated net sales of over $800 million.
Quest’s products—primarily, bars, cookies, chips, and pizza—compete in many of the attractive, fast growing sub-segments within the nutritional snacking category.
At around the same time, the Hershey Company agreed to acquire ONE Brands, LLC, which makes a line of low-sugar, high-protein nutrition bars, for $397 million.
ONE Brands will complement the company’s existing Oatmega business, which was acquired as part of the 2018 deal for Amplify Snack Brands, Inc., and its recent investment in FULFIL Holdings limited, a European leader in vitamin-fortified, high-protein bars. Hershey said it intends to expand the existing ONE Brands offerings by leveraging its core capabilities in sales and distribution, category management, and digital commerce.
Tapping into demand for plant-based products, ONE Brands debuted its ONE PLANT product line of nutrition bars in September. ONE PLANT delivers 12 grams of protein and the brand’s signature ONE gram of sugar, available in two flavors: Chocolate Peanut Butter and Banana Nut Bread.
This latest line extension was created in response to the underdevelopment of the plant-based category as related to performance, taste, and macro-nutrients, the company said. Capitalizing on the positive feedback for ONE’s core roster of protein bars, the brand now aims to provide the same taste, texture, and only 1 gram of sugar the brand is known for, to the plant-based category.
KIND Healthy Snacks extended its product line to the frozen category in 2019 with the release of KIND Frozen bars. The latest offering is a frozen creamy nut bar made from almonds, layered with dark chocolate, and sea salt. KIND Frozen bars have 190 calories, 11 grams of sugar out of a total 49 grams, and are currently available in Dark Chocolate Almond Sea Salt flavor. KIND Frozen does not contain any artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, or genetically engineered ingredients, the company said.