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The Fourth Meal: Snacking trends in the UK

We’re a nation of happy serial-snackers. Inspired by the latest diets, trends and tastes, increasing numbers of us are ditching the traditional three daily meals, choosing instead to graze throughout the day. Spending less time at home, we’re looking for mouthwatering morsels to satisfy our broad palates and on-the-go requirements.

Savoury snacks, in particular, are growing in popularity. Last year supermarkets sold 12.3 million extra kilos of bagged snacks. That’s an additional £148.6m, bringing the total market value to over £3.2bn (Kantar 2018). Statistics show that production costs of our favourite traditional bagged snacks have risen (2018 was a particularly bad potato harvest) and with few willing to pay more for these products, brands have been forced to both innovate more smartly and to pay particular attention to health implications.   

Healthy pickings

It’s no surprise that healthy snacks are the category’s fastest-growing segment. As health awareness increases, we’re looking to food producers to create feel-good on-the-go products with robust health credentials.

Traditional processed snacks, loaded with salt, sugar and calories just won’t cut it. We want satisfying snacks without the guilt, which means food manufacturers are under pressure to clean up labels or provide healthier alternatives that don’t feel like a compromise.

The Free-From sector is expected to grow by 18% over the next three years (Euromonitor) and snack brands are chasing for a piece of the pie. Capitalising on the growth of vegan and flexitarian lifestyles, savvy food brands are racing to develop first-to-market plant-based snacks. Innovation is booming in this high demand, in-vogue category, with ready-to-eat beans, seed bars, puffed chickpeas, and egg white chips all appearing on the health snacking market.

Nutritional value is influencing our shopping choices more than ever; brands are responding by replacing empty calories with functional ingredients, such as high-protein chickpea puffs or fibre-rich roasted beans. As a result, snack packaging has become a riot of functional claims in order to justify the price point and influence purchase.

It’s a busy space and the most successful brands help us snack more happily by ticking more than one healthy box.

State-of-the-art snacks

We’re less brand loyal than we used to be and break old habits more easily. Embracing the new, we’re changing our eating habits on a weekly, or even daily, basis. Disruptive start-ups are taking advantage and challenging the snacking status quo with innovative ingredients, textures, flavours and formats that give slow-moving multinationals a run for their money.

Snacks made from ancient grains like amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat are having a long-awaited comeback. They’re a more worthy, nutritionally-potent replacement for their extruded corn predecessors, and they bring more flavour to the party too. Lotus seeds and sorghum deserve a particular mention, as they’re grains which ‘pop’ or puff rather than being fried, and they’re at the forefront of the popped snack trend which is now rivaling popcorn.

Today’s savvy snackers want to have it all, wherever they are and however they want it, for texture as well as taste. The world’s first drinkable crisps were launched earlier this year; pre-smashed for one-handed on-the-go snacking. The rise of ‘The Big Night In’ means more collective snacking on the sofa, and an increased opportunity for shareable formats like innovative XL packaging sizes or dip accompaniments that elevate the snacking moment.

When it comes to flavour we’re rejecting the old-school fake orange cheese in favour of naturally-derived, unadulterated flavours. Wholefoods (2018) predicted sea greens as an emerging flavour profile for 2019, including umami-rich ingredients like water lily seeds, crispy fish skins and sea fennel. Mintel recently reported,

With the growing interest in natural colours, there is room to incorporate vegetables and florals into new snack offerings. (May 2019)

Snacks have become anything but ordinary. Brands that push the boundaries in health, texture, innovative ingredients, formats and colour are reaping the benefits and ending up in our shopping baskets. Comfort-eating will always be important in this category, but as with every other eating occasion, expectations have accelerated and today’s demanding consumers want constant surprise and delight – even between meals.

We love to push the boundaries for the brands we work with. Get in touch to find out how we can do this for you.