A version of this article originally appeared in the Colors and Flavors digital issue of Food & Beverage Insider.
While the year 2020 has undeniably been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, global sales of packaged snacks are predicted to rise by 1.5% over the previous year to reach USD547 billion. One of the key characteristics of packaged snacks is their heavy reliance on line extensions when it comes to sustaining growth momentum. Flavor innovation has kept product areas in snacks fresh for consumers, and colors are being used on packaging as flavor differentiators or indicators of a product’s health positioning.
Championing quality ingredients
A steady trend toward clean labels in foods has become almost unavoidable in snacks, which already suffer from an image of being over-processed. According to Euromonitor International, gluten-free ranks top of product claims in snacks globally, ahead of no sugar and no artificial preservatives. No artificial flavors and no artificial colors are also featured among the top 15 claims. Consumers want simpler products and more natural recipes.
Top Product Claims in Snacks Globally, 2019
Source: Euromonitor International
This trend has been accentuated by COVID-19, as shoppers focus more on their nutrition in their quest to keep their general health and immunity levels high. In this context, products’ ingredients increasingly take center stage. For example, a short ingredients list is rising in importance, which is evident with each older generation.
With COVID-19 hindering impulse purchases and on-the-go consumption occasions, snacks will need flavor and color developments to nurture consumer interest in 2020. The clean label trend provides new opportunities to innovate in these fields and to stand out from the competition.
Instilling authenticity through local flavors
As a response to globalization, consumers are turning back to locally sourced food and native ingredients as a source of identity. Once again, COVID-19 has enhanced this trend, with consumers turning to more local products and flavors for a sense of safety and comfort.
Localism is, for example, a key element behind the roaring success of salted egg snacks in Southeast Asia in 2019. Brands such as Irvins and Golden Duck took a popular local flavor commonly found in foodservice in the region and created a premium crisps product, claimed to be preservatives free, which Southeast Asian consumers are ready to pay extra for.
Enthusing millennials with clean label “fantasy” food
While consumers need to feel healthier and safer, they also still need to be excited by their snacks. Alongside the rising importance of Instagram, e-commerce has been among the fastest-growing retail channels for snacks, which COVID-19 has significantly boosted. The visual impact of a product therefore often constitutes the first connection for the consumer.
Pushing the boundaries of colors and flavors and venturing well outside the norms will keep feeding the consumer desire to try out a product, engage with a brand digitally, and share on social media. This can be crucial when addressing young generations. The trend toward “fantasy” foods, which saw a flurry of unicorn-themed product launches in 2019, is a good illustration of this.
As COVID-19 pushes health and comfort towards consumers’ front-of-mind, snack manufacturers can address these demands using flavors and colors that revolve around the quality of ingredients and their nutritional benefits. Appealing to consumers’ geographical identities through local flavors should also be perceived as added value. The future is increasingly digital, and connecting with consumers online through riveting colors and bold, novel flavor concepts will be key, particularly to millennials and younger generations.